On February 8, 2011, the Internal Revenue Service announced that a new special voluntary disclosure initiative, designed to bring offshore money back into the U.S. tax system and help people with undisclosed income from hidden offshore accounts get current with their taxes, will be available through August 31, 2011.
The IRS decision to open a second special disclosure initiative follows continuing interest from taxpayers with foreign accounts. The first special voluntary disclosure program closed with 15,000 voluntary disclosures on October 15, 2009. Since that time, more than 3,000 taxpayers have come forward to the IRS with bank accounts from around the world. These taxpayers will also be eligible to take advantage of the special provisions of the new initiative.
The new initiative is called the 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI) and includes several changes from the 2009 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). The overall penalty structure for 2011 is higher, meaning that people who did not come in through the 2009 voluntary disclosure program will not be rewarded for waiting. However, the 2011 initiative does add new features.
For the 2011 initiative, there is a new penalty framework that requires individuals to pay a penalty of 25 percent of the amount in the foreign bank accounts in the year with the highest aggregate account balance covering the 2003 to 2010 time period. Some taxpayers will be eligible for 5 or 12.5 percent penalties. Participants also must pay back-taxes and interest for up to eight years as well as paying accuracy-related and/or delinquency penalties.
The IRS also created a new penalty category of 12.5 percent for treating smaller offshore accounts. People whose offshore accounts or assets did not surpass $75,000 in any calendar year covered by the 2011 initiative will qualify for this lower rate.
The IRS is also making other modifications to the 2011 disclosure initiative.
Taxpayers participating in the new initiative must file all original and amended tax returns and include payment for taxes, interest and accuracy-related penalties by the August 31, 2011, deadline.
For the eligible taxpayers, the 2011 initiative offers clear benefits to encourage taxpayers to come in now rather than risk IRS detection. Taxpayers hiding assets offshore who do not come forward will face far higher penalty scenarios as well as the possibility of criminal prosecution.
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