It is terrifying that so many accountants who take on the legal issue of FBAR disclosure are not trained in issue spotting. It may be the number one of the top reasons why so many voluntary disclosures handled by accountants and even attorneys have gone so wrong.
A lot of tax professionals who are familiar with voluntary disclosures concerning foreign accounts simply concentrate on the bigger issue of FBAR penalties. However, due to this over-simplification of the voluntary disclosure, they ignore the fact that most disclosures of offshore assets involve a lot of related issues that, besides their own importance, may directly influence the FBAR disclosure strategy.
For example, I have seen cases where accountants would begin a voluntary disclosure process with respect to foreign investment accounts that contains foreign mutual funds – the issue that immediately should be spotted by the accountants as potentially involving PFICs. Unfortunately, most accountants are not even aware of the existence of PFICs and their unique place in the Internal Revenue Code. Then, without recognizing this problematic issue, these accountants would herd their clients into the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) claiming that there was full compliance with the accounts and claiming that these accounts should be excluded from the OVDP Offshore Penalty. The end-result in such cases would often be the rejection of the exclusion based on PFIC increase in tax (i.e. the PFIC distributions were reported but incorrectly calculated – i.e. income tax non-compliance).
Obviously, how the case would turn out would ultimately depend on its particular facts, but this is an example indicate of the trend and why it is so important to engage in issue-spotting.
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