Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program

Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure: Problems & Opportunities

The advancement of coronavirus in the United States and around the world has significantly disrupted the normal conditions and assumptions for a US taxpayer who engages in an offshore voluntary disclosure of his unreported foreign income and foreign assets. I will refer to a voluntary disclosure conducted in this context of the coronavirus disruptions as Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure. In this essay, I would like to discuss the most unique problems and opportunities that arise in the context of a Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure.

Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure: Most Important Problems

The spread of coronavirus created two important problems to conducting an offshore voluntary disclosure of foreign assets and foreign income.

The first and most significant problem is the ability of taxpayers to obtain the information necessary for the correct completion of US international information returns such as FBAR (FinCEN Form 114), Form 8938, Form 8865, Form 5471, et cetera. Oftentimes, in order to complete these returns, taxpayers have to retrieve information from many years ago.

This is a difficult task even without the coronavirus, because electronic access is often limited to just a few years. In cases that involve small and regional banks, the electronic access to information may simply not exist. Hence, a taxpayer often has to engage in a long process of mailing letters to banks requesting information; it is also a standard practice for taxpayers to personally travel to a foreign financial institution to obtain the necessary information.

The coronavirus prohibitions have made such travel virtually impossible due to cancellation of flights between countries. Even traveling within a country has been severely impacted. Moreover, there have been significant disruptions to ability of taxpayers to access financial institutions in the quarantined areas, such as northern Italy. Many financial institutions have simply closed their branches and ceased to operate in a normal way.

The combination of all of these factors has significantly curtailed taxpayers’ ability to collect the vital information necessary for the completion of an offshore voluntary disclosure.

The second most important problem caused by the coronavirus panic are communication disruptions. During a voluntary disclosure, taxpayers need to have access to their financial advisors and their international tax attorney. I’ve already explained above how the coronavirus bank closures have affected such communications.

The most significant communication issue between a taxpayer and his international tax attorney has been limited to mailing documents, particularly securing an original signature for Certifications of Non-Willfulness, Reasonable Cause Statements, amended tax returns and certain other IRS documents (such as Extension of Statute of Limitations in the context of an IRS audit). The coronavirus containment procedures have affected the flow of regular mail around the world and have caused significant delays in obtaining signed documents from clients.

It should mentioned that the normal communications between a client and his attorney were not significantly impacted. If there were any communication problems, this is most likely the result of the attorney’s failure to take advantage of modern means of communication.

Sherayzen Law Office’s usage of email, phone, Skype, Viber and certain other platforms for information exchange and other modern means of communication has assured continuous and uninterrupted communication between our firm and our clients. We have also encouraged and helped our clients to adopt certain procedures to mitigate other problems that have risen as a result of the coronavirus panic.

Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure: Unique Opportunities

The coronavirus panic created not only unusual problems, but also unique opportunities for taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income. I will discuss here the two most important coronavirus opportunities.

First, the spread of this virus has given more time for noncompliant US taxpayers to bring their tax affairs into compliance with US tax laws. Not only has the IRS ability to pursue new international tax cases has been impacted by the virus, but the IRS moved the tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020. This means that taxpayers suddenly have three more months to work on their offshore voluntary disclosures without any interruption with respect to current tax compliance.

Second, more time means that taxpayers now can plan for and adopt more complex and beneficial strategies with respect to their offshore voluntary disclosures. For example, taxpayers who were planning to file extensions can now adopt a strategy to shift their voluntary disclosure period by timely filing their 2019 tax returns and 2019 FBARs.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

If you have undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers to bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Coronavirus & Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures | SDOP Tax Law Firm

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many areas of human activity around the planet. The coronavirus even affected the IRS offshore voluntary disclosures concerning US taxpayers’ unreported financial assets and income in China (“Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures”). In fact, the impact of coronavirus on the Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures has been severe and extremely disruptive. Let’s look at the top three ways in which coronavirus has disrupted the Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures.

Coronavirus & Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures: Access to Information

The first and most important disruption caused by coronavirus is reduced access to information necessary to complete offshore voluntary disclosures. As a result of the quarantine measures, many financial institutions in China are either closed or work only limited hours. Hence, it has become much harder to obtain relevant information from the Chinese financial institutions, particularly with respect to certain complex investment products and investment insurance policies.

Moreover, as a result of the suspension of travel between China and the United States, many taxpayers are unable to travel to China to obtain the necessary documents. In many cases, internet access to financial data in China is limited to only a few years, whereas taxpayers often need to go back at least six years to obtain the necessary information to accurately complete their delinquent FBARs. In most instances, a taxpayer needs to personally visit his financial institution to collect this older data. At this point, this is almost impossible.

Coronavirus & Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures: Mailing of Signed Documents

With respect to US taxpayers who are currently in China, many of them have limited ability to execute the documents necessary to complete offshore voluntary disclosures and mail them to their international tax attorneys in the United States.

Coronavirus & Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures: Case Schedule

As a result of the two factors above as well as the current communication disruptions in the United States, the coronavirus has caused long delays in the voluntary disclosures that involve undisclosed financial assets in China. The schedule disruptions can last from weeks to months; in fact, in some cases, it is too early to be able to fully assess the impact of coronavirus on an offshore voluntary disclosure schedule.

While Sherayzen Law Office has been able to minimize the impact of coronavirus on the Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures, certain delays still exist due to clients’ inability to obtain the necessary information.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures

If you have undisclosed financial accounts or foreign businesses in China, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. While the disruptions caused by coronavirus have been severe, by employing careful planning, we can still help you maximize your ability to complete your offshore voluntary disclosure in an accurate and timely manner.

We have already helped hundreds of US taxpayers like you, including in China, to successfully bring their financial and business affairs in full compliance with US tax laws. We can help you!

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2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements | SDOP Tax Lawyer & Attorney

In a recent article, I mentioned that Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) will continue to be the most important voluntary disclosure option in 2020 for US taxpayers who reside in the United States. However, not all taxpayers will qualify to participate in the 2020 SDOP. In this article, I will discuss the main 2020 SDOP eligibility requirements.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: Background Information

The IRS introduced Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures in June of 2014 as part of the most radical overhaul of offshore voluntary disclosure process since the introduction of the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) in 2009.

The IRS created SDOP first to supplement OVDP, not to replace it. The idea was to mitigate the OVDP’s rigidity by streamlining the voluntary disclosure process for taxpayers who non-willfully failed to comply with US international tax requirements.

Almost from the start, SDOP grew in popularity and quickly eclipsed OVDP. Tens of thousands of taxpayers utilized this option to lower IRS penalties in a relatively (i.e. relative to OVDP) fast and painless way. As a result, SDOP continues to exist even today while the 2014 OVDP was closed in September of 2018.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: Five Main Eligibility Requirements

In order to quality to participate in the SDOP, taxpayers must meet all of the following requirements: (1) US residence; (2) US tax return filing compliance; (3) US international tax noncompliance; (4) non-willfulness; and (5) no IRS examination. Let’s discuss each requirement in more detail.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: US Residence

In order to participate in SDOP, a taxpayer must be a US tax resident who did not meet any of non-residence tests of Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. This requirements applies differently to two categories of taxpayers.

The first category consists of US citizens and US permanent residents (i.e. “green card” holders). In order to satisfy the 2020 SDOP eligibility requirements, these taxpayers must have a US abode and must not physically reside outside of the United States for more than 329 full days in each of the past three years. I explore what this means further in a future article on Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures.

The second category of taxpayers includes all individuals who are not US citizens and US permanent residents. In order for these individuals to be eligible to participate in SDOP, they must satisfy the substantial presence test in each of the past three years. Generally, under 26 U.S.C. §7701(b)(3), an individual meets the substantial presence test if the sum of the number of days on which such individual was present in the United States during the current year and the 2 preceding calendar years (when multiplied by the applicable multiplier) equals or exceeds 183 days. There are many exceptions to this rule, but they are outside of the scope of this article.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: Filing of US Tax Returns

In order to participate in the SDOP, a taxpayer must have previously filed a US tax return for each of the most recent three years for which the US tax return due date (or properly applied for extended due date) has passed. There is an exception to this rule for situations where a taxpayer’s income was below the tax return filing threshold and he was not required to file the tax return for that year.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: International Tax Noncompliance

An SDOP disclosure must have some relationship to US international tax noncompliance. A taxpayer must have failed to report income from a foreign financial asset and must have failed to file FBAR or any other US international information return, such as Forms 3520, 3520-A, 5471, 8865, 8938, 8621, 926, et cetera.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: Non-Willfulness

This is the most important and most difficult eligibility requirement for participating in SDOP: taxpayer’s violations of US international tax law must be non-willful. Moreover, they must be non-willful with respect to each aspect of the voluntary disclosure: FBARs, each international information return and foreign income. In other words, if a taxpayer was non-willful with respect to non-filing of Form 5471, but willful with respect to non-filing of FBARs, then, his entire eligibility to participate in SDOP is compromised.

SDOP provides the following definition of non-willfulness: “non-willful conduct is conduct that is due to negligence, inadvertence, or mistake or conduct that is the result of a good faith misunderstanding of the requirements of the law.” Obviously, proving non-willfulness is a matter highly dependent on facts and requires an individual approach to each client’s case. It is the job of an international tax attorney to make good use of the facts and determine whether non-willfulness can be established.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: Taxpayer Not Subject to Examination

Finally, a taxpayer who wishes to participate in SDOP must not be subject to an IRS civil examination or an IRS criminal investigation. Whether all relevant years are subject to an examination or just a few of them is irrelevant; it does not even matter whether the examination is focused on a particular international information return. In all of these cases, the taxpayer will most likely lose eligibility to conduct his voluntary disclosure through SDOP.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Determination of Whether You Satisfied the 2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts or any other offshore assets and you wish to know whether you are eligible to participate in the 2020 SDOP, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional legal help. Our experienced international tax law firm will thoroughly analyze your case, determine your SDOP eligibility, examine all alternative voluntary disclosure options and skillfully prepare the necessary tax and legal documents necessary to complete your offshore voluntary disclosure.

We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their offshore voluntary disclosures, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2020 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Pros and Cons

Noncompliant US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income should consider their voluntary disclosure options in this new year 2020. Similarly to 2019, I expect that this year Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures will continue to be the flagship voluntary disclosure option for such taxpayers who reside in the United States. In order for the readers to better understand why I make this assertion, I would like to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of participating in the 2020 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures.

2020 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Background Information and Purpose

The IRS created the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (sometimes abbreviated as “SDOP”) on June 18, 2014, though the Certification forms became available only a few months later. Since its introduction, Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures quickly eclipsed the then-existing IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) and became the most popular offshore voluntary disclosure option.

The main purpose of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is to encourage noncompliant US taxpayers to voluntarily resolve their prior non-willful noncompliance with US international tax compliance requirements. These requirements include all US international information returns such as FBAR, Form 8938, Form 5471, Form 8621, Form 3520, Form 926, et cetera.

2020 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Main Advantages

In exchange for this voluntary disclosure of their prior tax noncompliance, US taxpayers escape income tax penalties and pay only a one-time Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty with respect to their prior failures to file the required US international information returns. The Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is usually far below the potential penalties normally associated with failure to file these forms. In other words, noncompliant taxpayers can greatly reduce their IRS noncompliance penalties through their participation in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. This is one of the most important SDOP benefits.

Another advantage of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is the limited scope of this voluntary disclosure option. Taxpayers only need to file a small number of amended US tax returns (usually three) and FBARs (usually six) – in other words, the filings are limited to regular statute of limitations without any expansions (as opposed to OVDP which required filings for the past eight years).

Moreover, despite the limited scope of the SDOP filings, taxpayers who utilize the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures are able to fully resolve their prior US international tax noncompliance issues even if these years are not included in the actual SDOP filings. This means that the participating taxpayers are able “wipe the slate clean” – i.e. to erase their prior US international tax noncompliance from the time when it began.

The last major advantage of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is that this option only requires to establish non-willfulness rather than reasonable cause. Non-willfulness is a much easier legal standard to satisfy (be careful, I am not saying that this is an “easy standard”, just an easier one) than reasonable cause.

2020 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Main Disadvantages

For the purpose of this article, I will discuss only two major disadvantages to the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. First, the eligibility requirements are strict. This voluntary disclosure option is open only to taxpayers who filed their US tax returns for prior years and who are able to certify under the penalty of perjury that their prior noncompliance was non-willful. This certification has to be made specifically with respect to unreported foreign income, FBARs and each other international information return.

Most cases have positive and negative facts at the same time. Hence, a lot of taxpayers are actually in the “gray” area between willfulness and non-willfulness. This means that it is not easy to make a decision on whether a taxpayer is eligible to participate in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. This decision should be done only by an experienced international tax attorney who specializes in this area of law, such as Mr. Eugene Sherayzen of Sherayzen Law Office.

The second major disadvantage of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is lack of a definitive closure; there may be a follow-up audit after the IRS processes your voluntary disclosure package. Unlike OVDP, Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures does not offer a Closing Agreement without an audit. This means that going through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures may not be the end of your case; the IRS can actually audit you over the next three years. If this happens, the audit of your voluntary disclosure will focus not only on the correctness of your disclosure, but also on the truthfulness and correctness of your non-willfulness certification.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With 2020 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts or any other foreign assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your offshore voluntary disclosure. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with their offshore voluntary disclosures, including Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. We can also help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!