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 taxpayer 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 situation 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, you should 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!

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SDOP Real Estate Penalty | Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Law Firm

One of the most important considerations in an offshore voluntary disclosure is the type of assets that form the Penalty Base for the imposition of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty. In this article, I would like to explore the issue of whether there is such a thing as SDOP Real Estate Penalty.

SDOP Real Estate Penalty: Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Background

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures or SDOP is an offshore voluntary disclosure option that was announced by the IRS in June of 2014. With the recent termination of the OVDP (Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program), SDOP has become the main voluntary disclosure vehicle for eligible taxpayers.

Under the terms of the SDOP, a taxpayer voluntarily discloses his prior noncompliance with US international tax laws, files FBARs for the past six years, amends tax returns for the past three years and certifies under the penalty of perjury that his prior noncompliance with US tax laws was non-willful. Moreover, the taxpayer must pay a 5% Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty that supplants all other penalty structures associated with FBAR and other US international information returns (such Form 5471, 8865, et cetera).

SDOP Real Estate Penalty: SDOP Penalty Base

The 5% Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is imposed on the entire SDOP Penalty Base. The SDOP Penalty Base is formed by the inclusion all foreign financial assets undisclosed on US international information returns as well as income-noncompliant foreign financial assets. This includes without limitation all assets listed on FBARs and Forms 8938, 5471, 8858, 8865, 3520 (the foreign trust portion), 3520-A, et cetera.

Is there A SDOP Real Estate Penalty?

Now, armed with this understanding of the structure of the SDOP Penalty Base, we can answer the question of whether there is such a thing as SDOP Real Estate Penalty. Since the SDOP Penalty Base is formed by the inclusion of all foreign financial assets and real estate is not a foreign financial asset, we can conclude that there is no SDOP Real Estate Penalty on the real estate owned directly by a US taxpayer.

What about real property owned through a foreign business entity or a foreign trust? Unfortunately, it is here where we encounter the hidden SDOP Real Estate Penalty. If the foreign entity (or income from this foreign entity) was not properly disclosed on Form 8938 or any other relevant information return which is used to avoid the duplication of reporting of foreign business ownership (i.e. Form 5471, 8865, 8858, 3520 and 3520-A), then the SDOP Penalty Base will include the fair market value of the undisclosed foreign entity. In other words, the SDOP Real Estate Penalty may be imposed on the value of the entity that is holding the real estate, not real estate per se.

This is very worrying news to taxpayers who hold real estate through foreign entities. In virtually all Latin American countries, US taxpayers usually own real estate through a corporation. This means that they are exposed to the imposition of SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty on their personal real estate that is held through a foreign entity simply because it is a local custom to do so.

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

If you have undisclosed foreign assets and/or foreign income, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our legal team, led by an international tax attorney Eugene Sherayzen, is highly experienced in offshore voluntary disclosures of unreported offshore assets and income. Whether it is Indian mutual funds, Swiss Structured Products, a French Assurance Vie account, Polish lokatas, Australian Superannuation accounts, Canadian RRSPs, a Malaysian health insurance investment policy, a Singapore Central Provident Fund (CPF), an Italian Corporation, a British Limited Company, a Spanish rental property, a Panamanian Sociedad Anonima, a Kazakh foreign branch, a Jersey trust and many, many other varieties of foreign assets – we have done it all and successfully brought our clients in full compliance with the US international tax laws. We Can Help You!

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Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits | SDOP Tax Lawyer

The great majority of offshore voluntary disclosures are currently done through Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures. Hence, the majority of IRS audits concerning offshore voluntary disclosures are focused on Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures – the most common type is the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audit. This article discusses the main stages of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audit and provides some suggestions to attorneys who handle this type of an IRS audit.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: SDOP Background Information

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) is an offshore voluntary disclosure option that has existed since June of 2014. It is extremely popular due the fact that it is the most convenient and the least expensive voluntary disclosure option (except the Reasonable Cause/Noisy Disclosure option) for taxpayers whose prior tax noncompliance was non-willful and who otherwise meet the SDOP eligibility requirements.

Under the SDOP, a taxpayer or tax professional prepares a voluntary disclosure package and mails it to the IRS. The voluntary disclosure package usually consists of amended tax returns for the past three years, copies of e-filed FBARs for the past six years, any required international information returns which do not form part of a tax return (such as Forms 3520), the payments of additional tax with interest, the payment of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty and Non-Willfulness Certification form (Form 14654) with a detailed explanation. Certain additional items may need to be included in the package.

Once the package arrives to its destination, it is processed by the IRS. Assuming that all of the SDOP submission requirements are met, the IRS reserves the right to audit the taxpayer(s) at any point within three years after the submission of the original SDOP voluntary disclosure package.

The exact process of a Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audit varies from case to case, but it usually contains all of the stages listed below.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: the Initiation Stage

All Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits start in the same way. Once an IRS revenue agent is assigned to the case, the agent will send an initial letter to the taxpayer informing the taxpayer about the fact that his SDOP is being audited. Generally, the initial audit letter will explain that the IRS decided to examine certain tax returns and ask for all worksheets and supporting documents that were used to prepare the amended returns. The letter is likely to also contain a request for the taxpayer to contact the agent to schedule the initial meeting, which would usually include an interview of the taxpayer.

At this point, you should contact an international tax lawyer who specializes in Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits. I strongly discourage you from even trying to represent yourself or to have your accountant represent you. It is very easy to get into trouble during an IRS audit and it is very hard and expensive to get out of such a situation afterwards.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: Initial Meeting and Interview Stage

Prior to the initial meeting, the taxpayer’s attorney should review all documents to make sure that they support the information on the tax returns. All supporting documents and worksheets should be neatly organized by subject and year. If the audited tax returns are incorrect, the attorney should make the decision on whether amended tax returns should be prepared prior to the initial meeting.

Additionally, the attorney should conduct an extensive preparation of his client for the interview. Read this article for more information on the IRS audit interview preparation specifically for Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits.

The initial meeting usually commences with the interview of the taxpayer in the presence of his attorney. It is the attorney’s job to protect his client during the interview, including by making sure that the IRS questions are clear, explaining any confusing answers of the taxpayer, correcting the record based on available evidence and so on.

After the interview, the IRS agent will want to review with the attorney (and, sometimes, the client as well) the documents supplied on a very general level – i.e. he will want to know what is being submitted to him. The attorney should discuss with the agent any confusing parts of the case and familiarize the agent with the client’s story. If a case is very small, it is possible for an agent to cover everything in the first meeting, but it is very rare.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: Follow-Up IRS Requests

After the initial meeting, the IRS agent will take some time to review submitted documents, interview third parties where relevant (for example, the accountant who prepared the original tax returns), analyze the tax returns and the Non-Willfulness Certification.

Most likely, the agent will have additional follow-up questions. It is the job of the attorney to address them. Where necessary, the attorney should secure his client’s participation in order to answer the questions. In certain cases, additional meetings with the IRS agent may be required to increase the efficiency of the audit. Continuous cooperation with the IRS while promoting the client’s position is the key to long-term success.

One of the most problematic areas for the IRS agents in Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits are PFIC calculations. A lot of agents simply do not know how to properly do PFIC calculations. In my practice, very often I have to go through the entire PFIC calculations with the agent in order to make sure that their calculations match mine.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: Conclusion of the IRS Audit

Once the IRS agent completes his review process, he will submit the preliminary results to the taxpayer and his attorney. The attorney needs to review carefully the final results and contact the agent in case he finds mistakes in the agent’s conclusions. The taxpayers’ attorney will also need to build a strategy with respect to the taxpayer’s response to the audit results depending on whether the taxpayer agrees or disagrees with the results of the audit.

The biggest issue in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits is making sure that the Non-Willfulness Certification is not challenged by the IRS, because such a challenge may result in highly unfavorable consequences to the taxpayer, including a potential referral to the Tax Division of the US Department of Justice for a criminal investigation.

It should be mentioned that, even if the taxpayer agrees with the audit results, the Audit is not immediately over. The IRS agent will need to submit his conclusions to his technical advisor, his manager and the IRS National Office in Washington D.C. for the their approval of these conclusions before the audit can be officially completed.

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

An IRS audit of an offshore voluntary disclosure completed through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is one of the most important events in a taxpayer’s life. A lot is at stake during such an audit – financial stability, immigration status and, in exceptional circumstances, even personal freedom.

This is why it is so important for a taxpayer subject to an IRS audit of his Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures voluntary disclosure to retain the services of an experienced international tax lawyer to handle the audit professionally.

Sherayzen Law Office is a leader in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures and IRS audits of offshore voluntary disclosures. The firm’s owner, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, is one of the most experienced international tax lawyers in this area, including IRS audits of a Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures submission. He can help You!

Contact Sherayzen Law Office Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

3 Main Streamlined Domestic Compliance Disadvantages | SDOP Lawyer

In a previous article, I described the three main advantages of doing an offshore voluntary disclosure through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“Streamlined Domestic Compliance”). Today, I would like to discuss three main Streamlined Domestic Compliance disadvantages.

Streamlined Domestic Compliance Disadvantages: Audit Risks

The first main disadvantage of Streamlined Domestic Compliance is the potential IRS audit within three years after the voluntary disclosure is completed. The audit is likely to include everything: FBARs, amended tax returns, Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty calculation and, most importantly, the determination of non-willfulness.

The potential IRS audit stands in a shark contrast to the IRS flagship Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) which closed in September of 2018. At the end of a voluntary disclosure through OVDP, the taxpayer and the IRS sign the Closing Agreement, which (absent fraud or material mis-statements) effectively closes prior tax noncompliance issues forever.

The audit risks may be particularly important to taxpayers who are in the process of obtaining their US citizenship or US permanent residence.

Streamlined Domestic Compliance Disadvantages: Penalty Base Not Limited to Income Noncompliance

One of the main Streamlined Domestic Compliance disadvantages is the fact that the calculation of the penalty base (i.e. what assets are subject to the 5% penalty) includes assets that never produced any foreign income. Moreover, the penalty base includes a foreign asset even if the foreign income from this asset was timely disclosed on the taxpayer’s original tax return, but the asset itself was not reported on FBAR or any other international information return.

In other words, a taxpayer who participates in the Streamlined Domestic Compliance should be prepared to pay a 5% penalty even on assets that are compliant with the US income tax laws.

Again, this is contrary to the rules of the OVDP. In the OVDP, only assets that are tied to income tax noncompliance are included in the penalty base.

Streamlined Domestic Compliance Disadvantages: Danger of Superficial Analysis

Finally, the danger of superficial analysis concerning non-willfulness constitutes the third main disadvantage of the Streamlined Domestic Compliance. In reality, there are two dangers which should be placed at the opposite ends of the voluntary disclosure continuum.

The first danger is the natural bias in the self-assessment of non-willfulness. Oftentimes, a taxpayer may exaggerate the facts in his favor while selectively ignoring the facts that may establish willful noncompliance. This is very natural. It is difficult to find a person who will state outright that he was willful in his prior tax noncompliance.

Usually, this problem can be (and should be) fixed by retaining an international tax attorney to do an independent assessment of the taxpayer’s non-willfulness.

At the opposite end is the danger of concentrating on non-willfulness and ignoring the possibility of doing a Reasonable Cause disclosure. In most cases, this is not a problem because Streamlined Domestic Compliance would be a superior choice despite the 5% penalty. This, however, is not true in all cases and real opportunities are often lost by failure to explore this route.

I should state that the biggest problem that I found in my practice is the fact that some taxpayers do not consult an international tax attorney on this issue. Instead, they try to do everything themselves even though they have no specialized knowledge in this field. I strongly discourage this practice.

I believe that the involvement of an international tax attorney is essential to doing a proper offshore voluntary disclosure.

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

Choosing the correct offshore voluntary disclosure path is the most important decision for a taxpayer who wishes to remedy his past noncompliance with US tax laws. Every voluntary disclosure option has its advantages and disadvantages. All essential factors must be considered.

The failure to do proper legal analysis may have highly negative legal and tax consequences. It may even put a taxpayer in a position worse than what he was prior to his attempt to do a voluntary disclosure.

This is why you need the professional help of Sherayzen Law Office. Our experienced legal team has helped hundreds of US taxpayers to do their offshore voluntary disclosures properly. We Can Help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!