There is a surprisingly large number of US taxpayers who believe that reporting foreign income that was not disclosed on a Form W-2 or 1099 is unnecessary. Even if they honestly believe it to be true, this erroneous belief exposes these taxpayers to an elevated risk of imposition of high IRS penalties. In this article, I will discuss the US tax rules concerning foreign income reporting which was never disclosed on a Form W-2 or 1099 and how the IRS targets tax noncompliance in this area.
Foreign Income Reporting: Worldwide Income Reporting Requirement
If you are a US tax resident, you are subject to the worldwide income reporting requirement. In other words, you are required to disclose your US-source income and your foreign-source income on your US tax return.
This requirement applies to you irrespective of whether this income was ever disclosed to the IRS on a Form W-2 or Form 1099. It is important to understand that Forms W-2 and 1099 are only third-party reporting requirements. They do not impact your foreign income reporting on your US tax return in any way, because such a disclosure is your personal obligation as a US tax resident.
This means that, if your foreign employer pays you a salary for the work performed in a foreign country, you must disclose it on your US tax return. Similarly, if you are a contractor who receives payments for services performed overseas, you are obligated to disclose these payments on your US tax return. The fact that neither your foreign employer nor your clients ever filed any information returns, such as Forms W-2 or 1099, with the IRS is irrelevant to your foreign income reporting obligations in the United States.
Foreign Income Reporting: Many US Taxpayers Are Noncompliant
Unfortunately, many US taxpayers are not complying with their foreign income reporting obligations. Some of them are doing it willfully, taking advantage of the absence of third-party IRS reporting (such as Forms W-2 and 1099). Others have fallen victims to numerous online false claims of exceptions to the worldwide income reporting.
Foreign Income Reporting: Noncompliant Taxpayers at Elevated Risk of IRS Penalties
The noncompliance in this area is so great that it drew the attention of the IRS. In July of 2019, the IRS announced a specific compliance campaign that targets high-income US citizens and resident aliens who receive compensation from overseas that is not reported on a Form W-2 or Form 1099.
The IRS has adopted a tough approach to noncompliance with the worldwide income reporting requirement – IRS audits only. The IRS did not mention any other, more lenient treatment streams for this campaign.
This means that we will see an increase in the number of IRS audits devoted mainly to discovering unreported foreign income and punishing noncompliant US taxpayers. Of course, these audits may further expand depending on other facts that the IRS discovers during these audits. For example, if foreign income comes from a foreign corporation owned by the taxpayer, the IRS may also impose Form 5471 penalties. If this corporation owns undisclosed foreign accounts, then the taxpayer may also face draconian FBAR civil as well as criminal penalties.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Foreign Income Reporting Obligations and Your Voluntary Disclosure of Unreported Foreign Income
If you are a US taxpayer who earns income overseas, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US tax compliance. Furthermore, if you have not reported your overseas income for prior years, you should explore your voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible in order to reduce your IRS civil penalties and avoid potential IRS criminal prosecution. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers like you to resolve their US tax noncompliance issues, including those concerning foreign income reporting, and We Can Help You!