December of 2015 was one of the most successful months for the DOJ’s Swiss Bank Program as nearly a record number of banks signed non-prosecution agreements. This success for the DOJ means that more and more of non-compliant US taxpayers with foreign accounts are likely to deal with Higher OVDP Penalty with respect to their undisclosed foreign accounts.
DOJ’s Swiss Bank Program
The Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks (Program) was announced by the US Department of Justice on August 29, 2013. The Program was intended to achieve multiple goals, but there are four of them that are most important to the understanding of the Higher OVDP Penalty and the Program.
First, this was an “offer that one cannot refuse” for the Swiss banks– the Program was intended to “allow” (or force) Swiss banks to bring themselves into compliance with US tax laws. In exchange, the Swiss banks received a non-prosecution agreement that promised them protection from US legal enforcement actions.
Second, the Program was intended to obtain as much information as possible about non-compliant US taxpayers with foreign accounts.
The third important goal was to create an atmosphere of global enforcement that would make US voluntary disclosure the most rational choice for non-compliant US taxpayers with foreign accounts given the risk of IRS discovery of their undisclosed foreign accounts.
Fourth, the Program was intended to pave the way for easier acceptance of FATCA throughout the world by demonstrating what could potentially happen in any country that decides to resist the implementation of FATCA.
It must be stated that the Swiss Bank Program has been a spectacular success for the DOJ and the IRS. Both, the banks and non-compliant US taxpayers with foreign accounts flocked to the voluntary disclosure programs. Moreover, today, FATCA is the new global standard of international tax enforcement.
The current 2014 IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program is a modification of 2012 OVDP which, in turn, was the continuation of a series of prior IRS offshore voluntary disclosure programs (particularly 2011 OVDI). The 2014 OVDP is designed to help non-compliant US taxpayers with foreign accounts to bring their tax affairs into compliance with US tax laws.
2014 OVDP has a two-tier penalty system. The 50% penalty rate applies to US taxpayers with foreign accounts in the banks on the special IRS list. The 27.5% penalty rate applies to everyone else.
Influence of the Program on the OVDP
The Swiss Bank Program has a direct impact on the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program because every Swiss Bank that signs a Non-Prosecution Agreement under the Program is automatically added to the 50% penalty list of foreign banks.
Thus, as more and more Swiss Banks reach an agreement with the DOJ under the Program, the list of 50% penalty banks keeps expanding and so does the list of US taxpayers with foreign accounts who may be subject to this higher penalty rate.
What Should Non-Compliant US Taxpayers With Foreign Accounts Do?
The growing risk of higher OVDP penalty means that non-compliant US taxpayers with foreign accounts should explore their voluntary disclosure options as soon as possible by contacting an experienced international tax lawyer.
It is a mistake to assume that 50% penalty list will grow only as a result of the Swiss Bank Program. Even today, the list already contains banks which are located outside of the United States (such as HSBC India and Israeli Bank Leumi). This means that any bank in almost any part of the world may tomorrow be on the 50% penalty list and US taxpayers with foreign accounts in this bank would be forced to pay a much higher penalty.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Tax Help With The Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Accounts
The growing risk of higher OVDP penalty means that you should contact the experienced international tax team of Sherayzen Law Office. International tax attorney and Founder of Sherayzen Law Office, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, will personally analyze your case, estimate your IRS penalty exposure, determine your offshore voluntary disclosure options, and implement your customized voluntary disclosure plan to resolve your US tax problems.