On March 13, 2018, the IRS announced that it will be closing its flagship 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure (“OVDP”) program on September 28, 2018. The closure of the IRS OVDP was already predicted by Sherayzen Law Office last year. Let’s analyze further this important development.
Historical Overview of the IRS OVDP
I already provided a profound historical overview of the IRS OVDP in a previous article. Here, I would like to state a brief summary of this history.
The 2009 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“2009 OVDP”) is considered to be the first modern offshore voluntary disclosure program created by the IRS. There were voluntary disclosure initiatives in the earlier years (most notably 2004), but they lacked the sophistication, publicity and enforcement that characterized the post-UBS case IRS OVDPs.
The 2009 OVDP ended in October of that year, but its favorable results laid the foundation for the enormously successful 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (“2011 OVDI”). In fact, the 2011 OVDI turned out be such a hit that, after it ended, the IRS almost immediately instituted the “permanent” 2012 OVDP with many terms fairly similar to 2011 OVDI.
In 2014, the 2012 OVDP underwent a profound change with the creation of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) and the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”) as well as the split off of the old FAQ 17 and FAQ 18 into new Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures and Delinquent International Information Returns Submission Procedures respectively. The changes to 2012 OVDP were so dramatic that the IRS and the practitioners treated the remaining part of the IRS OVDP as the 2014 OVDP.
Popularity of the IRS OVDP Changed Over Time
Since the introduction of the 2009 OVDP, more than 56,000 taxpayers participated in some version of the IRS OVDPs. Altogether, the IRS stated that “those taxpayers paid a total of $11.1 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties”.
The popularity of the IRS OVDP, however, changed over time. It really peaked with the 2011 OVDI – about 18,000 taxpayers participated in this program. The numbers have declined ever since; the decline greatly accelerated with the 2014 introduction of SDOP and SFOP. In fact, the IRS stated that only 600 disclosures were made through the IRS OVDP in the entire year 2017.
IRS OVDP: Its Importance Today and Who Will Be Affected Most by Its Closure
Today, the IRS OVDP remains the main voluntary disclosure option for US taxpayers who willfully failed to comply with their US international tax obligations. In fact, this is the best option available to these willful taxpayers. The IRS-Criminal Investigation Voluntary Disclosure Program (CI-VDP) does not offer any of the assurances on the penalty limitations that the IRS OVDP offers today.
It is important to point out, however, that the IRS OVDP can be a desirable voluntary disclosure option not only to willful taxpayers, but also to taxpayers who were non-willful in their inability to comply with the complex US international tax laws.
There are at least two categories of these non-willful taxpayers who will be affected by the impending closure of the IRS OVDP. First, the taxpayers who were non-willful, but lack sufficient proof to establish their non-willfulness in the SDOP or SFOP. In such cases, IRS OVDP offered a prudent, even if more expensive way to deal with prior tax noncompliance.
Second, due to the fact that the IRS OVDP does not impose penalties on unreported foreign assets that were not related to income tax noncompliance, some non-willful taxpayers may find it more economically beneficial to go through the IRS OVDP rather than SDOP.
Finally, it should be remembered that the IRS OVDP is the only offshore voluntary disclosure option (besides CI-VDP) that offers a Closing Agreement – i.e. a nearly guaranteed assurance that there will not be an IRS audit of prior years after the voluntary disclosure is completed, absent fraud and/or material mis-statements of fact.
Why Did IRS Decide to End IRS OVDP?
The reasons that IRS listed today for the closure of the IRS OVDP are practically the same as what I stated in my article last year, when I predicted the likely closure of the IRS OVDP.
First, the IRS stated that the “end of the current OVDP also reflects advances in third-party reporting and increased awareness of U.S. taxpayers of their offshore tax and reporting obligations.” In other words, as I have previously wrote, the existing voluntary disclosure options are rapidly losing value as a source of new information regarding offshore noncompliance with US taxes. Third-party reporting has overtaken the OVDP in this respect due to the huge and continuously expanding network (especially the FATCA network) of automatic information exchange between the IRS and foreign financial institutions.
Second, as I warned in November of 2017, there has been a systemic change to a different model of tax administration. The IRS noted that “it will continue to use tools besides voluntary disclosure to combat offshore tax avoidance, including taxpayer education, Whistleblower leads, civil examination and criminal prosecution.”
This means that the IRS is shifting away from processing broad voluntary disclosure programs while it is embracing the model of focused enforcement. This is precisely why the IRS created the issued-based LB&I Compliance Campaigns. Hence, we now entered into a phase where various enforcement channels will dominate the IRS efforts to implement US international tax laws.
Do US Taxpayers Still Have Time to do a Voluntary Disclosure Through IRS OVDP?
Yes, the taxpayers who wish to utilize the IRS OVDP option will still be able to do it through September 28, 2018.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Wish to Explore Your Voluntary Disclosure Options, Including IRS OVDP
If you a US taxpayer who has undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our highly experienced international tax law firm has helped hundreds of US taxpayers to successfully bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws.
You will be working directly with an international tax lawyer and owner of Sherayzen Law Office, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen. He will thoroughly analyze the facts of your case, determine your US tax compliance requirements with respect to unreported foreign assets and foreign income, estimate your penalty exposure, and determine the available voluntary disclosure options.
Once a voluntary disclosure option is chosen, the highly professional team of Sherayzen Law Office will work with you and prepare all of the necessary tax forms and legal documents. We will guide you throughout the entire process, including IRS representation in case of an IRS challenge of your voluntary disclosure or an IRS audit.
We have helped taxpayers with assets from close to 70 countries around the world and We Can Help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!