Offshore Accounts Disclosure and John Doe Summons

If a taxpayer is about to conduct a voluntary disclosure of his offshore accounts, a question arises about his eligibility to do so in a situation where the IRS already served a “John Doe” summons or made a treaty request seeking information that may identify a taxpayer as holding an undisclosed foreign account or undisclosed foreign entity. The answer is that it depends on the timing of the disclosure.

Background Information

In an earlier article, I discussed the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) now closed eligibility requirements. Specifically, I discussed the timeliness eligibility requirement of IRM and how a failure to satisfy this requirement will prevent the taxpayer from conducting a voluntary disclosure.

Under IRM, a voluntary disclosure is timely if it is received by the IRS before either of the following events occurs:

(a) the IRS has initiated a civil examination or criminal investigation of the taxpayer, or has notified the taxpayer that it intends to commence such an examination or investigation. Notice, it is not relevant whether the IRS has initiated a civil examination which is not related to undisclosed foreign accounts or undisclosed foreign entities – either of the two, civil examination and criminal investigation, will prevent OVDP participation;

(b) the IRS has received information from a third party (e.g., informant, other governmental agency, or the media) alerting the IRS to the specific taxpayer’s noncompliance;

(c) the IRS has initiated a civil examination or criminal investigation which is directly related to the specific liability of the taxpayer; or

(d) the IRS has acquired information directly related to the specific liability of the taxpayer from a criminal enforcement action (e.g., search warrant, grand jury subpoena).

General Analysis

For the purposes of this essay, John Doe summons and treaty requests most likely fit the situation described in paragraph (b). Hence, the main criteria regarding the taxpayer’s eligibility to conduct voluntary disclosure of his offshore accounts in such situations would be whether the IRS already received information under the John Doe summons, treaty request or other similar action and whether the information is sufficiently specific.

For example, the mere fact that the IRS served a John Doe summons, made a treaty request or has taken similar action does not make every member of the John Doe class or group identified in the treaty request or other action ineligible to participate.

On the other hand, if the IRS or the U.S. Department of Justice already obtained information under a John Doe summons, treaty request or other similar action that provides evidence of a specific taxpayer’s noncompliance with the tax laws or FBAR reporting requirements, that particular taxpayer will become ineligible for OVDP and Criminal Investigation’s Voluntary Disclosure Practice.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

Based on the analysis above, it is evident that a taxpayer concerned that a party subject to a John Doe summons, treaty request or similar action will provide information about him to the IRS should apply to make a voluntary disclosure as soon as possible.

This is why you should contact Sherayzen Law Office. Our experienced international tax law firm can help you with the entire voluntary disclosure process, including initial assessment of your FBAR liability, determination of available voluntary disclosure options, preparation of all of the required legal and tax documents, and rigorous representation of your interests during your negotiations with the IRS.