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Title 26 Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty under SDOP

The Title 26 Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty (“Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty”) is one of the most critical aspects of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”). In this article, I want to conduct a general overview of how the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is calculated.

As a side note, it is important to keep in mind that this is an educational article which aims to provide a general overview of the calculation of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty in common situations. In providing this general overview of the SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, the article necessarily glosses over some complex issues that may change the determination of Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty in a particular case.  In order to calculate your Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty properly, the readers should contact an experienced international tax attorney for a legal advice based on their specific facts and circumstances.

What is Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty?

A taxpayer who enters SDOP is required to pay a 5% Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty as part of the SDOP requirements. The Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is paid in lieu of the penalties associated with the delinquent filings of FBARs, Forms 8938 and other information returns.

The calculation of SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is very different from 2014 OVDP calculation in terms of the relevant time period and the penalty base. Let’s explore each of these factors.

Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty: Time Period

Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is equal to 5 percent of the highest aggregate balance/value of the taxpayer’s foreign financial assets that are subject to the miscellaneous offshore penalty during the years in the covered tax return period and the covered FBAR period. Generally, this means that the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is imposed on the past six years covered by the FBAR statute of limitations.

However, there is an exception where the three-year tax covered tax return period does not completely overlap with the six-year covered FBAR period. For example, the SDOP disclosure for tax returns covers years 2012 and 2014 because the due date for the 2014 tax return is passed, but the FBAR period is 2008-2013 because the due date for the 2014 FBAR has not passed. In such cases, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is imposed on the highest aggregate value of the foreign financial assets for the past seven years.

In most cases, six years will be the standard time period for the calculation of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, which is a lot better than the 2014 OVDP eight-year disclosure period.

Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty: Penalty Base

SDOP introduced a new way to calculate Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty which mixed the old FBAR-focused penalty orientation of the 2014 OVDP with the new FATCA-focused Form 8938.

In general, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is imposed on any foreign financial asset in a given year within the covered SDOP time period if one of the following is true:

1. The asset should have been, but was not, reported on an FBAR (FinCEN Form 114) for that year;

2. The asset should have been, but was not, reported on a Form 8938 for that year; or

3. If the asset was properly reported for that year, but gross income in respect of the asset was not reported in that year.

Two important features of this calculation of the penalty base under SDOP must be emphasized. First, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty should be calculated not only on the foreign bank and financial accounts listed on the FBAR, but also on “other specified assets” required to be listed on Form 8938. This means that many more assets outside of a foreign financial account can now be subject to the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty . Examples of such assets include but not limited to: foreign stocks not held in a financial account, a capital or profits interest in a foreign partnership, certain forms of indebtedness issued by a foreign person (such as a note, bond, debenture, an interest in a foreign trust, foreign swaps, foreign options, foreign derivatives and other assets. It should be remembered, though, that this is a generalization and, in certain circumstances, an international tax attorney may except certain such assets from Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty base.

The second critical difference between SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty and 2014 OVDP Offshore Penalty is the inclusion in the calculation of the penalty base the assets for which no additional income needs to be reported. There are a lot of nuances with respect to the exclusion and inclusion of assets under the 2014 OVDP which are beyond the scope of this article. For the purposes of the present discussion, I will ignore them and concentrate on the general rule only (again, this is an area that should be explored with an international tax attorney based on the specific facts of a client’s case) that if an asset should have been reported on Forms 8938 and FinCEN Form 114 and it was not, then, it should be included in the penalty base.

Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty: Calculation of Highest Aggregate Value of Assets

As it was mentioned above, the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is calculated based on the highest aggregate balance/value of the taxpayer’s foreign financial assets that are subject to the miscellaneous offshore penalty during the years in the covered tax return period and the covered FBAR period. The issue is how this “highest aggregate balance/value of assets” is calculated.

For the purposes of SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, the highest aggregate balance/value is determined by a two-step process. First, you need to aggregate the year-end account balances and year-end asset values of all the foreign financial assets subject to the miscellaneous offshore penalty for each of the years in the covered tax return period and the covered FBAR period. Then, you select the highest aggregate balance/value from among those years and calculate the 5% value of this balance.

It is the first step that is radically different from the 2014 OVDP Offshore Penalty determination process, and it can produce very interesting results especially in the case of bank accounts. The most surprising result is that an account that was closed in one of the covered years is likely to produce a zero end-of-year balance irrespective of how much money was on it prior to December 31.

This factor can be a very important consideration when one decides to participate in SDOP. For this reason, I highly encourage the readers to consult an experienced international tax lawyer in these matters.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Undisclosed Foreign Assets

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts and any other assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional legal and tax help. Our team of experienced international tax attorneys and accountants will thoroughly analyze your case, estimate your current penalty exposure, identify the offshore voluntary disclosure options available to you, prepare all legal documents and tax forms (including amended tax returns) needed in your case, rigorously defend your interests in front of the IRS, and guide you through the entire voluntary disclosure process.

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Filing an Extension for US Taxpayers Residing Outside of the United States

As is commonly known, US taxpayers who file on a calendar year basis have a filing due date of April 15th. In general, if a tax is owed, it should be paid by the due date of your tax return, without regard to any extension of time for filing the return. Most US taxpayers who reside in the United States are aware that they can obtain a tax return filing extension. But what if you are one of the numerous US taxpayers residing outside of the United States when a tax return is due? Can an extension be filed, and if so, will any penalties be applied if the tax owed is not paid on time? Will interest be owed on the unpaid tax?

This article strives to answer these questions and explain different types of extensions that the IRS may grant for US taxpayers who are not in the country when their returns are due.

Extension Options for US Taxpayers Residing Outside of the United States

In general, there are four possible types of extensions the IRS may grant for US taxpayers who are out of the country: an automatic two-month extension, an automatic six-month extension (in reality, this is a four-month extension), an additional extension for taxpayers residing outside of the United States, and an extension of time to meet tests (also for the US taxpayers residing outside of the United States).

The information contained in this article is intended for general knowledge, and does not constitute tax or legal advice. If you have further questions, please contact the experienced US-International tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office, PLLC.

Automatic Two-Month Extension for US Taxpayers Residing Outside of the United States

Taxpayers are allowed an automatic two-month extension to file their return and pay federal income taxes owed if they are US citizens or resident aliens, and on the regular due date of the return, they are either US taxpayers residing outside the United States and Puerto Rico or their post of duty is outside the US and Puerto Rico (or if they are in military or naval service on duty outside the US and Puerto Rico).

In order to qualify for this extension, taxpayers must attach a statement to their returns demonstrating which of these two circumstances they meet. Note though, that even if taxpayers are granted this extension (or any extension detailed in this article), they will still have to pay any interest on any tax liability owed by the regular due date of their return (April 15th for calendar year taxpayers).

Automatic Six-Month Extension for US Taxpayers Residing Outside of the United States

In addition to the automatic two-month extension, US taxpayers who are not able to file their returns on time by the due date can generally get an automatic six-month extension of time to file. The two-month and the six-month extensions start at the same time; so, in reality, this is a merely four-month additional extension for US taxpayers residing outside of the United States.

It is important to emphasize that this additional automatic extension however does not extend the time to pay.

In order to get this automatic extension, the taxpayer must file Form 4868 or use the IRS efile system showing a correctly-estimated tax liability based on all available information. However, if a taxpayer intends for the IRS to figure his or her tax, or is under a court order to file by the regular due date, they may not be eligible for this extension

Additional Extension of Time (Two-Months) for US Taxpayers Residing Outside of the United States

In addition to the six-month extension, a taxpayer who is out of the country can also request a discretionary two-month additional extension of time to file his or her tax return (to December 15 for calendar year taxpayers) by sending the IRS a letter detailing the reasons why the additional two-month extension is necessary. The letter needs to be sent by the extended due date (October 15 for calendar year taxpayers) to the Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service Center Austin, TX 73301-0045 address.

Note that taxpayers will not receive any notification from the IRS unless their requests are denied. In addition, taxpayers who have an approved extension of time to file Form 2350 (described below) will not be able to request the discretionary two-month additional extension.

Extension of Time to Meet Tests for US Taxpayers Residing Outside of the United States

In general, a taxpayer cannot get an extension of more than six months (or eight months if you count the additional extension of time for taxpayers residing outside of the United States). However, an exception may exist if a taxpayer is outside the US and meets certain requirements. A taxpayer may be granted an extension of more than six months to file a tax return if time is needed to meet either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test in order to qualify for either the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign housing exclusion or deduction (see IRS rules for specifics of the exclusion or deduction).

Taxpayers should request an extension of time to meet tests if all three of the following factors are applicable: 1) They are US citizens or resident aliens, 2) they anticipate meeting either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test, but not until after their tax return are due, and 3) their tax homes are in foreign countries throughout the period of bona fide residence or physical presence, whichever applies.

In general, if a taxpayer is granted this extension it will typically be 30 days beyond the date on which either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test can reasonably be expected to be met. (If a taxpayer has moving expenses that are for services performed in two years, the extension may be granted as long as an until after the end of the second year).

To apply for this extension, Form 2350 (“Application for Extension of Time To File US Income Tax Return”) will need to be filed by the due date for filing a taxpayer’s return. The IRS notes, “Generally, if both your tax home and your abode are outside the United States and Puerto Rico on the regular due date of your return and you file on a calendar year basis, the due date for filing your return is June 15.” Note that if a taxpayer meets either test, but happens to file a tax return before the test is actually met, the foreign earned income exclusion, the foreign housing exclusion, or the foreign housing deduction can subsequently be claimed on a Form 1040X.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Tax Returns as a Taxpayer Residing Outside of the United States

If you are a US taxpayer who is residing outside of the United States, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US compliance. In additional to preparing your US tax return, we will do a thorough overview of your other potential US tax compliance requirements (such as PFICs, FBARs, Form 8938, et cetera) so that you remain in full compliance with US tax laws.

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