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2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options | US International Tax Lawyers

While the year 2021 has ended, numerous taxpayers continue to be substantially noncompliant with various US international tax laws. Hence, it is important for US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets to consider their 2022 offshore voluntary disclosure options. In this essay, I would like to provide an overview of these 2022 offshore voluntary disclosure options.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: What is Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

The term “offshore voluntary disclosure” refers to a series of legal processes established by the IRS to allow noncompliant US taxpayers to voluntarily come forward and disclose their prior US international tax noncompliance in exchange for more lenient IRS treatment. This leniency can express itself in various ways: avoidance of criminal prosecution, lower and even zero penalties, a shorter voluntary disclosure period, ability to make certain retroactive tax elections, et cetera.

In general, the benefits of a voluntary disclosure usually far outweigh the consequences of a disclosure during a potential IRS audit. There are exceptions, but they are usually limited to mishandled cases where either an improper voluntary disclosure path was chosen or the process of the disclosure was mishandled by the taxpayer (usually) or his tax attorneys. This is why it is important that you chose the right international tax attorney to help you with your offshore voluntary disclosure.

Let’s review the main 2022 offshore voluntary disclosure options and briefly describe them.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures

While Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”) was created already in 2012, it exists in its current form since June of 2014. It is a true tax amnesty program, because its participants do not pay IRS penalties of any kind, even on income tax due. The participants only need to pay the extra tax due on the amended tax returns plus interest on the tax.

Moreover, SFOP preserves SDOP’s non-invasive and limited scope of voluntary disclosure (see below). For example, you only need to amend the tax returns for the past three years and file FBARs for the past six years.

SFOP, however, is available to a limited number of US taxpayers who are able to satisfy its eligibility requirements, particularly those related to non-willfulness certification and physical presence outside of the United States. You should contact Sherayzen Law Office to help you determine whether you meet the eligibility requirements of SFOP.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) is currently the flagship voluntary disclosure option for US taxpayers who reside in the United States. While not as generous as SFOP, SDOP is still a very good voluntary disclosure option for non-willful taxpayers: it is simple, limited (in terms of the voluntary disclosure period for which tax returns and FBARs must be filed) and mild (in terms of its penalty structure). There are some drawbacks to SDOP, such as the potential imposition of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty on income-tax compliant foreign accounts, but the benefits offered by this option outweigh its deficiencies for most taxpayers.

The reason why the IRS is so generous lies in the fact that this voluntary disclosure option is open only to taxpayers who can certify under the penalty of perjury that they were non-willful with respect to their prior income tax noncompliance, FBAR noncompliance and noncompliance with any other US international information tax return (such as Form 3520, 5471, 8938 et cetera). It will be up to your international tax lawyer to make the determination on whether you are able to make this certification.

Moreover, a taxpayer cannot file a delinquent Form 1040 under the SDOP. SDOP only accepts amended tax returns (i.e Forms 1040X), not original late tax returns.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures

Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures (“DFSP”) is another voluntary disclosure option that fully eliminates IRS penalties. This is not a new option; in fact, in one form or another, officially or unofficially, it has always existed within the IRS procedures. Prior to 2019, it was even written into the OVDP (IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) as FAQ#17 (though in a modified version).

While DFSP is highly beneficial to noncompliant US taxpayers, it is available to even fewer number of taxpayers than those who are eligible for SDOP and SFOP. This is the case due to two factors. First, DFSP has a very narrow scope – it applies only to FBARs. Second, DFSP has extremely strict eligibility requirements; even de minimis income tax noncompliance may deprive a taxpayer of the ability to use this option if it is sufficient to require an amendment of a tax return. In other words, DFSP only applies where SDOP, SFOP and VDP (see below) are irrelevant due to absence of unreported income.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures

Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures (“DIIRSP”) has a similar history to DFSP. In fact, it was “codified” into OVDP rules as FAQ#18. Similarly to DFSP, DIIRSP also offers the possibility of escaping IRS Penalties. DIIRSP has a broader scope than DFSP and applies to international information returns other than FBAR, such as Form 8938, 3520, 5471, 8865, 926, et cetera.

Since it turned into an independent voluntary disclosure option in 2014, DIIRSP’s eligibility requirements became much harsher. US taxpayers are now required to provide a reasonable cause explanation in order to escape IRS penalties under this option. On the other hand, the fact that there may be unreported income associated with international information returns is not an impediment by itself to participation in DIIRSP.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: IRS Voluntary Disclosure Practice

The traditional IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure practice has existed for a very long time. However, it faded into complete obscurity once the IRS opened its first major OVDP option in 2009. The closure of the 2014 OVDP in September of 2018 has brought this option back to life.

On November 20, 2018, the IRS has completely revamped this traditional voluntary disclosure option, modified its procedural structure and imposed a new tough (but relatively clear) penalty structure. This new version of the traditional voluntary disclosure is now officially called IRS Voluntary Disclosure Practice (“VDP”).

The chief advantage of VDP is that it is specifically designed to help taxpayers who willfully violated their US tax obligations to come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and lower their civil willful penalties. In other words, VDP is now the main voluntary disclosure option for willful taxpayers.

2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Reasonable Cause Disclosure

Since 2014, the popularity of Reasonable Cause disclosure (also known as “Noisy Disclosure”) has declined substantially due to the introduction of SDOP and SFOP. Nevertheless, Reasonable Cause disclosure continues to be a highly important voluntary disclosure alternative to official IRS voluntary disclosure options. It is now primarily used when SDOP and SFOP are not available for technical reasons (i.e. some of their eligibility requirements are not met).

Reasonable Cause disclosure is based on the actual statutory language; it is not part of any official IRS program. Special care must be taken in using this option, because this is a high-risk, high-reward option. If a taxpayer is able to satisfy this high burden of proof, then, he will be able to avoid all IRS penalties. If the IRS audits the Reasonable Cause disclosure and disagrees, this taxpayer may face significant IRS penalties and, potentially, years of IRS litigation.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Analysis of Your 2022 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options

If you have undisclosed foreign assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers from over 70 countries with their voluntary disclosures of foreign assets to the IRS, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2022 Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures | International Tax Lawyer

Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures has been the best voluntary disclosure option for eligible US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income, and I predict that it will remain so in the year 2022. Let’s discuss in more detail the unique advantages of the 2022 Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures.

2022 Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures: Background Information and Purpose

The IRS created the current Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (usually abbreviated as “SFOP”) on June 18, 2014, though the Certification forms became available only a few months later. Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures quickly became the most popular option for US taxpayers who reside overseas, because it is the only voluntary disclosure option that can truly be called an “amnesty program”.

Why did the IRS create Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures and offered such favorable terms? The problem is that the enforcement of international tax compliance for taxpayers who reside overseas is highly complex and very expensive. Where such noncompliance is willful, the penalty framework and deterrence considerations make it worthwhile for the IRS to engage in these expenses (although, even in these cases, the IRS offered a special voluntary disclosure option). With respect to non-willful taxpayers, however, this logic does not work well.

Hence, the IRS (correctly, in my opinion) decided that it would be in the best interests of the United States to allow noncompliant US taxpayers overseas voluntarily came forward and resolve their prior tax noncompliance. In order to achieve this goal, the IRS decided to offer such a sweet deal to these taxpayers that it would make no sense for these taxpayers to remain noncompliant. Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures is precisely this “sweet deal” meant to encourage non-willful US taxpayers who reside overseas to voluntarily resolve their prior noncompliance with US international tax reporting requirements.

2022 Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures: the “Sweet Deal”

Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures offers four great advantages to eligible participants. First and most important, it is a true tax amnesty program, because there are no penalties for prior noncompliance. There are no income tax penalties; the taxpayers only need to pay the extra tax owed plus interest. There is also no Offshore Penalty for prior noncompliance with respect to FBAR and other US information tax returns. It is definitely the best deal a taxpayer can ever get when it comes to offshore voluntary disclosure programs.

Second, Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures offers a simplified (not simple, though) offshore voluntary disclosure procedure which covers a relatively short disclosure period. Unlike the OVDP (Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program), SFOP only demands the taxpayers to file tax forms within the general statute of limitations for tax returns (i.e. past three years) and a regular statute of limitations for FBARs (i.e. past six years).

Third, Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures allows its participants to resolve their prior non-willful noncompliance with respect to unreported foreign income as well as pretty much any US international information return (FBAR, Form 8938, Form 5471, Form 8621, Form 926, et cetera).

Finally, the last major advantage of the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures is that this option only requires to establish non-willfulness rather than a reasonable cause. Non-willfulness is a much easier legal standard to satisfy (be careful, this is NOT an “easy standard”, just an easier one) than reasonable cause.

2022 Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures: Main Disadvantages

Usually, participation in the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures is highly advantageous to noncompliant taxpayers. However, there are some disadvantages and shortcomings in this program. In this article, I will briefly discuss three of the most important of them.

First of all, Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures is available only to taxpayers who satisfied the program’s foreign residency requirements. Even if you resided outside of the United States during most of each year and you are a bona fide tax resident of a foreign country, you still may not satisfy the strict residency requirements of SFOP.

Second, there is an issue of a shifting burden of proof. When they participate in the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures, taxpayers have the burden of proof to establish their non-willfulness with respect to their inability to timely report their foreign income as well as file FBARs and other US international information returns. Outside of the SFOP, the IRS has the burden of proof to establish willfulness; if it cannot carry this burden, then the taxpayer is automatically considered non-willful.

The problem is that most cases have positive and negative facts at the same time. This means that a lot of taxpayers are actually in the “gray” area between willfulness and non-willfulness. In many of these cases, the burden of proof may play a critical role in determining whether a taxpayer is eligible to participate in the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures.

Finally, participation in the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures does not provide a definitive closure to its participants. Unlike OVDP, SFOP does not offer a Closing Agreement without an audit; there may be a follow-up audit after the IRS processes your voluntary disclosure package. This means that going through Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures may not be the end of your case; the IRS can actually audit you over the next three years. If this happens, the audit of your voluntary disclosure will focus not only on the correctness of your disclosure, but also on the truthfulness and correctness of your non-willfulness certification.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With 2022 Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts or any other foreign assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your offshore voluntary disclosure. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with their offshore voluntary disclosures, including Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. We can also help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Coronavirus & Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures | SDOP Tax Law Firm

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many areas of human activity around the planet. The coronavirus even affected the IRS offshore voluntary disclosures concerning US taxpayers’ unreported financial assets and income in China (“Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures”). In fact, the impact of coronavirus on the Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures has been severe and extremely disruptive. Let’s look at the top three ways in which coronavirus has disrupted the Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures.

Coronavirus & Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures: Access to Information

The first and most important disruption caused by coronavirus is reduced access to information necessary to complete offshore voluntary disclosures. As a result of the quarantine measures, many financial institutions in China are either closed or work only limited hours. Hence, it has become much harder to obtain relevant information from the Chinese financial institutions, particularly with respect to certain complex investment products and investment insurance policies.

Moreover, as a result of the suspension of travel between China and the United States, many taxpayers are unable to travel to China to obtain the necessary documents. In many cases, internet access to financial data in China is limited to only a few years, whereas taxpayers often need to go back at least six years to obtain the necessary information to accurately complete their delinquent FBARs. In most instances, a taxpayer needs to personally visit his financial institution to collect this older data. At this point, this is almost impossible.

Coronavirus & Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures: Mailing of Signed Documents

With respect to US taxpayers who are currently in China, many of them have limited ability to execute the documents necessary to complete offshore voluntary disclosures and mail them to their international tax attorneys in the United States.

Coronavirus & Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures: Case Schedule

As a result of the two factors above as well as the current communication disruptions in the United States, the coronavirus has caused long delays in the voluntary disclosures that involve undisclosed financial assets in China. The schedule disruptions can last from weeks to months; in fact, in some cases, it is too early to be able to fully assess the impact of coronavirus on an offshore voluntary disclosure schedule.

While Sherayzen Law Office has been able to minimize the impact of coronavirus on the Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures, certain delays still exist due to clients’ inability to obtain the necessary information.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Chinese Offshore Voluntary Disclosures

If you have undisclosed financial accounts or foreign businesses in China, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. While the disruptions caused by coronavirus have been severe, by employing careful planning, we can still help you maximize your ability to complete your offshore voluntary disclosure in an accurate and timely manner.

We have already helped hundreds of US taxpayers like you, including in China, to successfully bring their financial and business affairs in full compliance with US tax laws. We can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2019 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options | International Tax Lawyers

The closure of the IRS flagship 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) in September of 2018 posed a critical issue of the 2019 offshore voluntary disclosure options available to US taxpayers. This is precisely the issue that I would like to explore today – the 2019 offshore voluntary disclosure options available to US taxpayers who wish to voluntarily resolve their prior US tax noncompliance concerning foreign assets and foreign income.

2019 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

With the closure of the OVDP, the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) became the main voluntary disclosure option for US taxpayers who reside in the United States. SDOP offers huge benefits to its participants in terms of simplicity of the process, limitations on the years subject to voluntary disclosure and the mildness of its penalty structure. There are some “unfair” provisions, such as subjecting income-compliant accounts to SDOP’s Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty, but, overall, the benefits offered by this option outweigh its deficiencies for most taxpayers.

The main obstacle to using SDOP in 2019 remains its requirement that a taxpayer certifies under the penalty of perjury that he was non-willful with respect to his prior income tax noncompliance, FBAR noncompliance and noncompliance with any other US international information tax return (such as Form 8938, 3520, 5471, et cetera). This is an insurmountable problem for willful taxpayers. It will be up to your international tax lawyer to make the determination on whether you are able to make this certification.

2019 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures

Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”) is SDOP’s brother; both options were announced at the same time in 2014 as two distinct parts of the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures. SFOP is available to US taxpayers who satisfy its eligibility requirements, particularly those related to non-willfulness certification and physical presence outside of the United States. Again, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office to help you determine whether you meet the eligibility requirements of SFOP.

The taxpayers who are able to satisfy SFOP’s eligibility requirements will find themselves in a tax paradise, because SFOP is the closest option to a true amnesty program that the IRS ever provided to US taxpayers. Not only does SFOP preserve the non-invasive and limited scope of voluntary disclosure that characterizes SDOP, but SFOP also does not require US taxpayers to pay any penalties. A taxpayer only needs to pay the extra tax due with interest for the past three years. The announcement by the IRS of this option in 2014 was a true gift to US taxpayers.

2019 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures

Another highly beneficial voluntary disclosure option for 2019 is Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures (“DFSP”). This is not a new option; in fact, in one form or another, it has always existed within the IRS procedures. Prior to 2014, it was even written into the OVDP as FAQ#17.

Since its “independence” in 2014, DFSP is a somewhat more difficult option than what it used to be as FAQ#17. Nevertheless, it is still a zero-penalty option for those taxpayers who are able to satisfy its eligibility requirements. Unfortunately, the eligibility requirements are very strict and even de minimis income tax noncompliance will deprive a taxpayer of the ability to use this option.

2019 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures

Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures (“DIIRSP”) has a very similar history to DFSP. In fact, it was “codified” into OVDP rules as FAQ#18. Since it became an independent option in 2014, however, its eligibility requirements became much harsher. Now, US taxpayers are required to provide a reasonable cause explanation in order to escape IRS penalties under this option.

2019 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Modified IRS Traditional Voluntary Disclosure Program

The traditional IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“TVDP”) has existed for a very long time. However, it faded into complete obscurity once the IRS opened its first major OVDP option. The recent closure of the OVDP has brought TVDP back to life.

In fact, the IRS is now presenting TVDP as the main, almost default, voluntary disclosure option for US taxpayers who willfully violated their US tax obligations. On November 20, 2018, the IRS has completely revamped the TVDP’s procedural structure and clarified the penalty imposition rules. I am almost tempted to call this new version of TVDP as “2018 TVDP”!

2019 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Reasonable Cause Disclosure

This was the most popular voluntary disclosure option prior OVDP; then, after 2009 (and between various OVDP options), Reasonable Cause disclosure continued to play the role of the most important alternative to the OVDP. Since 2014, however, the appearance of SDOP and SFOP has substantially deflated the appeal of Reasonable Cause disclosures. The fact that the IRS closed the physical address for such disclosures and tried to make this option as unpopular as possible further contributed to the decline of Reasonable Cause disclosures. Starting the end of 2018, however, Reasonable Cause disclosure experienced some resurgence due to the closure of the OVDP, sometimes for all the wrong reasons.

Reasonable Cause disclosure (a/k/a “Noisy Disclosure”) is based on the actual statutory language; it is not part of any IRS program. Special care must be taken in using this option, because this is a high-risk, high-reward option. If a taxpayer is able to satisfy his high burden of proof, then, he will be able to avoid IRS penalties. If the IRS audits the Reasonable Cause disclosure and disagrees, this taxpayer may face significant IRS penalties and, potentially, years of IRS litigation.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Analysis of Your 2019 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options

If you have not been able to comply with your US international tax obligations concerning foreign assets and foreign income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help.

Sherayzen Law Office is a leading international tax law firm in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures. Our highly specialized legal team, led by a known international tax attorney Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, has successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers with assets in more than 70 countries to bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws.

We can Help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank Rejects DOJ Settlement Offer | FATCA Tax Lawyer

On August 8, 2018, Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank (“Mizrahi-Tefahot”) informed the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that its Board of Directors rejected a settlement offer from the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”).

It appears that the DOJ offer was received by the bank on August 7, 2018. The DOJ proposed that Mizrahi-Tefahot pay $342 million to settle the DOJ investigation into whether the bank helped US taxpayers evade US federal taxes.

Mizrahi-Tefahot felt that this was an unreasonably high amount to pay. In its financial statements for the quarter that ended on March 31, 2018, the bank reserved just $46.1 million to settle the DOJ investigation.

The official and primary reason for the rejection of the DOJ offer, however, was the fact that the DOJ’s letter was not accompanied by any details of how DOJ arrived at such a high sum of money. The letter did not contain even any references to any calculation principles. Mizrahi-Tefahot’s lawyer felt that any reasonable calculation of potential settlement amount would lead to a much lower settlement offer.

The most likely reason why Mizrahi-Tefahot felt so confident in rejecting the DOJ offer was its knowledge of the settlements paid by the Swiss banks. NPB Neue Privat AG, for example, only paid $5 million. Basler Kantonalbank believes it can settle for $100 million. In other words, it appears that the negotiation process with the DOJ has matured to the point where Mizrahi-Tefahot can reasonably predict the amount for which the DOJ would agree to settle the case.

Mizrahi-Tefahot is not the only bank in Israel under the IRS investigation. Bank Leumi settled its DOJ investigation for a fine of $270 million and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. Bank Hapoalim is still in settlement negotiation with the DOJ; in fact, last May, it further increased the funds set aside for a possible DOJ settlement to a total of $365 million.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of your Mizrahi-Tefahot and Other Israeli Bank Accounts

As part of their settlement agreements, foreign banks agree to supply to the DOJ full information concerning bank accounts owned by US persons. Mizrahi-Tefahot settlement will very likely follow the same path; so will Bank Hapoalim and any other Israeli bank investigated by the DOJ.

This means that if you have undisclosed foreign bank accounts in Israel, you are at a high risk of IRS detection and potentially disastrous FBAR penalties. This is why you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with the voluntary disclosure of your Israeli bank accounts. Our law firm specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures of foreign accounts and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!