Posts

Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure: Problems & Opportunities

The advancement of coronavirus in the United States and around the world has significantly disrupted the normal conditions and assumptions for a US taxpayer who engages in an offshore voluntary disclosure of his unreported foreign income and foreign assets. I will refer to a voluntary disclosure conducted in this context of the coronavirus disruptions as Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure. In this essay, I would like to discuss the most unique problems and opportunities that arise in the context of a Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure.

Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure: Most Important Problems

The spread of coronavirus created two important problems to conducting an offshore voluntary disclosure of foreign assets and foreign income.

The first and most significant problem is the ability of taxpayers to obtain the information necessary for the correct completion of US international information returns such as FBAR (FinCEN Form 114), Form 8938, Form 8865, Form 5471, et cetera. Oftentimes, in order to complete these returns, taxpayers have to retrieve information from many years ago.

This is a difficult task even without the coronavirus, because electronic access is often limited to just a few years. In cases that involve small and regional banks, the electronic access to information may simply not exist. Hence, a taxpayer often has to engage in a long process of mailing letters to banks requesting information; it is also a standard practice for taxpayers to personally travel to a foreign financial institution to obtain the necessary information.

The coronavirus prohibitions have made such travel virtually impossible due to cancellation of flights between countries. Even traveling within a country has been severely impacted. Moreover, there have been significant disruptions to ability of taxpayers to access financial institutions in the quarantined areas, such as northern Italy. Many financial institutions have simply closed their branches and ceased to operate in a normal way.

The combination of all of these factors has significantly curtailed taxpayers’ ability to collect the vital information necessary for the completion of an offshore voluntary disclosure.

The second most important problem caused by the coronavirus panic are communication disruptions. During a voluntary disclosure, taxpayers need to have access to their financial advisors and their international tax attorney. I’ve already explained above how the coronavirus bank closures have affected such communications.

The most significant communication issue between a taxpayer and his international tax attorney has been limited to mailing documents, particularly securing an original signature for Certifications of Non-Willfulness, Reasonable Cause Statements, amended tax returns and certain other IRS documents (such as Extension of Statute of Limitations in the context of an IRS audit). The coronavirus containment procedures have affected the flow of regular mail around the world and have caused significant delays in obtaining signed documents from clients.

It should mentioned that the normal communications between a client and his attorney were not significantly impacted. If there were any communication problems, this is most likely the result of the attorney’s failure to take advantage of modern means of communication.

Sherayzen Law Office’s usage of email, phone, Skype, Viber and certain other platforms for information exchange and other modern means of communication has assured continuous and uninterrupted communication between our firm and our clients. We have also encouraged and helped our clients to adopt certain procedures to mitigate other problems that have risen as a result of the coronavirus panic.

Coronavirus Offshore Voluntary Disclosure: Unique Opportunities

The coronavirus panic created not only unusual problems, but also unique opportunities for taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income. I will discuss here the two most important coronavirus opportunities.

First, the spread of this virus has given more time for noncompliant US taxpayers to bring their tax affairs into compliance with US tax laws. Not only has the IRS ability to pursue new international tax cases has been impacted by the virus, but the IRS moved the tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020. This means that taxpayers suddenly have three more months to work on their offshore voluntary disclosures without any interruption with respect to current tax compliance.

Second, more time means that taxpayers now can plan for and adopt more complex and beneficial strategies with respect to their offshore voluntary disclosures. For example, taxpayers who were planning to file extensions can now adopt a strategy to shift their voluntary disclosure period by timely filing their 2019 tax returns and 2019 FBARs.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

If you have undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers to bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2020 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options | US International Tax Lawyers

As the new year 2020 begins, it is important for US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets to consider their 2020 offshore voluntary disclosure options. Unlike last year, there have not been any drastic changes to the voluntary disclosure options since 2019. In this article, I would like to generally explore the 2020 offshore voluntary disclosure options available to US taxpayers who wish to reduce their IRS penalties by voluntarily resolving their prior US tax noncompliance concerning foreign assets and foreign income.

2020 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

The Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) is currently the flagship voluntary disclosure option for US taxpayers who reside in the United States. SDOP is a highly beneficial voluntary disclosure option to 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 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 main challenge of SDOP is 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 a huge problem for willful taxpayers and taxpayers who are in the “gray” area between willfulness and non-willfulness. It will be up to your international tax lawyer to make the determination on whether you are able to make this certification.

2020 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Options: Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures

Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”) is very similar to SDOP (in fact, both options were created in 2014), but it is even more beneficial to taxpayers who are able to satisfy SFOP’s eligibility requirements – this is a true amnesty program, because its participants do not pay IRS penalties of any kind, even on income tax due (taxpayers only need to pay the interest on additional tax due). Moreover, SFOP preserves SDOP’s non-invasive and limited scope of voluntary disclosure.

SFOP, however, is available to a much more 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. Again, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office to help you determine whether you meet the eligibility requirements of SFOP.

2020 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, it has always existed within the IRS procedures. Prior to 2014, it was even written into the OVDP (IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) as FAQ#17.

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 will deprive a taxpayer of the ability to use this option.

2020 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. 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.

2020 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 a complete obscurity once the IRS opened its first major OVDP option in 2009. The closure of 2014 OVDP in September of 2018 has brought TVDP back to life, but in a modified format.

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”!

The main benefit of TVDP is that it is now the main voluntary disclosure option for taxpayers who willfully violated their US tax obligations. If you are willful taxpayer, contact Sherayzen Law Office to explore your voluntary disclosure option under the TVDP.

2020 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. In fact, the closure of the 2014 OVDP in September of 2018 has led to some resurgence of Reasonable Cause disclosures.

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 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 2020 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!

SFOP Non-Residency | Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures Lawyer

Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”) is currently the preferred offshore voluntary disclosure option for US taxpayers who reside overseas, recently came to the United States or recently left the United States. Hence, the issue of SFOP eligibility (i.e. the ability of a taxpayer to participate in this program) is very important for these taxpayers. Today, I would like to concentrate on the SFOP non-residency requirement (I will alternatively refer to it simply as “SFOP non-residency”).

SFOP Non-Residency: Two Main SFOP Legal Requirements

In addition to meeting the general procedural requirements, a taxpayer who wishes to do a SFOP voluntary disclosure must meet two specific legal requirements. First, he must satisfy the applicable non-residence requirement. Second, he must meet the non-willfulness requirement. As I pointed out above, the focus of today’s article is on the non-residency requirement.

SFOP Non-Residency: All Participants Must Meet This Requirement

From the outset, it is important to point out that all SFOP participants must meet the SFOP non-residency requirement. This means that, in case of joint filers, both spouses must satisfy this requirement. This is the case even if only one spouse has unreported foreign assets.

SFOP Non-Residency: Two Categories

There are two distinct SFOP non-residency requirements depending on the immigration status of SFOP participants. The first type of non-residency requirements applies only to US citizens, US Lawful Permanent Residents (a/k/a “green card holders”) and their estates. The second type applies to everyone else.

SFOP Non-Residency: US Citizens and US Permanent Residents

In order to meet the SFOP non-residency requirement, a US citizen or US Permanent Resident (or his estate) must satisfy the following test:

1. In any one or more of the most recent three years for which the US tax return due date (including proper due date extensions) has passed;

2. He did not have a US abode; and

3. He was physically outside of the United States for at least 330 full days.

SFOP instructions specifically cite IRC §911 and its regulations for interpreting the term “abode”, which the IRS defines as one’s home, habitation, residence, domicile, or place of dwelling; it is not equivalent to one’s principal place of business. The IRS confirmed that temporary presence in the United States or maintenance of a dwelling in the United States does not necessarily mean that one has an abode in the United States.

SFOP Non-Residency: IRS Examples for US Citizens and US Permanent Residents

The SFOP instructions offer two examples where a US citizen or US Permanent Resident meets the SFOP non-residency requirement. I have provided both examples here verbatim:

“Example 1: Mr. W was born in the United States but moved to Germany with his parents when he was five years old, lived there ever since, and does not have a U.S. abode. Mr. W meets the non-residency requirement applicable to individuals who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Example 2: Assume the same facts as Example 1, except that Mr. W moved to the United States and acquired a U.S. abode in 2012. The most recent 3 years for which Mr. W’s U.S. tax return due date (or properly applied for extended due date) has passed are 2013, 2012, and 2011. Mr. W meets the non-residency requirement applicable to individuals who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.”

Please, note that example 2 emphasizes the fact that the non-residency requirement is satisfied even if an individual complies with it in only one of the past three years.

SFOP Non-Residency: Other Individuals

The second type of the SFOP non-residency requirement applies to all individuals who do not fit into the first category (i.e. they are not US citizens or US Permanent Residents). An individual from the second category meets the SFOP non-residency requirement if:

1. In any one or more of the most recent three years for which the US tax return due date (including proper due date extensions) has passed;

2. He did not meet the substantial presence test described in IRC §7701(b)(3).

SFOP Non-Residency: Substantial Presence Test

The Substantial Presence Test of IRC §7701(b)(3) is used to determine whether a person was a US tax resident in a given tax year. The Substantial Presence Test is satisfied if:

1. The individual was present in the United States for at least 31 days during the tax year in question; and

2. The sum of the number of days on which such individual was present in the United States during the current year and the two preceding calendar years equals or exceeds 183 days. The amount of days in the two preceding years should be multiplied by the applicable multiplier as follows: first preceding year – one-third; second preceding year – one-sixth.

I wish to emphasize that this is the general rule. There are numerous exceptions to the Substantial Present Test, including the “closer connection exception” and certain visa exemptions.

SFOP Non-Residency: IRS Example for Other Individuals

The IRS SFOP instructions again provide a useful example, which I copied here:

“Example 3: Ms. X is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, was born in France, and resided in France until May 1, 2012, when her employer transferred her to the United States. Ms. X was physically present in the U.S. for more than 183 days in both 2012 and 2013. The most recent 3 years for which Ms. X’s U.S. tax return due date (or properly applied for extended due date) has passed are 2013, 2012, and 2011. While Ms. X met the substantial presence test for 2012 and 2013, she did not meet the substantial presence test for 2011. Ms. X meets the non-residency requirement applicable to individuals who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.”

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures, Including SFOP Non-Residency and Non-Willfulness Requirements

If you are not in compliance with US tax laws concerning foreign assets and foreign income, please contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe with their offshore voluntary disclosures, including Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. 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!