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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!

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!

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!

Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Main Advantages | SDOP Attorney

At this point, Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“Streamlined Domestic Disclosure”) is undoubtedly the most popular offshore voluntary disclosure option. Let’s explore three main reasons for this preference of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure among US taxpayers.

Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Background Information and General Requirements

The IRS created the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure as an offshore voluntary disclosure option on June 18, 2014. The IRS specifically the designed Streamlined Domestic Disclosure to address the critique of many practitioners and taxpayers that the 2012 OVDP did not adequately deal with US taxpayers who non-willfully violated their US tax obligations (for example, in cases where the taxpayers simply did not know about the existence of FBAR or Form 8938).

Any taxpayer can participate in the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure as long as he satisfies all three parts of the eligibility criteria: US tax residency, absence of IRS examination or investigation and non-willfulness.

If a taxpayer satisfies the eligibility criteria, he then must comply with all of the required submissions. The key requirement here is the certification under the penalty of perjury that the taxpayer’s prior tax noncompliance was non-willful. This requirement is the heart of the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure and must be approached with special care.

The other requirements include filing of amended tax returns for the past three years (with all of the necessary information returns), filing FBARs for the past six years, payment of tax due with interest and payment of Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty. Other requirements may also apply depending on the specific situation of a taxpayer.

Streamlined Domestic Disclosure Offers a Number of Advantages to Noncompliant US Taxpayers

While the list of the requirements above may seem like a lot of work, in reality, Streamlined Domestic Disclosure definitely offers a number of advantages compared to other offshore voluntary disclosure options. I will discuss in this article only the main three advantages.

Keep in mind that the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure may not always be advantages to taxpayers. There are plenty of situations where other offshore voluntary disclosure options may be superior to Streamlined Domestic Disclosure.

I also wish to emphasize that the analysis of advantages or disadvantages of a particular voluntary disclosure option is highly fact-specific. I strongly recommend that you contact Sherayzen Law Office for a detailed analysis of your voluntary disclosure options before you even attempt to proceed with your offshore voluntary disclosure.

Advantages of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Flexible Risk Management

One of the greatest advantages (though, the one rarely discussed on the Internet) of the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure is the opportunity this option offers to manage the voluntary disclosure risks. We can be even more precise – to manage the risk-reward ratio.

There is no doubt that the now closed OVDP (the 2014 IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) may have been the safest option available in the great majority of cases, but its “rewards” in terms of penalty rate, calculation of Penalty Base and other factors are generally (though, not always) inferior to those of the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure. Noisy Disclosures stand at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the OVDP.

Streamlined Domestic Disclosure, however, occupies the middle ground. You only have to establish non-willfulness, not reasonable cause. This is a much lower standard. Moreover, this standard is applied to all international information returns, not just FBARs. At the same time, the penalty rate (see below) is generally far more advantageous than that of the OVDP.

Advantages of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Relatively Low Penalty Rate

One of the most cited advantages of the Streamlined Domestic Disclosure is the low penalty rate of 5%. Compared to the OVDP penalty rate of 27.5% or FBAR non-willful penalties outside of a voluntary disclosure program, this can be a very advantageous option. This is not always the case, but it is true in most non-willful cases.

Advantages of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure: Shortened Voluntary Disclosure Period

Another great advantage of Streamlined Domestic Disclosure is the smaller number of years covered by the voluntary disclosure period. Unlike the OVDP voluntary disclosure period (which covers eight years of FBARs and tax returns), this voluntary disclosure option only encompasses the years which are covered by a regular statute of limitations.

In other words, it only includes the past six years of FBARs (occasionally seven) and past three years of tax returns. Obviously, this is a lot more convenient than OVDP.

A voluntary disclosure that involves an expatriation will require an increased number of amended tax returns.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Streamlined Domestic Disclosure

Despite having a much simpler procedure, Streamlined Domestic Disclosure may still be quite complex and require professional attention. There are a number of pitfalls that may seriously undermine the advantages of a Streamlined Domestic Disclosure. Sometime, unrepresented taxpayers may also make mistakes that will result in a disastrous result during a subsequent IRS audit.

This is why you need the professional help from Sherayzen Law Office. Our experienced legal team has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their Streamlined Domestic Disclosures, and We Can Help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!