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2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements | SDOP Tax Lawyer & Attorney

In a recent article, I mentioned that Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) will continue to be the most important voluntary disclosure option in 2020 for US taxpayers who reside in the United States. However, not all taxpayers will qualify to participate in the 2020 SDOP. In this article, I will discuss the main 2020 SDOP eligibility requirements.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: Background Information

The IRS introduced Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures in June of 2014 as part of the most radical overhaul of offshore voluntary disclosure process since the introduction of the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) in 2009.

The IRS created SDOP first to supplement OVDP, not to replace it. The idea was to mitigate the OVDP’s rigidity by streamlining the voluntary disclosure process for taxpayers who non-willfully failed to comply with US international tax requirements.

Almost from the start, SDOP grew in popularity and quickly eclipsed OVDP. Tens of thousands of taxpayers utilized this option to lower IRS penalties in a relatively (i.e. relative to OVDP) fast and painless way. As a result, SDOP continues to exist even today while the 2014 OVDP was closed in September of 2018.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: Five Main Eligibility Requirements

In order to quality to participate in the SDOP, taxpayers must meet all of the following requirements: (1) US residence; (2) US tax return filing compliance; (3) US international tax noncompliance; (4) non-willfulness; and (5) no IRS examination. Let’s discuss each requirement in more detail.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: US Residence

In order to participate in SDOP, a taxpayer must be a US tax resident who did not meet any of non-residence tests of Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. This requirements applies differently to two categories of taxpayers.

The first category consists of US citizens and US permanent residents (i.e. “green card” holders). In order to satisfy the 2020 SDOP eligibility requirements, these taxpayers must have a US abode and must not physically reside outside of the United States for more than 329 full days in each of the past three years. I explore what this means further in a future article on Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures.

The second category of taxpayers includes all individuals who are not US citizens and US permanent residents. In order for these individuals to be eligible to participate in SDOP, they must satisfy the substantial presence test in each of the past three years. Generally, under 26 U.S.C. §7701(b)(3), an individual meets the substantial presence test if the sum of the number of days on which such individual was present in the United States during the current year and the 2 preceding calendar years (when multiplied by the applicable multiplier) equals or exceeds 183 days. There are many exceptions to this rule, but they are outside of the scope of this article.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: Filing of US Tax Returns

In order to participate in the SDOP, a taxpayer must have previously filed a US tax return for each of the most recent three years for which the US tax return due date (or properly applied for extended due date) has passed. There is an exception to this rule for situations where a taxpayer’s income was below the tax return filing threshold and he was not required to file the tax return for that year.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: International Tax Noncompliance

An SDOP disclosure must have some relationship to US international tax noncompliance. A taxpayer must have failed to report income from a foreign financial asset and must have failed to file FBAR or any other US international information return, such as Forms 3520, 3520-A, 5471, 8865, 8938, 8621, 926, et cetera.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: Non-Willfulness

This is the most important and most difficult eligibility requirement for participating in SDOP: taxpayer’s violations of US international tax law must be non-willful. Moreover, they must be non-willful with respect to each aspect of the voluntary disclosure: FBARs, each international information return and foreign income. In other words, if a taxpayer was non-willful with respect to non-filing of Form 5471, but willful with respect to non-filing of FBARs, then, his entire eligibility to participate in SDOP is compromised.

SDOP provides the following definition of non-willfulness: “non-willful conduct is conduct that is due to negligence, inadvertence, or mistake or conduct that is the result of a good faith misunderstanding of the requirements of the law.” Obviously, proving non-willfulness is a matter highly dependent on facts and requires an individual approach to each client’s case. It is the job of an international tax attorney to make good use of the facts and determine whether non-willfulness can be established.

2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements: Taxpayer Not Subject to Examination

Finally, a taxpayer who wishes to participate in SDOP must not be subject to an IRS civil examination or an IRS criminal investigation. Whether all relevant years are subject to an examination or just a few of them is irrelevant; it does not even matter whether the examination is focused on a particular international information return. In all of these cases, the taxpayer will most likely lose eligibility to conduct his voluntary disclosure through SDOP.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Determination of Whether You Satisfied the 2020 SDOP Eligibility Requirements

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts or any other offshore assets and you wish to know whether you are eligible to participate in the 2020 SDOP, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional legal help. Our experienced international tax law firm will thoroughly analyze your case, determine your SDOP eligibility, examine all alternative voluntary disclosure options and skillfully prepare the necessary tax and legal documents necessary to complete your offshore voluntary disclosure.

We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their offshore voluntary disclosures, and we can help you!https://sherayzenlaw.com/streamlined-domestic-offshore-procedures/

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2020 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Pros and Cons

Noncompliant US taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets and foreign income should consider their voluntary disclosure options in this new year 2020. Similarly to 2019, I expect that this year Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures will continue to be the flagship voluntary disclosure option for such taxpayers who reside in the United States. In order for the readers to better understand why I make this assertion, I would like to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of participating in the 2020 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures.

2020 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Background Information and Purpose

The IRS created the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (sometimes abbreviated as “SDOP”) on June 18, 2014, though the Certification forms became available only a few months later. Since its introduction, Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures quickly eclipsed the then-existing IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) and became the most popular offshore voluntary disclosure option.

The main purpose of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is to encourage noncompliant US taxpayers to voluntarily resolve their prior non-willful noncompliance with US international tax compliance requirements. These requirements include all US international information returns such as FBAR, Form 8938, Form 5471, Form 8621, Form 3520, Form 926, et cetera.

2020 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Main Advantages

In exchange for this voluntary disclosure of their prior tax noncompliance, US taxpayers escape income tax penalties and pay only a one-time Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty with respect to their prior failures to file the required US international information returns. The Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is usually far below the potential penalties normally associated with failure to file these forms. In other words, noncompliant taxpayers can greatly reduce their IRS noncompliance penalties through their participation in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. This is one of the most important SDOP benefits.

Another advantage of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is the limited scope of this voluntary disclosure option. Taxpayers only need to file a small number of amended US tax returns (usually three) and FBARs (usually six) – in other words, the filings are limited to regular statute of limitations without any expansions (as opposed to OVDP which required filings for the past eight years).

Moreover, despite the limited scope of the SDOP filings, taxpayers who utilize the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures are able to fully resolve their prior US international tax noncompliance issues even if these years are not included in the actual SDOP filings. This means that the participating taxpayers are able “wipe the slate clean” – i.e. to erase their prior US international tax noncompliance from the time when it began.

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

2020 Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures: Main Disadvantages

For the purpose of this article, I will discuss only two major disadvantages to the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. First, the eligibility requirements are strict. This voluntary disclosure option is open only to taxpayers who filed their US tax returns for prior years and who are able to certify under the penalty of perjury that their prior noncompliance was non-willful. This certification has to be made specifically with respect to unreported foreign income, FBARs and each other international information return.

Most cases have positive and negative facts at the same time. Hence, a lot of taxpayers are actually in the “gray” area between willfulness and non-willfulness. This means that it is not easy to make a decision on whether a taxpayer is eligible to participate in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. This decision should be done only by an experienced international tax attorney who specializes in this area of law, such as Mr. Eugene Sherayzen of Sherayzen Law Office.

The second major disadvantage of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is lack of a definitive closure; there may be a follow-up audit after the IRS processes your voluntary disclosure package. Unlike OVDP, Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures does not offer a Closing Agreement without an audit. This means that going through Streamlined Domestic 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 2020 Streamlined Domestic 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 Domestic Offshore Procedures. We can also help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

SDOP Real Estate Penalty | Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Law Firm

One of the most important considerations in an offshore voluntary disclosure is the type of assets that form the Penalty Base for the imposition of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty. In this article, I would like to explore the issue of whether there is such a thing as SDOP Real Estate Penalty.

SDOP Real Estate Penalty: Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Background

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures or SDOP is an offshore voluntary disclosure option that was announced by the IRS in June of 2014. With the recent termination of the OVDP (Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program), SDOP has become the main voluntary disclosure vehicle for eligible taxpayers.

Under the terms of the SDOP, a taxpayer voluntarily discloses his prior noncompliance with US international tax laws, files FBARs for the past six years, amends tax returns for the past three years and certifies under the penalty of perjury that his prior noncompliance with US tax laws was non-willful. Moreover, the taxpayer must pay a 5% Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty that supplants all other penalty structures associated with FBAR and other US international information returns (such Form 5471, 8865, et cetera).

SDOP Real Estate Penalty: SDOP Penalty Base

The 5% Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty is imposed on the entire SDOP Penalty Base. The SDOP Penalty Base is formed by the inclusion all foreign financial assets undisclosed on US international information returns as well as income-noncompliant foreign financial assets. This includes without limitation all assets listed on FBARs and Forms 8938, 5471, 8858, 8865, 3520 (the foreign trust portion), 3520-A, et cetera.

Is there A SDOP Real Estate Penalty?

Now, armed with this understanding of the structure of the SDOP Penalty Base, we can answer the question of whether there is such a thing as SDOP Real Estate Penalty. Since the SDOP Penalty Base is formed by the inclusion of all foreign financial assets and real estate is not a foreign financial asset, we can conclude that there is no SDOP Real Estate Penalty on the real estate owned directly by a US taxpayer.

What about real property owned through a foreign business entity or a foreign trust? Unfortunately, it is here where we encounter the hidden SDOP Real Estate Penalty. If the foreign entity (or income from this foreign entity) was not properly disclosed on Form 8938 or any other relevant information return which is used to avoid the duplication of reporting of foreign business ownership (i.e. Form 5471, 8865, 8858, 3520 and 3520-A), then the SDOP Penalty Base will include the fair market value of the undisclosed foreign entity. In other words, the SDOP Real Estate Penalty may be imposed on the value of the entity that is holding the real estate, not real estate per se.

This is very worrying news to taxpayers who hold real estate through foreign entities. In virtually all Latin American countries, US taxpayers usually own real estate through a corporation. This means that they are exposed to the imposition of SDOP Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty on their personal real estate that is held through a foreign entity simply because it is a local custom to do so.

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

If you have undisclosed foreign assets and/or foreign income, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our legal team, led by an international tax attorney Eugene Sherayzen, is highly experienced in offshore voluntary disclosures of unreported offshore assets and income. Whether it is Indian mutual funds, Swiss Structured Products, a French Assurance Vie account, Polish lokatas, Australian Superannuation accounts, Canadian RRSPs, a Malaysian health insurance investment policy, a Singapore Central Provident Fund (CPF), an Italian Corporation, a British Limited Company, a Spanish rental property, a Panamanian Sociedad Anonima, a Kazakh foreign branch, a Jersey trust and many, many other varieties of foreign assets – we have done it all and successfully brought our clients in full compliance with the US international tax laws. 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. Sometimes, 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!

IRS Increases Interest Rates for the Second Quarter of 2018

On March 7, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service announced that the IRS underpayment and overpayment interest rates have increased for the second quarter of 2018. The second quarter of 2018 begins on April 1, 2018 and ends on June 30, 2018.

The second quarter of 2018 IRS interest rates will increase by one percent and will be as follows:
five percent for overpayments (four percent in the case of a corporation);
two and one-half percent for the portion of a corporate overpayment exceeding $10,000;
five percent percent for underpayments; and
seven percent for large corporate underpayments.

The IRS increased its underpayment and overpayment interest rates for the last time in the second quarter of 2016.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, the rate of interest for the second quarter of 2018 is determined on a quarterly basis. The second quarter of 2018 overpayment and underpayment interest rates are computed based on the federal short-term rate determined during January 2018 to take effect February 1, 2018, including daily compounding.

Generally, in the case of a corporation, the underpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 3 percentage points and the overpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 2 percentage points. The rate for large corporate underpayments is the federal short-term rate plus 5 percentage points. The rate on the portion of a corporate overpayment of tax exceeding $10,000 for a taxable period is the federal short-term rate plus one-half (0.5) of a percentage point.

This increase in the IRS underpayment and overpayment interest rates for the second quarter of 2018 is highly important and will have an impact on many US taxpayers. In particular, I would like to point out two principal areas impacted by this increase in the second quarter of 2018 IRS interest rates.

First, this increase means that the taxpayers will have to pay a higher interest on any underpayment of tax as calculated on the amended tax returns. This includes the payments that US taxpayers must make pursuant to the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program and the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures.

Second, the increase in the interest rates for the second quarter of 2018 directly affects the calculation of PFIC interest due on any “excess distributions”. It is important to remember that PFIC interest cannot be offset by foreign tax credit.