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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!

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!