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.
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!
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