Before one enters into the 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”), it is highly important to understand what kind of assets are covered by the OVDP Offshore Penalty. In this essay, I intend to broadly outline some of the major types of assets covered by the OVDP Offshore Penalty.
From the outset, it is important to emphasize that this article does not set forth the exclusive list of assets; rather, only some of the types of assets are covered. Also, this article does not represent a legal advice; rather, it is meant only for educational purposes. I strongly recommend retaining an international tax attorney before entering into the OVDP; only your attorney experienced in voluntary disclosures can assess what type of assets are covered by the OVDP Offshore Penalty.
OVDP Offshore Penalty is Broader Than the FBAR Penalty
It comes as a surprise to many of my clients that the OVDP Offshore Penalty is not equivalent to the FBAR penalties in terms of the types of assets covered. The Offshore Penalty is much broader than the FBAR penalty.
The general rule is that the offshore penalty is intended to apply to all of the taxpayer’s offshore holdings that are related in any way to tax non-compliance, regardless of the form of the taxpayer’s ownership or the character of the asset.
This is an extremely broad definition; in fact, it is so broad that it practically incorporates the assumption of willfulness and fraud on the part of the taxpayer who enters the OVDP. This is why it is important for your attorney to advise you on the possibility of other of your foreign assets to be covered in the calculation of the Offshore Penalty.
While there are many types of assets that fall under the general rule above, I would like to concentrate on the fivemajor types of assets that the OVDP Offshore Penalty covers: (1) FBAR assets not otherwise excluded; (2) real estate; (3) art and collectibles; (4) intangible assets; and (5) interest(s) in a U.S. or foreign business.
FBAR Assets Covered by Offshore Penalty
The Offshore Penalty covers all of the financial accounts listed on the FBAR, including bank accounts, securities accounts, precious metals custodial accounts and other assets that should be reported on the FBAR. Unless any of these assets are otherwise excluded under the OVDP rules, they will be used in calculation of your Offshore Penalty.
Real Estate Covered by Offshore Penalty
This type of asset constitutes a major deviation from the FBAR penalties. Under the OVDP rules, the real estate assets related to tax non-compliance are included in the calculation of the Offshore Penalty. It is important to understand that if the real estate was acquired with funds that were subject to U.S. tax but on which no such tax was paid, the offshore penalty would apply regardless of whether the real estate produced any income. Obviously, the rental real estate is also likely to be included in the calculation of the Offshore Penalty if this real estate produced income that should have been disclosed on U.S. tax return and on which U.S. taxes were not paid.
Artwork and Other Similar Assets Covered by Offshore Penalty
The same principal applies to artwork and other similar assets. As long as the artwork was related to income tax non-compliance or was acquired with funds that were subject to U.S. tax but on which no such tax was paid (so-called “tainted funds”), the offshore penalty is likely to be applied to these assets.
Intangible Assets constitute another major deviation from the FBAR penalties. The Offshore Penalty is likely to apply where intangible assets, like patents and trademarks, were acquired by tainted funds and/or are related to income tax non-compliance.
Interest in a U.S. or Foreign Business
It is important to remember that the Offshore Penalty applies in lieu of the FBAR penalty as well as other penalties that would be applicable to information returns such as Forms 5471, 8865, 8858, 926 and so on. This is why the Offshore Penalty also applies to ownership of foreign businesses.
What is unique to the OVDP is the application of the Offshore Penalty to the ownership of U.S. businesses acquired with tainted funds. The only justification for such a broad coverage of the Offshore Penalty is that it most likely comes from the aforementioned assumption that the non-compliant taxpayer engaged in fraudulent behavior.
In another article, I will explore how the Offshore Penalty applies to ownership of business interests including possible exceptions to the general rule. For the purposes of this essay, it is important to understand that the Offshore Penalty may be applied to such ownership interests.
Other Assets Maybe Covered Under the General Rule
It is important to emphasize that other assets may be included in the calculation of the Offshore Penalty pursuant to the general rule above (i.e. offshore penalty is intended to apply to all of the taxpayer’s offshore holdings that are related in any way to tax non-compliance, regardless of the form of the taxpayer’s ownership or the character of the asset). It will be up to your attorney to assess which of your assets are subject to the Offshore Penalty.
Broad Coverage of Offshore Penalty Complicates the Entrance of Non-Compliant Taxpayers into the OVDP
Such a broad application of the Offshore Penalty greatly complicates the decision to enter into the OVDP. In some situations (particularly, where the IRS cannot establish willfulness), the taxpayer may be better off taking his chances under the existing FBAR penalty structure and face the individual information return penalties rather than subject themselves to a 27.5% penalty on the highest value of all of his assets (the so-called Modified Voluntary Disclosure or Noisy Disclosure).
Again, this is the decision that can only be taken only after your attorney examines your particular situation and makes the recommendation of not entering into the OVDP.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Voluntary Disclosure of Offshore Assets
Sherayzen Law Office can help you with the disclosure of any of your foreign assets. Our international tax firm is highly experienced in conducting offshore voluntary disclosures. We will thoroughly analyze your case, assess your current FBAR liability as well as the liablity that you would face under the OVDP, determine the available disclosure options and implement the disclosure strategy (including preparation of all legal and tax documents as well as IRS representation).
Contact Sherayzen Law Office NOW to schedule your consultation!