OVDP Ending September 28, 2018

If you have undisclosed foreign bank accounts and/or unreported foreign income and you are considering to enter into the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP), beware that time is running out. The IRS announced in March 2018 that it is officially closing this program September 28, 2018.

Since OVDP’s initial launch in 2009, more than 56,000 taxpayers have used the various terms of the program to comply voluntarily with U.S. tax laws. These taxpayers with undisclosed offshore accounts have paid a total of $11.1 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties. The number of taxpayer disclosures under the OVDP peaked in 2011, when about 18,000 people came forward. The number steadily declined through the years, falling to only 600 disclosures in 2017. The planned end of the current OVDP also reflects advances in third-party reporting and increased awareness of U.S. taxpayers of their offshore tax and reporting obligations.

Since the announcement, the IRS has not received any public comments addressing a continued need for the OVDP. The IRS stated that it will still maintain a pathway for taxpayers who may have committed criminal acts to voluntarily disclose their past actions and come into compliance with the tax system. The IRS has yet to issue updated procedures on this.

Separately, the IRS continues to combat offshore tax avoidance and evasion using whistleblower leads, civil examination and criminal prosecution. The implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the ongoing efforts of the IRS and the Department of Justice to ensure compliance by those with U.S. tax obligations have enhanced the IRS’ ability to identity and charge non-compliant taxpayers undisclosed foreign financial assets. Since 2009, 1,545 taxpayers have been indicted related to international activities through the work of IRS Criminal Investigation.

Penalties for Non-Compliance.

Federal tax law requires U.S. taxpayers to pay taxes on all income earned worldwide. U.S. taxpayers must also report foreign financial accounts if the total value of the accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. Willful failure to report a foreign account can result in a fine of up to 50% of the amount in the account at the time of the violation and may even result in the IRS filing criminal charges.

Civil Fraud – If your failure to file is due to fraud, the penalty is 15% for each month or part of a month that your return is late, up to a maximum of 75%.

Criminal Fraud – Any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

Additionally, the penalties for FBAR noncompliance are stiffer than the civil tax penalties ordinarily imposed for delinquent taxes. For non-willful violations, it is $10,000.00 per account per year going back as far as six years. For willful violations, the penalties for noncompliance which the government may impose include a fine of not more than $500,000 and imprisonment of not more than five years, for failure to file a report, supply information, and for filing a false or fraudulent report.

Lastly, failing to file Form 8938 when required could result in a $10,000 penalty, with an additional penalty up to $50,000 for continued failure to file after IRS notification. A 40% penalty on any understatement of tax attributable to non-disclosed assets can also be imposed.

Voluntary Disclosure

A separate program, the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures, for taxpayers who may have been unaware of their filing obligations, has helped about 65,000 additional taxpayers come into compliance. These streamlined procedures will continue to be available for now, but as with OVDP, the IRS has said it may end this program too at some point.

For taxpayers who were non-willful, we recommend going into the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures of OVDP. Under these procedures the penalty rate is 5% and if you are a foreign person, that penalty can be waived. This is a very popular program and we have had much success qualifying taxpayers and demonstrating to the IRS that their non-compliance was not willful.

What Should You Do?

We encourage taxpayers who are concerned about their undisclosed offshore accounts to come in voluntarily before learning that the U.S. is investigating the bank or banks where they hold accounts. By then, it will be too late to avoid the new higher penalties under the OVDP of 50% percent – nearly double the regular maximum rate of 27.5% and 10 times more than the 5% rate offered in the expanded streamlined procedures.

Don’t let another deadline slip by. The IRS will not be keeping these special voluntary disclosure programs open indefinitely and once the IRS contacts you, you cannot get into any of these programs and would be subject to the maximum penalties (civil and criminal) under the tax law. Protect yourself from excessive fines and possible jail time. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California help ensure that you are in compliance with federal tax laws.

IRS Now Targeting Taxpayers With Unreported Foreign Income And Undisclosed Foreign Bank Accounts

IRS Targeting Taxpayers With Unreported Foreign Income And Undisclosed Foreign Bank Accounts

The Door Is Closing – IRS To End Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

Taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets are urged to come forward before the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) closes September 28, 2018.

The IRS announced on March 13, 2018 that it will begin to ramp down the 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) and close the program on September 28, 2018. In a statement made by Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter, “Taxpayers have had several years to come into compliance with U.S. tax laws under this program. All along, we have been clear that we would close the program at the appropriate time, and we have reached that point. Those who still wish to come forward have time to do so.”

OVDP enables U.S. taxpayers to voluntarily resolve past non-compliance related to unreported foreign financial assets and failure to file foreign information returns. Since OVDP’s initial launch in 2009, more than 56,000 taxpayers have come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and secure lesser penalties than what the law provides. The IRS reports that through OVDP, they have collected $11.1 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties. The number of taxpayer disclosures under the OVDP peaked in 2011, when about 18,000 people came forward. The number steadily declined through the years, falling to only 600 disclosures in 2017. This decrease is not surprising given that many people have already come forward to secure the benefits of OVDP seeing the success of the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) and the ongoing efforts of the IRS and the Department of Justice to ensure compliance by those with U.S. tax obligations with respect to undisclosed foreign financial assets and unreported foreign income. 

Tax Enforcement Continues

Stopping offshore tax noncompliance remains a top priority of the IRS. Don Fort, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation stated that the IRS will continue ferreting out the identities of those with undisclosed foreign accounts with the use of information resources and increased data analytics. Since 2009, the IRS Criminal Investigation has indicted 1,545 taxpayers on criminal violations related to international activities, of which 671 taxpayers were indicted on international criminal tax violations.

Where a taxpayer does not come forward into OVDP and has now been targeted by IRS for failing to file FBAR’s, the IRS may now assert FBAR penalties that could be either non-willful or willful.  Both types have varying upper limits, but no floor.  The first type is the non-willful FBAR penalty.  The maximum non-willful FBAR penalty is $10,000.  The second type is the willful FBAR penalty.  The maximum willful FBAR penalty is the greater of (a) $100,000 or (b) 50% of the total balance of the foreign account.  In addition the IRS can pursue criminal charges with the willful FBAR penalty. The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

For the non-willful penalty, all the IRS has to show is that an FBAR was not filed.  Whether the taxpayer knew or did not know about the filing of this form is irrelevant.  The non-willful FBAR penalty is $10,000 per account, per year and so a taxpayer with multiple accounts over multiple years can end up with a huge penalty.

Streamlined Procedures and Other Options

A separate program, the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures, for taxpayers who might not have been aware of their filing obligations, has helped about 65,000 additional taxpayers come into compliance. The Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures will remain in place and available to eligible taxpayers. Additionally, eligible taxpayers can qualify for relief under the Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures or Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures.

What Should You Do?

Don’t let another deadline slip by! If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns or even if you have already quietly disclosed you should seriously consider participating in the IRS’ 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”). Once the IRS contacts you, you cannot get into this program and would be subject to the maximum penalties (civil and criminal) under the tax law.

Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems, get you in compliance with your FBAR filing obligations, and minimize the chance of any criminal investigation or imposition of civil penalties. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.

4 Costly Myths Taxpayers Have About the IRS’s Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP)

People who have undisclosed income in offshore accounts can — and frankly, should — take advantage of the IRS’s Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP).

As the term suggests, the program allows taxpayers to voluntarily disclose all foreign accounts and fully clear their tax liability (including taxes owed, interest and penalties), instead of risk getting flagged in the future and paying much steeper price. While the IRS treats each case individually, penalties for failing to report offshore accounts start at 50 percent of the balance. Furthermore, if there is suspected fraud or tax evasion, criminal prosecutions can commence.  

Although the OVDP has been around since 2009, there remains a significant amount of misinformation and misunderstanding regarding how it works — and just as importantly, how it doesn’t work. Here are four costly OVDP myths that persist: Read more

IRS Issues Fall 2016 Report Card On OVDP Milestones And FACTA Implementation

IRS Issues Fall 2016 Report Card On OVDP Milestones And FACTA Implementation

IRS Issues Fall 2016 Report Card On OVDP Milestones And FACTA Implementation

Offshore Compliance Programs For Taxpayers With Undisclosed Foreign Bank Accounts Generate $10 Billion andMore Than 100,000 U.S. Taxpayers Come Back into Compliance In Reporting Foreign Accounts;IRS Urges People to Take Advantage of Voluntary Disclosure Programs

The IRS announced on October 21, 2016 that 55,800 taxpayers have come into the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) to resolve their tax obligations, paying more than $9.9 billion in taxes, interest and penalties since 2009. In addition, another 48,000 taxpayers have made use of separate streamlined procedures to correct prior non-willful omissions and meet their federal tax obligations, paying approximately $450 million in taxes, interest and penalties.

What that means is that the IRS has collected a combined $10 billion with 100,000 taxpayers coming back into compliance.  Furthermore, as the IRS continues to receive more information on foreign accounts, it will be more difficult for U.S. taxpayers to avoid detection and to maintain that they were non-willful in not complying with the U.S. tax laws.

Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the network of inter-governmental agreements (IGAs) between the U.S. and other countries, automatic third-party account reporting has entered its second year. Also, more information also continues to come to the IRS as a result of the Department of Justice’s Swiss Bank Program. As part of a series on non-prosecution agreements, the participating banks continue to provide information on potential non-compliance by U.S. taxpayers.

OVDP offers taxpayers with undisclosed income from foreign financial accounts and assets an opportunity to get current with their tax returns and information reporting obligations. The program encourages taxpayers to voluntarily disclose foreign financial accounts and assets now rather than risk detection by the IRS at a later date and face more severe penalties and possible criminal prosecution.

The IRS also developed the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures to accommodate taxpayers with non-willful compliance issues. Submissions have been made by taxpayers residing in the U.S. and from those residing in countries around the globe. The streamlined procedures have resulted in the submission of more than 96,000 delinquent and amended income tax returns from the 48,000 taxpayers using these procedures. A separate process exists for those taxpayers who have paid their income taxes but omitted certain other information returns, such as the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).

What Should You Do?

We encourage taxpayers who are concerned about their undisclosed offshore accounts to come in voluntarily before learning that the U.S. is investigating the bank or banks where they hold accounts. By then, it will be too late to avoid the new higher penalties under the OVDP of 50% percent – nearly double the regular maximum rate of 27.5% and 10 times more than the 5% rate offered in the expanded streamlined procedures.

Don’t let another deadline slip by. If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns or even if you have already quietly disclosed or you are in the 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (“OVDI”), you should seriously consider participating in the IRS’s 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”). Once the IRS contacts you, you cannot get into this program and would be subject to the maximum penalties (civil and criminal) under the tax law. Taxpayers who hire an experienced tax attorney in Offshore Account Voluntary Disclosures should result in avoiding any pitfalls and gaining the maximum benefits conferred by this program.

Protect yourself from excessive fines and possible jail time. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and elsewhere in California qualify you for OVDP.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems, get you in compliance with your FBAR filing obligations, and minimize the chance of any criminal investigation or imposition of civil penalties.

mutual funds and offshore investing

Beware the Potential Tax Pitfalls of Investing in Offshore Mutual Funds or Owning Foreign Insurance Policies

Beware the Potential Tax Pitfalls of Investing in Offshore Mutual Funds or Owning Foreign Insurance Policies

If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns, the IRS has established the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) which allows taxpayers to come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and not have to bear the full amount of penalties normally imposed by IRS.  When entering into OVDP, a taxpayer must file amended income tax returns reporting worldwide income and file all required informational tax forms.  Many taxpayers who attempt to do this on their own and who have Foreign Mutual Funds or Foreign Insurance Policies are finding that their OVDP submissions are being rejected or examined because of some arcane tax laws and tax procedures associated with these investments that most laypeople are not aware.

Do You Have Foreign Mutual Funds?

U.S. taxpayers ought to be aware of the potential tax heartaches associated with investing in mutual funds held by foreign banks or foreign brokerage firms. When making such investments through U.S. firms, any appreciation or depreciation of value of the funds is not recognized as gain or loss until the fund is sold or liquidated.  This is not the case with the same type of investments in foreign firms.  Each year the U.S. investor must pick up as income or record a loss in the appreciation or depreciation of value of the funds even though there was no sale or liquidation of the funds.  Essentially, such an investor loses the advantage of deferring gains which is enjoyed by those investors dealing with U.S. firms.

To understand how this operates – under the Internal Revenue Code, there is a concept called Passive Foreign Investment Company or “PFIC”.  A foreign corporation is classified as a PFIC if it meets one of the following tests:

  1. Income Test– 75% or more of the corporation’s gross income is passive income (interest, dividends, capital gains, etc.)
  2. Asset Test– 50% or more of the corporation’s total assets are passive assets; passive assets are investments that produce interest, dividends or capital gains.

The IRS has extended the characterization of a PFIC to include most foreign-based mutual funds, hedge funds and other pooled investment vehicles.

A. U.S. taxpayer with these investments is required to fill out Form 8621, Information Return by a Shareholder of a Passive Foreign Investment Company or Qualifying Electing Fund, and include it with his Form 1040 along with the appropriate PFIC income and tax computations.  The IRS offers various complicated methods of reporting PFIC income.  Under one such method, “Mark-to-Market”, the IRS requires the reporting of the value of a mutual fund from year to year and taxes any appreciation in the mutual fund values from year to year.  The tax rate that applies is 20%. This is in addition to the normal taxation of dividends and capital gains that domestic mutual funds are taxed on.

Reporting the appreciation of a mutual fund from year to year may end up being no small task as oftentimes a typical stock portfolio will contain twenty to thirty funds which may involve lots of trade activity over the course of many years.  The taxpayer needs to keep accurate and comprehensive records of all information on the mutual fund(s) including share basis, yearly balances, and any sales or purchases from year to year. With such level of activity to record each year, no wonder how laypeople and even tax preparers cannot get these computations right leading to higher penalties and perhaps jeopardizing a taxpayer’s Voluntary Disclosure Submission.

Do You Have A Foreign Insurance Policy?

There is an excise tax under Internal Revenue Code Sec. 4371 imposed on insurance policies issued by foreign insurers. Any person who makes, signs, issues, or sells any of the documents and instruments subject to the tax, or for whose use or benefit they are made, signed, issued, or sold, is liable for the tax.

The following tax rates apply to each dollar (or fraction thereof) of the premium paid.

  1. Casualty insurance and indemnity, fidelity, and surety bonds: 4 cents. For example, on a premium payment of $10.10, the tax is 44 cents.
  2. Life, sickness, and accident insurance, and annuity contracts: 1 cent. For example, on a premium payment of $10.10, the tax is 11 cents.
  3. Reinsurance policies covering any of the taxable contracts described in items (1) and (2): 1 cent.

However, the tax doesn’t apply to casualty insurance premiums paid to foreign insurers for coverage of export goods in transit to foreign destinations.  Premium means the agreed price or consideration for assuming and carrying the risk or obligation. It includes any additional charge or assessment payable under the contract, whether in one sum or installments. If premiums are refunded, claim the tax paid on those premiums as an overpayment against tax due on other premiums paid or file a claim for refund.

The liability for this tax attaches when the premium payment is transferred to the foreign insurer or reinsurer (including transfers to any bank, trust fund, or similar recipient designated by the foreign insurer or reinsurer) or to any nonresident agent, solicitor, or broker. A person can pay the tax before the liability attaches if the person keeps records consistent with that practice.

The person who pays the premium to the foreign insurer (or to any nonresident person such as a foreign broker) must pay the tax and file the return (Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return). The Form 720 covers the last calendar quarter and is due no later than the last day of the month succeeding the reporting quarter.  For example, a Form 720 covering the quarter ended September 30, 2016 is due October 31, 2016.  If you are required to file this Form, you will also need to secure a Taxpayer Identification Number (not your social security number) as these excise taxes are tracked separately by IRS just like employment taxes.

The fact that a tax treaty with the foreign county exempts the taxation of these insurance policies does not waive the requirement for you to file the Form 720.  Attach any disclosure statement to the first quarter Form 720 you would need to file. You may be able to use Form 8833, Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure Under Section 6114 or 7701(b), as a disclosure statement.

Conclusion.

If you are a U.S, taxpayer with foreign mutual funds or foreign insurance policies, make sure your tax filings are compliant and complete by enlisting the assistance of counsel experienced in the reporting of these investments.

IRS Issues Fall 2015 Report Card On OVDP Milestones And FATCA Implementation

Offshore Compliance Programs For Taxpayers With Undisclosed Foreign Bank Accounts Generate $8 Billion; IRS Urges People to Take Advantage of Voluntary Disclosure Programs

On October 16, 2015 the IRS announced in a news release that more than 54,000 taxpayers have entered into offshore voluntary disclosure programs since 2009. Both the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) and the streamlined procedures enable taxpayers to correct prior omissions and meet their federal tax obligations while mitigating the potential penalties of continued non-compliance. There are also separate procedures for those who have paid their income taxes but omitted certain other information returns.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen stated “The groundbreaking effort around automatic reporting of foreign accounts has given us a much stronger hand in fighting tax evasion. People with undisclosed foreign accounts should carefully consider their options and use available avenues, including the offshore program and streamlined procedures, to come back into full compliance with their tax obligations.”

Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the network of intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) between the U.S. and foreign jurisdictions, automatic third-party account reporting began in 2015, making it less likely that offshore financial accounts will go unnoticed by the IRS.

In addition to FATCA and reporting through IGAs, the Department of Justice’s Swiss Bank Program continues to reach non-prosecution agreements with Swiss financial institutions that facilitated past non-compliance. As part of these agreements, banks provide information on potential non-compliance by U.S. taxpayers. Potential civil penalties increase substantially if U.S. taxpayers associated with participating banks wait to apply to OVDP to resolve their tax obligations.

OVDP offers taxpayers with undisclosed income from offshore accounts an opportunity to get current with their tax returns and information reporting obligations. The program encourages taxpayers to voluntarily disclose foreign accounts now rather than risk detection by the IRS at a later date and face more severe penalties and possible criminal prosecution.

Since OVDP began in 2009, there have been more than 54,000 voluntary disclosures by taxpayers with undisclosed foreign bank accounts. The IRS has collected more than $8 billion from this initiative. 

The streamlined procedures, initiated in 2012, were developed to accommodate a wider group of U.S. taxpayers who have unreported foreign financial accounts but whose circumstances substantially differed from those taxpayers for whom the OVDP requirements were designed. More than 30,000 taxpayers have used streamlined procedures to come back into compliance with U.S. tax laws. Two-thirds of these have used the procedures since the IRS expanded the eligibility criteria in June 2014.

What Should You Do?

We encourage taxpayers who are concerned about their undisclosed offshore accounts to come in voluntarily before learning that the U.S. is investigating the bank or banks where they hold accounts. By then, it will be too late to avoid the new higher penalties under the OVDP of 50% percent – nearly double the regular maximum rate of 27.5% and 10 times more than the 5% rate offered in the expanded streamlined procedures.

Don’t let another deadline slip by. If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns or even if you have already quietly disclosed or you are in the 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (“OVDI”), you should seriously consider participating in the IRS’s 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”). Once the IRS contacts you, you cannot get into this program and would be subject to the maximum penalties (civil and criminal) under the tax law. Taxpayers who hire an experienced tax attorney in Offshore Account Voluntary Disclosures should result in avoiding any pitfalls and gaining the maximum benefits conferred by this program.

Protect yourself from excessive fines and possible jail time. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and elsewhere in California qualify you for OVDP.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems, get you in compliance with your FBAR filing obligations, and minimize the chance of any criminal investigation or imposition of civil penalties.

The IRS Does Care About Your Small Undisclosed Foreign Bank Account!

Since 2009 the IRS campaign against unreported income and undisclosed foreign accounts has morphed from a focus on Swiss banks and large accounts to a kind of everyman’s tax disclosure.  But keep in mind that just like when the net is lowered into the water it catches all sizes of fish – the IRS states no undisclosed foreign account is too small to avoid penalties. Many people have problems sleeping because of Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the filing requirements of Foreign Bank Account Reporting (FBAR).

FATCA

FATCA was enacted in 2010 and the IRS has touted that FATCA has been successful so far. The IRS states they have collected US$6.5 billion and they reasonably believe that as much as $100 billion per year could be collected. The IRS is working with other countries that would like to use the U.S. model to improve their tax collection. The IRS will be working closely with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to implement Global FATCA (what many people are now calling GATCA); and also that the forms to request information from financial institutions would be standardized so that all countries would use the same forms, making it easy on the financial institutions. The IRS reasonably believes that FATCA can work, and given that the law has the effect of forcing compliance by every country, ultimately, everyone will benefit.

FBAR

Keep in mind that an FBAR is different from FATCA and the requirements are also different. While impact of FATCA is to report you foreign income on your U.S. income tax returns, FBAR is an informational submission that must be filed with the Treasury Department if you have more than $10,000 in financial assets overseas. So, for FATCA, the financial institutions and the foreign governments will report to the IRS directly, but for FBAR, the taxpayers must self-report to the United States Treasury Department by June 30th each year.

Sure, there are thresholds, including the rule that you don’t need to file annual FBARs if you have $10,000 or less in your accounts. But remember, that is in the aggregate, so having three accounts with $4,000 each puts you over.  

Plus, the $10,000 ceiling is judged every single day of the year. If you ever go over $10,000 in the aggregate at any point during the year, you must file. Remember too that even this FBAR threshold isn’t applicable to income taxes. If small accounts produce income, you must report it.

Say you have a foreign account with $8,000 at all times during the year, and it produces $400 of interest income. Even though the account isn’t subject to FBAR rules, you must report the income. And most foreign banks don’t send you handy Form 1099-type reminders at tax time.

Even if your undisclosed foreign bank account is small, if you fail to file FBARs and/or fail to report income, you could go to jail or face huge fines or penalties. The IRS has made clear that non-compliant accounts—and there’s no threshold for what accounts are too small to ignore—can be dealt with severely.

FBAR penalties can be enormous, a civil penalty of $10,000 for each non-willful violation. If your violation is willful, the penalty is the greater of $100,000 or 50% of the amount in the account for each violation. Each year you didn’t file is a separate violation.

Criminal penalties are even more frightening, including a fine of $250,000 and 5 years of imprisonment. If the FBAR violation occurs while violating another law (such as tax law, which it often will) the penalties are increased to $500,000 in fines and/or 10 years of imprisonment.

Consider Whether Your Delinquency Is Only In Taxes, Only FBARs Or Both.

Where The Delinquency Is FBAR’s Only –

For such cases you could be entitled to an FBAR Penalty Abatement. Perhaps you properly relied on the advice of professionals in not filing the FBARs or you reasonably did not know you had a filing obligation. By showing “reasonable cause” you may be able to abate the FBAR filing penalties. While the reasonable cause cases generally arise under the income tax laws and regulations, established under the Internal Revenue Code, FBAR penalties are assessed under the Bank Secrecy Act, which is part of the USA Patriot Act. Nevertheless we have found that precedent set forth in the tax cases may help in supporting reasonable cause to abate FBAR penalties.

Where The Delinquency Is FBAR’s AND Taxes –

You need to consider whether your non-compliance could be deemed willful by the IRS.  Non-willful conduct is conduct that is due to negligence, inadvertence or mistake, or conduct that’s the result of a good-faith misunderstanding of the requirements of the law.  The application of this standard will vary based on each person’s facts and circumstances so it is something that has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

For Non-willful Delinquencies – The Streamlined Procedures are classified between U.S. Taxpayers Residing Outside the United States and U.S. Taxpayers Residing in the United States.

Both versions require that taxpayers:

a. Certify that the failure to report the income from a foreign financial asset and pay tax as required by U.S. law, and failure to file an FBAR (FinCEN Form 114, previously Form TD F 90-22.1) with respect to a foreign financial account, resulted from non-willful conduct. 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.

b. File 3 years of back tax returns reflecting unreported foreign source income;

c. File 6 years of back FBAR’s reporting the foreign financial accounts; and

d. Calculate interest each year on unpaid tax.

In return for entering the streamlined offshore voluntary disclosure program, the IRS has agreed:

a. Possible waiver of charges of criminal tax evasion which would have resulted in jail time or a felony on your record;

b. Possible waiver of other fraud and filing penalties including IRC Sec. 6663 fraud penalties (75% of the unpaid tax) and failure to file a TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report, (FBAR) (the greater of $100,000 or 50% of the foreign account balance); and

c. Possible waiver of the 20% accuracy-related penalty under Code Sec. 6662 or a 25% delinquency penalty under Code Sec. 6651.

For U.S. Taxpayers Residing Outside the United States who apply to the streamlined program, the IRS is waiving the OVDP penalty.

For U.S. Taxpayers Residing in the United States who apply to the streamlined program, the IRS is imposing a 5% OVDP penalty (applied against the value of the undisclosed foreign income producing accounts/assets).

Now If You Believe That The IRS Would Deem You Willful – The 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) is a voluntary disclosure program specifically designed for taxpayers with exposure to potential criminal liability and/or substantial civil penalties due to a willful failure to report foreign financial assets and pay all tax due in respect of those assets.  OVDP is designed to provide to taxpayers with such exposure (1) protection from criminal liability and (2) terms for resolving their civil tax and penalty obligations.

OVDP requires that taxpayers:

  • File 8 years of back tax returns reflecting unreported foreign source income;
  • File 8 years of back FBAR’s reporting the foreign financial accounts;
  • Calculate interest each year on unpaid tax;
  • Apply a 20% accuracy-related penalty under Code Sec. 6662 or a 25% delinquency penalty under Code Sec. 6651; and
  • Apply up to a 27.5% penalty based upon the highest balance of the account in the past eight years. This is referred to as the “OVDP Penalty”.

In return for entering the offshore voluntary disclosure program, the IRS has agreed not to pursue:

  • Charges of criminal tax evasion which would have resulted in jail time or a felony on your record; and
  • Other fraud and filing penalties including IRC Sec. 6663 fraud penalties (75% of the unpaid tax) and failure to file a TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report, (FBAR) (the greater of $100,000 or 50% of the foreign account balance).

What Should You Do?

Remember small amounts and small accounts may not raise the same kinds of big ticket issues. Nevertheless, there’s no small fry rule at the IRS. Even small amounts of income and account balances can be worth addressing. It’s far better to address these issues than to worry endlessly over not being in compliance with the rules. We encourage taxpayers who are concerned about their undisclosed offshore accounts to come in voluntarily before learning that the U.S. is investigating the bank or banks where they hold accounts. By then, it will be too late to avoid the new higher penalties under the OVDP of 50% percent – nearly double the regular maximum rate of 27.5%.

Don’t let another deadline slip by. If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns or even if you have already quietly disclosed or you are in the 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (“OVDI”), you should seriously consider participating in the IRS’s 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”). Once the IRS contacts you, you cannot get into this program and would be subject to the maximum penalties (civil and criminal) under the tax law. Taxpayers who hire an experienced tax attorney in Offshore Account Voluntary Disclosures should result in avoiding any pitfalls and gaining the maximum benefits conferred by this program.

Protect yourself from excessive fines and possible jail time. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and elsewhere in California qualify you for OVDP.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems, get you in compliance with your FBAR filing obligations, and minimize the chance of any criminal investigation or imposition of civil penalties.