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.
Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”), foreign banks, insurers and investment funds must send the Internal Revenue Service information about Americans’ and U.S. permanent residents’ offshore accounts worth more than $50,000. Institutions that fail to comply could effectively be frozen out of U.S. markets. The U.S. has entered into intergovernmental Agreements (“IGA’s”) with 113 countries for the implementation of FATCA.
Peru has now signed on to FATCA which requires Peruvian financial institutions to report information about U.S. customers’ accounts for transmission to the IRS. Peru becomes the 114th country to join this accord and the 14th Latin American country to join the accord along with Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, and Uruguay. All of these countries’ participation has a huge significance here in California given the large portion of the State’s population having connections to these countries.
Application to the United States
FATCA was enacted into law in 2010 as a way to help combat tax evasion by requiring foreign financial institutions to provide financial information on U.S. account holders or face severe monetary penalties collected from investments here in the U.S. The overwhelming acceptance of foreign countries to participate in FATCA means that the U.S. will be able to have an inflow of information from all countries regarding tax matters and therefore those with unreported foreign financial accounts are in even greater danger of penalties and possible prosecution by the IRS.
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.
Penalties for Non-Compliance.
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.
The IRS has special programs for taxpayers to come forward to disclose unreported foreign accounts and unreported foreign income. The main program is called the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). 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.
For taxpayers who willfully did not comply with the U.S. tax laws, we recommend going into the 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). Under this program, you can get immunity from criminal prosecution and the one-time penalty is 27.5% of the highest aggregate value of your foreign income producing asset holdings.
For taxpayers who were non-willful, we recommend going into the Streamlined 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?
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, San Jose and elsewhere in California help ensure that you are in compliance with federal tax laws.