If you have fallen behind on your U.S. expat taxes and the IRS has contacted you about delinquent tax returns, what should you do? Here are a few tips on what to do next.
Tip #1 – Do Not Ignore The Notice.
The worst thing you can do is ignore the notice. If you don’t think that you will be able to gather the proper documentation and file the return(s) by the deadline they provide, call them right away. Explain that you are aware of the delinquency and you are doing your best to resolve it. Often they will give you a few extra weeks if you are honestly trying to resolve the situation. If you do nothing at all, the IRS can file a return on your behalf and assess a liability of what they think you owe. Expats in particular want to avoid this, as the IRS won’t include any deductions or credits you may be eligible for—this could be very costly! Hiring a tax attorney would be most helpful to you to secure the additional time and get the information you need.
Tip #2 – Form A Plan.
The IRS may have only requested a particular year or two, but it’s important to determine exactly how many years you are behind and get caught up on all delinquent returns (up to six years is recommended). Most expats who are behind on their returns were unaware of their need to file and will be delinquent for more than one year. While they may only currently be aware of a certain year you failed to file, it is very likely they will eventually uncover the others and then you’ll need to do the entire process all over again. Hiring a tax attorney would be most helpful if you aren’t sure how many years you are behind. A tax attorney can also qualify you for amnesty in the IRS’s 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI).
Tip #3 – Gather Your Documents.
The first step, and arguably the most time-consuming, is digging up the documents necessary to file back taxes. Most importantly, you will need to gather any 1099s, W2s or other US income reporting statements. Hiring a tax attorney would be most helpful if you have misplaced these documents, as copies can be requested from the IRS. A tax attorney can also help you identify exactly what you need to collect.
Tip #4 – Prepare And File.
With the complexity surrounding tax reporting by expats, a tax attorney would be most helpful in making sure that all reporting obligations are satisfied and that you are utilizing all tax breaks including carryovers from the Foreign Tax Credit or any capital losses.
Tip #5 – Evaluate Your Options.
Sometimes there are taxes owed on back tax returns and if you can’t pay everything you owe, there are options to avoid collection action by the IRS. Most taxpayers will apply for an Installment Agreement but keep in mind that with this option, interest and penalties continue to accrue so long as you have a balance, so paying as much as possible will help reduce the total debt over time. A tax attorney would be most helpful in determining your options and whether penalties can be abated.
The process of becoming compliant with your U.S. expat taxes can be stressful, but hiring a tax attorney with experience in this area and getting caught up as soon as possible is clearly your best option. The longer you wait, the more expensive it can be. This is particularly important if you need to file past FBARs, as the IRS is cracking down on tax evaders and stiff penalties can be assessed for every year you are delinquent.
If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns, you should seriously consider participating in the IRS’s 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI). 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.
Description: 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 and elsewhere in California qualify you for OVDI.