FBAR, International Tax, IRS audits be careful.
The Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) was reopened following continued strong interest from taxpayers and tax practitioners after the closure of the 2011 and 2009 programs. The third offshore program comes as the IRS continues working on a wide range of international tax issues and follows ongoing efforts with the Justice Department to pursue criminal prosecution of international tax evasion. This program will remain open indefinitely until otherwise announced.
Lance Wallach and his associates have received thousands of phone calls from concerned clients with questions about the prior programs. Some of Lance's associates are still very busy helping people with the last program. Not a single person has been audited and most are pleased with the results and are now able to sleep easily without worrying about the IRS. According to Lance, it requires years of experience to obtain a good result from the program.
He suggests using a CPA-certified, ex-IRS agent with lots of international tax experience. While this is not a requirement to file under the program, Lance has heard many horror stories from people who have tried to file by themselves or who have used inexperienced accountants.
"Our focus on offshore tax evasion continues to produce strong, substantial results for the nation's taxpayers," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. "We have billions of dollars in hand from our previous efforts, and we have more people wanting to come in and get right with the government. This new program makes good sense for taxpayers still hiding assets overseas and for the nation's tax system."
The new program is similar to the 2011 program in many ways, but it has a few key differences. Unlike last year, there is no set deadline for people to apply. However, the terms of the program could change at any time going forward. For example, the IRS may increase penalties in the program for all or some taxpayers or defined classes of taxpayers - or decide to end the program entirely at any point.
"As we've said all along, people need to come in and get right with us before we find you," Shulman said. "We are following more leads and the risk for people who do not come in continues to increase."
The third offshore effort accompanies another announcement that Shulman made today, that the IRS has collected $3.4 billion so far from people who participated in the 2009 offshore program. That figure reflects closures of about 95 percent of the cases from the 2009 program. On top of that, the IRS has collected an additional $1 billion from upfront payments required under the 2011 program. That number will grow as the IRS processes the 2011 cases.
In all, the IRS has seen 33,000 voluntary disclosures from the 2009 and 2011 offshore initiatives. Since the 2011 program closed last September, hundreds of taxpayers have come forward to make voluntary disclosures. Those who come in after the closing of the 2011 program will be able to be treated under the provisions of the new OVDP program.
The overall penalty structure for the new program is the same for 2011, except for taxpayers in the highest penalty category.
The new program's penalty framework requires individuals to pay a penalty of 27.5 percent of the highest aggregate balance in foreign bank accounts/entities or the value of foreign assets during the eight full tax years prior to the disclosure. That is up from 25 percent in the 2011 program. Some taxpayers will be eligible for 5 or 12.5 percent penalties; these remain the same in the new program as in 2011.
Participants must file all original and amended tax returns and include payment for back-taxes and interest for up to eight years as well as paying accuracy-related and/or delinquency penalties.
Participants face a 27.5 percent penalty, but taxpayers in limited situations can qualify for a 5 percent penalty. Smaller offshore accounts will face a 12.5 percent penalty. People whose offshore accounts or assets did not surpass $75,000 in any calendar year covered by the new OVDP will qualify for this lower rate. As under the prior programs, taxpayers who feel that the penalty is disproportionate may opt instead to be examined.
The IRS recognizes that its success in offshore enforcement and in the disclosure programs has raised awareness related to tax filing obligations. This includes awareness by dual citizens and others who may be delinquent in filing, but owe no U.S. tax.
Abusive Tax Shelter, Listed Transaction, Reportable Transaction Expert Witness
The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any other type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lance Wallach
Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, abusive tax shelters, financial, international tax, and estate planning. He writes about 412(i), 419, Section 79, FBAR, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for over fifty publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education's CPA's Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as the AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case.