On December 17, 2019 Gary Carter published a post on Tax Connections, which outlined the “Options Available For U.S. Taxpayers With Undisclosed Foreign Financial Assets“. It contained an excellent overview and analysis which included a discussion of the IRS definition of “non-willfulness” under the Streamlined Program. In commenting on the definiton of “non-willful” he noted that:
The IRS definition of non-willful covers a lot of territory. Negligence, for example, includes “any failure to make a reasonable attempt to comply with the provisions of the Code” (IRC Sec. 6662(c)) or “to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in the preparation of a tax return” (Reg. Sec. 1.6662-3(b)(1)). Further, “negligence is a lack of due care in failing to do what a reasonable and ordinarily prudent person would have done under the particular circumstances.” (Kelly, Paul J., (1970) TC Memo 1970-250). The court also stated that a person may be guilty of negligence even though he is not guilty of bad faith. So the fact that you ignored the FBAR filing requirements for many years, and failed to report your foreign income, might be negligent behavior, but it’s probably not willful. That means you likely qualify for one of the new streamlined procedures. On the other hand, if you loaded piles of cash into a suitcase and lugged it over to Switzerland to conceal it from the IRS, you don’t qualify, because that is willful conduct. If you believe your behavior may have been willful under these guidelines, consult with an attorney before submitting returns through one of the streamlined procedures. We work with attorneys who are experts in this field and we would be happy to provide a referral, free of charge or obligation.
Notably, the definition of “non-willfulness” for the Streamlined Program is the same as the definition for the new “IRS Relief For Former Citizens Program”.
Part A – IRS Relief For Former Citizens Who Relinquished U.S. Citizenship After March 18, 2010 (the date FATCA became law)
The program was announced on September 6, 2019.