TAXPAYER RIGHTS IMPACTED
■ The Right to Be Informed
■ The Right to Quality Service
■ The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard
■ The Right to Privacy
■ The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System
Beginning in 2009, the IRS established a series of Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs (OVDPs), which allow certain people who have not reported all of their foreign assets and income to settle with the IRS by paying taxes, interest, penalties, plus a “miscellaneous offshore penalty” (MOP). It also established a “streamlined” program for those who could certify their violations were not willful. These programs are governed by frequently asked questions (FAQs) posted on the IRS website. 2 The Large Business and International (LB&I) Division Withholding and International Individual Compliance (WIIC) Director can approve minor changes to the FAQs, but the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner must approve significant ones. 3 IRS examiners interpret the FAQs with assistance from technical advisors and Small Business/Self-Employed (SB/SE) Counsel. They may also access training materials and job aids posted to a secure SharePoint intranet site.
The IRS Does Not Disclose Interpretations of OVDP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Chief Counsel Advice from (or coordinated with) national office attorneys must be disclosed under IRC § 6110. 6 Other “instructions to staff” that affect the public must be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). 7 However, the IRS does not disclose its interpretations of FAQs. For example, when the IRS first established the 2009 OVDP, it did not disclose how it interpreted FAQ #35, which addressed how to compute the “offshore penalty.” The guidance memo was only disclosed in response to a Taxpayer Advocate Directive. 8 Practitioners have highlighted other undisclosed and counterintuitive FAQ interpretations.9
The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers they have until Sept. 28 to apply for the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP).
Since the 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 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.
IRS Is Ending Its Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program
The IRS is ending the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) this September 28th. This program has given U.S. taxpayers an opportunity to come forward with ‘previously undisclosed foreign income, accounts or assets with the promise and certainty that they will not face criminal prosecution.
Since the program’s inception in 2009, over 56,000 US taxpayers have paid over $11.1 billion in back taxes, interest, and penalties through the OVDP, but the number of participants has steadily declined over the past few years – from 18,000 in 2011 down to only 600 in 2017.
In the first blog in this series we discussed how those who participate in amnesties also tend to be people who made inadvertent errors, that is, “benign” actors, rather than bad actors. We discussed how it can make sense to offer some form of amnesty before implementing a sudden increase in penalties or enforcement. Otherwise, the increase is more likely to be viewed as unfair and erode trust for the government. Moreover, a decline in trust can erode voluntary compliance.
In the second blog, we cited data showing that, consistent with the research on amnesties, IRS’s first amnesty alternative – the Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative (OVCI) – generally attracted people who failed to report offshore accounts but had paid their taxes or had under-reported small amounts. Read More
In last week’s blog, we discussed how broad amnesties can blunt economic deterrence, but narrow amnesties or amnesty alternatives (e.g., amnesties that forgive only penalties before noncompliance is detected) do not necessarily have the same negative effects. We also cited research suggesting that those who participate in amnesties also tend to be people who made inadvertent errors (i.e., “benign” actors, rather than bad actors). Furthermore, without an amnesty, a sudden increase in penalties or enforcement is more likely to be viewed as unfair and erode trust for the government – a view that can erode voluntary compliance. Read More
On March 13, 2018. the Internal Revenue Service announced that it is ending the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program on September 28, 2018. The IRS has made the announcement to allow time for taxpayers who have undisclosed foreign financial accounts and assets to enter into the program and make a OVDP voluntary disclosure before the program ends.
On March 13, 2018, the IRS announced that on September 28, 2018, it would end the offshore voluntary disclosure program (OVDP), as it had only attracted 600 applicants in 2017. So now is a good time to take a step back to review the program in the broader context of the research on tax amnesties.
Settlement programs and other voluntary disclosure or correction programs generally offer some form of amnesty. Offering broad tax amnesties on a regular basis, as many states do, can erode voluntary compliance. Read More
American citizens and residents often have placed funds in “foreign bank accounts” in banks all over the world. There is a requirement that all of these foreign bank accounts be reported to the United States on an annual basis and that United States income taxes be paid on all of these bank deposit funds.
Many American taxpayers who have been unaware of this requirement are now being pursued for taxes and penalties for not reporting their foreign bank deposits. There are two Internal Revenue procedures that will permit American taxpayers, who have not properly reported their foreign bank deposits, and the income therefrom, to come forward and report their foreign bank deposits. This avoids significant fines and penalties on a United State taxpayer who has not reported foreign bank deposits. Read More
On May 26, 2016 we posted 97 Offshore Banks Are Turning Over Your Names To The IRS – What Are Your Waiting For? and since then, the Government has added 47 more banks and financial advisors to this list bringing the number to 144 offshore banks and foreign financial advisors. The IRS keeps updating its list of foreign banks which are turning over the names of their U.S. Account Holders, who are now subject to a 50% (rather than 27.5%) penalty in the IRS’s Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). This penalty is based on the highest account balance measured over up to eight years.
Many people make purchase decisions based on cost, and little else. “Motor oil is motor oil,” they insist. In the minds of many, it is pure folly to pay X dollars per month for auto insurance when another company provides the same service for a mere Y dollars. Or, they ask rhetorically, what moron would pay X dollars per gallon for gasoline when the station a quarter-mile down the road only charges Y dollars?
But, as the corporate shills at Valvoline were quick to remind Earl, cost is only one element in a purchase decision. As many of us Read More
I have to say today’s blog post was triggered by a phone call a few weeks ago. The would-be client wanted to report his foreign bank accounts. Apparently, this good citizen had all his I’s dotted & T’s crossed – so to speak – so what was the problem you ask? I hate to say this, but it happens more than you would think. He did not know there were additional reporting requirements involved when it came to bank accounts in foreign financial institutions. (More on FBAR thresholds in my post here)
You have to know that the IRS will not impose a penalty for the failure to file the delinquent FBARs if you “properly” reported the foreign bank accounts on your US tax returns, and paid tax on the income from these accounts and have not been contacted by the IRS for an income tax examination or a request for the delinquent returns has not been made by them. Read More