Issues With Potential Criminal Charges: Voluntary Disclosure - FBAR-OVDI
From the IRS website: New Filing Compliance Procedures for Non-Resident U.S. Taxpayers - The IRS is aware that some U.S. taxpayers living abroad have failed to timely file U.S. federal income tax returns or Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs), Form TD F 90-22.1.
Some of these taxpayers have recently become aware of their filing obligations and now seek to come into compliance with the law. The Service is announcing a new procedure for current non-residents including, but not limited to, dual citizens who have not filed U.S. income tax and information returns to file their delinquent returns. This procedure will go into effect on Sept. 1, 2012.
Description of proposed new procedure:
While more details will be forthcoming, taxpayers utilizing the new procedure will be required to file delinquent tax returns, with appropriate related information returns, for the past three years and to file delinquent FBARs for the past six years. All submissions will be reviewed, but, as discussed below, the intensity of review will vary according to the level of compliance risk presented by the submission. For those taxpayers presenting low compliance risk, the review will be expedited and the IRS will not assert penalties or pursue follow-up actions. Submissions that present higher compliance risk are not eligible for the procedure and will be subject to a more thorough review and possibly a full examination, which in some cases may include more than three years, in a manner similar to opting out of the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.
The remedy is to get the returns filed.
There are two advantages to filing as soon as possible:
Generally, if a taxpayer is due a refund for withholding or estimated taxes paid, it must be claimed within 3 years of the return due date or risk losing the right to it. The same rule applies to a right to claim a tax credit such as the Earned Income Credit (EIC).
Self-employed persons who do not file a return will not receive credits toward Social Security retirement or disability benefits. Failure to file results in not reporting any self-employment income to the Social Security Administration.
Taxpayers who haven’t filed returns always want to know what problems could result from failure to file returns. The following is from the IRS website:
A long-standing practice of the IRS has been not to recommend criminal prosecution of individuals for failure to file tax returns, provided they voluntarily file, or make arrangements to file, before being notified they are under criminal investigation. The taxpayer must make an honest effort to file a correct return and have income from legal sources. A letter from the IRS concerning taxes is not a notice that a taxpayer is under criminal investigation.
The IRS helps to get people back into the system as part of its long-term plan to improve voluntary tax compliance. The IRS wants to get people back into the system, not prosecute ordinary people who made a mistake. However, flagrant cases involving criminal violations of tax laws will continue to be investigated.
Attention taxpayers who have undisclosed foreign accounts.
You need to consider the 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP)
From question 4 of Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program Frequently Asked Questions and Answers:
Taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts or entities should make a voluntary disclosure because it enables them to become compliant, avoid substantial civil penalties and generally eliminate the risk of criminal prosecution. Making a voluntary disclosure also provides the opportunity to calculate, with a reasonable degree of certainty, the total cost of resolving all offshore tax issues. Taxpayers who do not submit a voluntary disclosure run the risk of detection by the IRS and the imposition of substantial penalties, including the fraud penalty and foreign information return penalties, and an increased risk of criminal prosecution. The IRS remains actively engaged in ferreting out the identities of those with undisclosed foreign accounts. Moreover, increasingly this information is available to the IRS under tax treaties, through submissions by whistleblowers, and will become more available under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Foreign Financial Asset Reporting (new IRC § 6038D).
From question 3 of Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program Frequently Asked Questions and Answers:
When a taxpayer truthfully, timely, and completely complies with all provisions of the voluntary disclosure practice, the IRS will not recommend criminal prosecution to the Department of Justice.
IR-2012-5, Jan. 9, 2012
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reopened the offshore voluntary disclosure program to help people hiding offshore accounts get current with their taxes and announced the collection of more than $4.4 billion so far from the two previous international programs.
The IRS reopened the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) 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 be open for an indefinite period until otherwise announced.
“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 program is similar to the 2011 program in many ways, but with 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 comes as Shulman also announced today the IRS has collected $3.4 billion so far from people who participated in the 2009 offshore program, reflecting 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 up front 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 have come in since the 2011 program closed last year 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.
For the new program, the penalty framework requires individuals to pay a penalty of 27.5 percent of the highest aggregate balance in foreign bank accounts/entities or 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 information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.