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IRS modifications to OVDP and streamlined procedures a Relief to offshore bank account holders

IRS modifications to OVDP and streamlined procedures

The Offshore Voluntary Compliance Program

Internal Revenue Service’s major revisions in its Offshore Voluntary Compliance Program may just be the light at the end of the tunnel for tax payers with offshore bank accounts. The revisions provide a new path for tax payers with offshore bank accounts to come into compliance with their tax obligations. The modifications of the OVDP 2012 and the expansion of streamlined procedures (IR-2014-73) are just a relief. They are more inclusive for both U.S tax payers residing abroad and in the U.S.

IRS launched the Offshore Voluntary Compliance program in 2012 following the success of its prior voluntary programs offered in 2009 and 2011. The 2012 OVDP was launched to help people with undisclosed income from offshore accounts get current with their tax returns.  It encourages taxpayers to disclose foreign accounts now rather than risk detection by the IRS and possible criminal prosecution. All the three voluntary programs have resulted in more than 45,000 voluntary disclosures from individuals who have paid about $6.5 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties.

fatca foreign account tax compliance act. tax law attorneyThese current modifications in the OVDP 2012 have been fueled by the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Department of Justice determination to deal with tax evasion. FATCA will soon go into effect, as a matter of fact, from July 1st 2014. With FATCA in place, foreign financial institutions will start reporting to the IRS foreign accounts held by U.S persons. The IRS enforcement efforts and implementation of FATCA, have made taxpayers are more aware of their obligations. This means that it’s going to be so hard for U.S. citizens in the U.S or overseas to conceal foreign bank accounts and assets.. That is why the IRS has come up with the modifications in the 2012 OVDP to help U.S Citizens who have undisclosed foreign bank accounts or assets to come to compliance, including those who are not willfully hiding assets. The IRS is providing the tax payers this golden chance through these modifications to help them avoid prosecution and limit their exposure to civil penalties.

Streamlined Procedures and OVDP 2012 changes

OVDP’s 2012 changes just expand the Streamlined Procedures put in place in Sept 2012. The streamlined filing compliance procedures were put in place to help U.S. taxpayers living abroad comply with their tax obligations. The IRS recognized that some of the U.S taxpayers residing abroad may not have been aware of their filing obligation. They failed to timely file U.S. federal income tax returns or report Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs) not because they wanted but because they were unaware. This program is available to non-resident U.S. taxpayers who have resided outside of the U.S. since January 1, 2009, and who have not filed U.S. tax returns during the same period. These taxpayers must also present a low level of compliance risk.

The changes to the Offshore Voluntary Compliance Program (OVDP 2012) will expand on streamlined procedures to help accommodate a wider group of U.S. taxpayers who have unreported foreign financial accounts. The original streamlined procedures announced in 2012 were available only to non-resident, non-filers. The expanded streamlined procedures are available to a wider population of U.S. taxpayers living outside the country and, for the first time, to certain U.S. taxpayers residing in the United States.

Changes to streamlined procedure include:

The changes to streamlined procedures will help cover a much broader group of U.S. taxpayers who have failed to disclose their foreign accounts but who aren’t willfully evading their tax obligations. To encourage these taxpayers to come forward, IRS is expanding the eligibility criteria.  These changes include:

  • Eliminating a cap on the amount of tax owed to qualify for the program (requirement that the taxpayer have $1,500 or less of unpaid tax per year).
  • Doing away with the risk questionnaire that applicants were required to complete.
  • Requiring the taxpayer to certify that previous failures to comply were due to non-willful conduct.
  • For eligible U.S. taxpayers residing outside the United States, all penalties will be waived. For eligible U.S. taxpayers residing in the United States, the only penalty will be a miscellaneous offshore penalty equal to 5 percent of the foreign financial assets that gave rise to the tax compliance issue.

These modifications provide an ease avenue for taxpayers who have been looking for a better easy way to comply with their tax obligations. Taxpayers with offshore accounts should take advantage of these changes in the OVDP while it lasts.  This grace period is something that U.S. taxpayers should not overlook.

About Anthony Verni

Anthony N. Verni is a Tax Attorney and Certified Public Accountant with over 20 years’ experience practicing before the Internal Revenue Service.Mr. Verni’s practice is focused on representing Expatriate and other U.S Taxpayers who have criminal and civil tax issues related to offshore tax evasion, money laundering, failure to file income tax returns, failure to report offshore income, failure to file FBAR reports and other tax related compliance and reporting concerns. Mr. Verni also represents individuals and businesses in connection with tax controversies involving income, estate and gift and employment taxes.