The IRS is set to end its Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) in September, closing a window of opportunity that allows U.S. taxpayers to come forward and disclose offshore assets with reduced penalties and protection from criminal liability.
The program, which initially launched in 2009 and has since seen several iterations over the past decade, experienced early success. More than 56,000 taxpayers have participated in the OVDP, resulting in recovery of more than $11.1 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties. However, the program's participation rates have dropped steadily since its peak in 2011.
A wind-down of the OVDP does not signal an end to the IRS's priority to crack down on offshore tax noncompliance and evasion. But it does indicate a shift in focus to alternative efforts that are proving more effective. These include a combination of taxpayer education, whistleblower programs, expanded information resources (including those with foreign governments through efforts like FATCA), greater use of data analytics, and - importantly - civil examination and criminal prosecution.
The IRS is advising taxpayers now of the program's ultimate end effective Sept. 28, in hopes that this provides sufficient time to U.S. taxpayers who wish to leverage the program. Further, in recognition that everyone's tax situation - including their offshore tax reporting - varies case by case, the IRS has left a few options for taxpayers to voluntarily come forward to disclose issues with past filings.
The IRS will continue offering its Criminal Investigation Voluntary Disclosure Program and its Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures Program. The latter, used by taxpayers who may have been unaware of their filing obligations, doesn't protect participants from possible criminal prosecution, however, and according to the IRS, it could eventually end as well. Further, effective Sept. 28, a taxpayer who makes a voluntary disclosure through the Criminal Investigation Voluntary Disclosure Program is no longer eligible to use the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures Program, and vice versa.
Other avenues that will remain intact are the procedures for delinquent FBAR or international return submissions.
As the options for voluntary disclosure narrow, it's important that U.S. taxpayers connect with their tax advisors to ensure compliance with offshore tax reporting obligations. For taxpayers looking to take advantage of the OVDP, completed offshore voluntary disclosures that meet 2014 OVDP FAQ 24 reporting requirements must be received or postmarked by Sept. 28, 2018. The IRS will not accept partial, incomplete or placeholder submissions.