By: Shailja Patel, CPA (New York)
Director of Expatriate Tax
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced it is winding down its Overseas Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). The sun sets on the program on September 28, 2018. Originally designed to entice taxpayers who were non compliant with respect to their foreign financial assets to come into compliance, the program was introduced in 2009.
Since the earliest version of the program, more than 56,000 U.S. taxpayers have used one of the IRS’s disclosure programs in order to avoid prosecution. These taxpayers have paid a total of just over $11 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties for hiding money in overseas. There have been more than 1,500 taxpayers indicted for criminal violations – more than 600 of these were specifically on international criminal tax violations.
The IRS’s plan to end the current OVDP clearly reflects their ability to pursue tax cheats using more advanced tools, including data provided by offshore jurisdictions that it can cross-check. The IRS obtained critical data through various OVD programs. Further, the IRS has stated that it is receiving very significant information under FATCA and the network of the intergovernmental agreements (IGA) with various countries. The information obtained will be used to initiate examinations and investigations of non-compliant taxpayers.
In the agency’s statement announcing the program’s end, Don Fort, chief of IRS Criminal Investigation, said “Stopping offshore tax noncompliance remains a top priority of the IRS.”
Streamlined Filing Program
The IRS will continue to run the “streamlined filing program” (SFP) that allows people who don’t realize they’ve violated U.S. law (in other words, the taxpayer whose non-compliance is non-wilful), which requires U.S. citizens to file an annual income tax return reporting their worldwide income and various annual disclosures with respect to foreign bank accounts and trusts etc. Streamline Filing Program allows them to come forward quickly and easily and pay back taxes and interest—with no penalties. According to an IRS statement, the SFP has helped about 65,000 additional taxpayers come into compliance. How long will the IRS continue to offer the SFP is uncertain at the moment.
New Chief on the Block – Maybe?
The IRS’s potential next head definitely has experience when it comes to the OVDP. Charles P. Rettig, the San Francisco based tax lawyer who has been nominated by President Trump to become the next IRS commissioner, routinely represents and advises U.S. taxpayers in foreign and domestic voluntary disclosures, essentially defending them against the IRS.
The few remaining months of the program are critical for U.S. taxpayers who would potentially not qualify under the SFP. The time to qualify is coming to a quick close. If you have any concerns or questions, please consult with a qualified expert who can advise on your specific legal or tax situation.
Trowbridge professionals have been advising clients on OVDP since it began in 2009 and we would be happy to consult with you on your unique situation.
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