On October 21, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service announced the most current data on the success of its Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) and Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures (SFCP) programs. For our prior coverage on the OVDP and SFCP programs please see Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Update and Release of “Panama Papers” May Encourage New Wave
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) currently offers non-compliant US taxpayers several different relief programs in which to report foreign assets and/or income and become compliant with US rules related to the disclosure of foreign assets. One option is the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). Another is the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures (SFCP). SFCP is further bifurcated into two sub-programs—one for US residents (Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures or “SDOP”) and one for non-US residents (Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures or “SFOP”). Each program has its own set of tailored procedures and eligibility requirements.
The critical differences between OVDP and SFCP are: (1) the non-willfulness requirement; (2) the look-back period; and (3) the amounts of penalties the US taxpayer must pay. Specifically, OVDP does not require the US taxpayer to certify that his or her failure to disclose foreign assets was non-willful. On the other hand, SFCP requires the US taxpayer to certify that his or her failure to disclose foreign assets was non-willful and to also include a narrative explaining such non-willful conduct. The incentive to demonstrate non-willfulness can be significant. In general, US taxpayers who enroll in OVDP must pay a 27.5 percent penalty (and in some cases a 50 percent penalty) of the highest aggregate value of undisclosed foreign assets for the OVDP disclosure period (eight years). However, US taxpayers who enter SDOP must only pay a five percent penalty of undisclosed foreign assets during the disclosure period (three years), and US taxpayers who enter SFOP pay no penalty.…
On April 3, 2016, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) indicated that it acquired sensitive documents that belonged to the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca & Co., about the offshore holdings of some of the world’s most prominent and wealthy individuals. The leak has received substantial mainstream media coverage due to the identity of the individuals named.
To date, the ICIJ has not released the identities of all of the hundreds of thousands of offshore entities or the persons related to those entities, which were referenced in the leaked documents. The ICIJ indicated that it would wait until May 2016 to release the full list. By waiting to May, the ICIJ is putting certain US persons on notice that they should consider starting the process to disclose previously undisclosed foreign assets to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The United States subjects US persons to worldwide income taxation. As part of this taxing system, the IRS requires US persons to fulfill certain information reporting obligations related to foreign assets. For example, US persons must report a financial interest or signature authority over a foreign financial account on FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account (FBAR). Non-compliance may result in a penalty of up to 50 percent of the highest aggregate value of the foreign financial account as well as criminal sanctions if done so willfully.
The IRS has implemented programs to encourage previously non-compliant US persons to disclose foreign assets and become compliant. One such program is the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). OVDP is designed for taxpayers who may have willfully failed to disclose foreign assets to the IRS. The primary benefits of participating in the OVDP are that the IRS will not recommend criminal prosecution to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for non-compliance up to the date of the disclosure and the taxpayer will no longer be subject to civil examination for the years covered by the OVDP disclosure.…
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently modified the non-willfulness certification form that individual taxpayers must submit to enroll in the streamlined filing compliance procedures (SFCP). One requirement under the SFCP is that that the taxpayer certify that his or her failure to disclose foreign assets was not due to willful conduct. Before the recent change,…