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San Jose foreign tax compliance lawyerU.S. taxpayers who own offshore accounts or other foreign assets may struggle to understand their requirements for reporting foreign investments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and paying taxes on foreign income. In some cases, these matters have become even more confusing following recent changes to the programs the IRS has made available to taxpayers. In 2018, the IRS ended the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP), and recently, it also took down the Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures (DIISP) from its website. This has left many taxpayers concerned about their ability to become compliant with IRS requirements and avoid penalties related to reporting foreign assets and income.

What Is DIISP?

Previously, the DIISP allowed taxpayers to receive a waiver of the penalties that would normally apply to unreported foreign assets. Taxpayers could qualify for the DIISP if they did not have any unreported income, as long as they could show that they had reasonable cause for their non-compliance, such as death, serious illness, natural disasters, or ignorance of tax laws.

The IRS quietly ended the DIISP in November 2020 without providing any notice that these procedures would no longer be available. Without this option, taxpayers will be required to follow other procedures to become compliant, and they may be subject to tax penalties.

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San Jose, CA offshore tax compliance attorneyU.S. taxpayers are required to report foreign financial accounts and other offshore assets and investments, and taxes may apply to income earned from foreign sources. In the past, the IRS allowed taxpayers who had not met these requirements to become compliant through the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). This program is no longer available, and it has left some taxpayers unsure about how to report their foreign assets and pay any taxes owed while minimizing the potential penalties that may apply. 

One issue that the IRS has identified as an area of concern involves taxpayers who applied for pre-clearance with the OVDP but did not complete this program. Specifically, some taxpayers may have been denied access to the program, or they may have voluntarily withdrawn their requests. The IRS’s Large Business & International (LB&I) division will be investigating these taxpayers, and tax audits may be performed in cases involving continued noncompliance.

Options for Compliance With Foreign Tax Reporting Requirements

In some cases, taxpayers who were unable to become compliant through the OVDP may be eligible for the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (SDOP) or Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (SFOP) programs. A person will qualify for this program if he or she can show that his or her noncompliance was non-willful, meaning that the taxpayer did not know about or did not understand the requirements for reporting foreign assets and income. These taxpayers will be required to comply with tax return requirements for the past 3 years, Foreign Bank and Financial Account Reports (FBAR) requirements for the past 6 years, and other required information. They must provide information about the balances of unreported foreign accounts for the past 6 years, and they must pay all outstanding taxes and interest. In most cases, a 5% penalty will apply to the taxpayer’s highest aggregate foreign account value, although this penalty may be waived in certain cases.

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San Jose, CA tax penalty lawyerThe Internal Revenue Service is always on the lookout for taxpayers who fail to comply with tax laws, and it maintains a number of Large Business and International (LB&I) campaigns to address tax avoidance through unreported income or undisclosed assets. Foreign investments are an area that the IRS commonly examines, and one issue that has been highlighted is the holding of assets in trusts outside the United States. Failing to file the proper forms or making errors when reporting assets in foreign trusts can lead to tax audits and significant penalties.

Penalties for Errors in Form 3520 and 3520-A

There are a variety of reporting requirements that apply for U.S. citizens and companies or estates in the United States that are owners or beneficiaries of foreign trusts. The term “foreign trust” is broadly interpreted to include any trust that is not considered a domestic trust. Domestic trusts are trusts that are primarily controlled by people or entities in the United States and are supervised by a U.S. court. There is a lack of clarity concerning some financial accounts that may be treated by the IRS as a trust.

U.S. taxpayers who are considered the owner of a foreign trust or who engage in transactions with foreign trusts are required to file Form 3520 to report these transactions. These transactions may include creating a trust, transferring assets to a trust, receiving a distribution from a trust, or making or receiving a loan with a trust.

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San Jose tax audit attorney for offshore complianceTaxpayers often make errors on their tax returns that are due to simple miscalculations or misidentification of assets and income. These mistakes rarely lead to criminal charges, and they can typically be rectified with help from a qualified tax lawyer. However, when a taxpayer or business makes a deliberate effort to avoid tax liability, this may constitute illegal tax evasion. Tax evasion is a serious crime punishable by up to 5 years’ incarceration and fines up to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for a corporation. In recent years, the Internal Revenue Service has dramatically increased enforcement of income compliance with regard to offshore accounts. The United States, however, is not the only country that is concerned about the increasingly common crime of offshore tax evasion. Recently, the U.S. was joined by several other countries in a “day of action” against offshore tax evasion schemes.

IRS Continues to Investigate Potential Facilitation of Tax Evasion

The Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a number of other laws dictate Americans’ tax obligations. In order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, however, some individuals and businesses transfer assets outside the United States and into offshore tax shelters. Tax evasion is a massive problem that is estimated to have cost the U.S. federal government $458 billion per year from 2008 to 2010. Tax evasion schemes occur in developed countries around the world. 

In 2018, the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement was formed by leaders in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia to coordinate efforts to fight global tax evasion. The recent “day of action” occurred as part of an ongoing investigation into a financial institution in Central America that may be facilitating tax evasion and money laundering. The Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement have reason to believe that some taxpayers are anonymously hiding assets and laundering profits from criminal activities using this institution. Using interviews, subpoenas, search warrants, data analytics, and other intelligence, a great deal of information was uncovered about this institution and the activities taking place there. A number of civil and criminal actions are expected to result from the information gained during the investigation.

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San Jose offshore tax compliance lawyer, OVDP, offshore tax evasion, offshore assets, OVDP processUnder the Internal Revenue Code, taxpayers are required to include all income on their tax return, including interest accrued on funds held offshore.

Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), taxpayers in the United States are required to report financial assets that are held in foreign countries to the IRS. Failure to report their income or these assets can result in both civil and criminal penalties for offshore tax evasion.

To help people and organizations who own offshore funds or assets become compliant, the IRS provides two resolutions: the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) and streamlined compliance. In this blog, we examine the requirements and procedures of the OVDP.

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