1.Why did the IRS announce a new offshore voluntary disclosure program at this time?
The IRS’s prior Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program ( 2009 OVDP), and Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative ( 2011 OVDI), which closed on September 9, 2011, demonstrated the value of a uniform penalty structure for taxpayers who came forward voluntarily and reported their previously undisclosed foreign accounts and assets. These initiatives enabled the IRS to centralize the civil processing of offshore voluntary disclosures and to resolve a very large number of cases without examination. Because the IRS and Department of Justice offshore enforcement efforts are expected to continue raising the risk of detection of taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets for the foreseeable future, it has been determined that a similar program should be available to taxpayers who wish to voluntarily disclose their offshore accounts and assets to avoid prosecution and limit their exposure to civil penalties but have not yet done so. Unlike the 2009 OVDP and the 2011 OVDI, there is no set deadline for taxpayers to apply. However, the terms of this program could change at any time going forward. For example, the IRS may increase penalties or limit eligibility in the program for all or some taxpayers or defined classes of taxpayers – or decide to end the program entirely at any point. This new program, the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) will be available until further notice to taxpayers who come forward and complete certain requirements. The terms of the program will also be offered to taxpayers who made offshore voluntary disclosures after the deadline for the 2011 OVDI.
2. What is the objective of this program?
The objective remains the same as the 2009 OVDP and 2011 OVDI – to bring taxpayers that have used undisclosed foreign accounts and undisclosed foreign entities to avoid or evade tax into compliance with United States tax laws.
3. How does this program differ from the IRS’s longstanding voluntary disclosure practice or the 2009 OVDP and 2011 OVDI?
The Voluntary Disclosure Practice is a longstanding practice of IRS Criminal Investigation whereby CI takes timely, accurate, and complete voluntary disclosures into account in deciding whether to recommend to the Department of Justice that a taxpayer be criminally prosecuted. It enables noncompliant taxpayers to resolve their tax liabilities and minimize their chance of criminal prosecution. When a taxpayer truthfully, timely, and completely complies with all provisions of the voluntary disclosure practice, the IRS will not recommend criminal prosecution to the Department of Justice.This current offshore voluntary disclosure program is a counter-part to Criminal Investigation’s Voluntary Disclosure Practice. Like its predecessors, the 2009 OVDP, which ran from March 23, 2009 through October 15, 2009, and the 2011 OVDI, which ran from February 8, 2011 through September 9, 2011, it addresses the civil side of a taxpayer’s voluntary disclosure of foreign accounts and assets by defining the number of tax years covered and setting the civil penalties that will apply. Unlike the 2009 OVDP and the 2011 OVDI, there is no set deadline for taxpayers to apply. However, the terms of this program could change at any time going forward. For example, the IRS may increase penalties or limit eligibility in the program for all or some taxpayers or defined classes of taxpayers – or decide to end the program entirely at any point. Why should I make a voluntary disclosure? Taxpayers with undisclosed foreign accounts or entities should make a voluntary disclosure because it enables them to become compliant, avoid substantial civil penalties and generally eliminate the risk of criminal prosecution. Making a voluntary disclosure also provides the opportunity to calculate, with a reasonable degree of certainty, the total cost of resolving all offshore tax issues. Taxpayers who do not submit a voluntary disclosure run the risk of detection by the IRS and the imposition of substantial penalties, including the fraud penalty and foreign information return penalties, and an increased risk of criminal prosecution. The IRS remains actively engaged in ferreting out the identities of those with undisclosed foreign accounts. Moreover, increasingly this information is available to the IRS under tax treaties, through submissions by whistle blowers, and will become more available under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Foreign Financial Asset Reporting (new IRC § 6038D).
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