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The current Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program was launched in 2012 and is the successor to prior voluntary programs offered in 2011 and 2009. Since the launch of the first program, more than 45,000 taxpayers have come into compliance voluntarily, paying about $6.5 billion in taxes, interest and penalties.

The Internal Revenue Service announced last June major changes in its offshore voluntary compliance programs, providing new options to help both taxpayers residing overseas and those residing in the United States. The changes are anticipated to provide thousands of people a new avenue to come into compliance with their U.S. tax obligations.

The changes include an expansion of the streamlined filing compliance procedures announced in 2012. The expanded streamlined procedures are intended for U.S. taxpayers whose failure to disclose their offshore assets was non-willful.

“This opens a new pathway for people with offshore assets to come into tax compliance,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The new versions of our offshore programs reflect a carefully balanced approach to ensure everyone pays their fair share of taxes owed. Through the changes we are announcing today, we provide additional flexibility in key respects while maintaining the central components of our voluntary programs.” He also reminds taxpayers to consult with their professional tax advisor in determining which option is the most appropriate given their facts and circumstance.

 

 Situation Compliance Option
Taxpayers who have properly reported all taxable income but recently learned that he/she should have been filing FBARs in prior years to report a personal foreign bank account or to report signature authority over bank accounts owned by an employer. Taxpayers who reported, and paid tax on, all their taxable income for prior years but did not file FBARs, should file the delinquent FBAR reports according to the instructions and attach a statement explaining why the reports are filed late.
The IRS will not impose a penalty for the failure to file the delinquent FBARs if there are no underreported tax liabilities and you have not previously been contacted regarding an income tax examination or a request for delinquent returns.
Taxpayers who only have certain delinquent information returns, but no tax due. A taxpayer who has failed to file tax information returns, such as Form 5471 for controlled foreign corporations (CFCs) or Form 3520 for foreign trusts but who has reported, and paid tax on, all their taxable income with respect to all transactions related to the CFCs or foreign trusts, should file delinquent information returns with the appropriate service center according to the instructions for the form and attach a statement explaining why the information returns are filed late.

The IRS will not impose a penalty for the failure to file the delinquent Forms 5471 and 3250 if there are no underreported tax liabilities and you have not previously been contacted regarding an income tax examination or a request for delinquent returns.

Non-resident U.S. taxpayers with delinquent returns with low risk factors (including tax owed less than $1,500/year). Non-resident U.S. taxpayers should file delinquent tax returns, including delinquent information returns, for the past three years; delinquent FBARs for the past six years; and additional required information regarding compliance risk.

Streamlined Procedures Expanded

The changes announced in June make key expansions in the streamlined procedures to accommodate a wider group of U.S. taxpayers who have unreported foreign financial accounts.

The original streamlined procedures announced in 2012 were available only to non-resident, non-filers. Taxpayer submissions were subject to different degrees of review based on the amount of the tax due and the taxpayer’s response to a “risk” questionnaire.

The expanded streamlined procedures are available to a wider population of U.S. taxpayers living outside the country and, for the first time, to certain U.S. taxpayers residing in the United States. The changes include:

  • Eliminating a requirement that the taxpayer have $1,500 or less of unpaid tax per year;
  • Eliminating the required risk questionnaire;
  • Requiring the taxpayer to certify that previous failures to comply were due to non-willful conduct.

For eligible U.S. taxpayers residing outside the United States, all penalties will be waived. For eligible U.S. taxpayers residing in the United States, the only penalty will be a miscellaneous offshore penalty equal to 5 percent of the foreign financial assets that gave rise to the tax compliance issue.