U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign financial assets should take advantage of the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) before the program closes on September 28, 2018. The planned end of the current OVDP also reflects advances in third-party reporting and increased awareness of U.S. taxpayers of their offshore tax and reporting obligations.
More than 56,000 taxpayers have used one of the programs to voluntarily comply since the OVDP’s initial launch in 2009, paying a total of $11.1 billion in back taxes, interest, and penalties. The number of taxpayer disclosures under the OVDP peaked in 2011 when about 18,000 people came forward; however, the number steadily declined through the years, falling to only 600 disclosures in 2017.
The current OVDP began in 2014 and is a modified version of the OVDP launched in 2012, which followed voluntary programs offered in 2011 and 2009. The programs have enabled U.S. taxpayers to voluntarily resolve past non-compliance related to unreported foreign financial assets and failure to file foreign information returns.
Stopping offshore tax noncompliance remains a top priority of the IRS and taxpayers should note that the IRS will continue to use other tools besides voluntary disclosure to combat offshore tax avoidance such as taxpayer education, Whistleblower leads, civil examination and criminal prosecution.
Since 2009, IRS Criminal Investigation has indicted 1,545 taxpayers on criminal violations related to international activities and remains actively engaged in ferreting out the identities of those with undisclosed foreign accounts with the use of information resources and increased data analytics, according to Don Fort, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation.
Streamlined Procedures and Other Options
A separate program, the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures, for taxpayers who might not have been aware of their filing obligations, has helped about 65,000 additional taxpayers come into compliance. The Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures will remain in place and available to eligible taxpayers; however, the program may end at some point.
The implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the ongoing efforts of the IRS and the Department of Justice to ensure compliance by those with U.S. tax obligations have raised awareness of U.S. tax and information reporting obligations with respect to undisclosed foreign financial assets. Because the circumstances of taxpayers with foreign financial assets vary widely, the IRS will continue offering the following options for addressing previous failures to comply with U.S. tax and information return obligations with respect to those assets:
- IRS-Criminal Investigation Voluntary Disclosure Program;
- Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures;
- Delinquent FBAR submission procedures; and
- Delinquent international information return submission procedures.
For more information about the options available for U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign financial assets, please contact the office.