US Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program To Close

The US IRS has announced that the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) will close in September 2018.  The OVDP was set up to allow US expats with potentially serious offshore compliance issues to avoid criminal prosecution and cap any exposure to penalties. 

The IRS indicated that the reason was the ‘significant decline in the number of taxpayers participating’. There has been a decline from 18,000 in 2011 to 600 in 2016 according to an article in The National Law Review.

US Tax & Financial Services report that when the initial program began in 2009, the IRS estimated there were over 6 million taxpayers with foreign assets that were not compliant with their US tax obligations. Since 2009 there have been only 56,000 taxpayers coming forward under these programs. While this is an insignificant number when compared to the total number of non-compliant taxpayers, the programs have brought in over $11 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties.

The Law Review article reports that, although the FAQs issued by the IRS do not make it totally clear, taxpayers still wishing to participate in the 2012 OVDP before it ends must be at least “precleared” (first of three required steps) and have at least applied for “preliminary acceptance” (second of the three required steps), although it is possible to interpret the reference to “complete” to mean completion of all three required steps (including the submission of all required or delinquent returns, FBARs and other required filings) by the September 28, 2018 end date.

Where the original non-compliance was not ‘wilful’ the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedure and the Delinquent FBAR and Delinquent International Information Returns Filing Procedures`will continue to be available.

Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter stated that “Taxpayers have had several years to come into compliance with U.S. tax laws under this program. All along, we have been clear that we would close the program at the appropriate time, and we have reached that point. Those who still wish to come forward have time to do so.”

Don Fort, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation made the IRS views clear when he said “The IRS remains actively engaged in ferreting out the identities of those with undisclosed foreign accounts with the use of information resources and increased data analytics.  Stopping offshore tax noncompliance remains a top priority of the IRS.”

US Tax & Financial Services commented “If you are one of the still non-compliant taxpayers, time is running out for you to come forward and benefit from the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program. Now is the time to act as it is unlikely the IRS will be all that understanding when dealing with offshore non-compliance in the future.”