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Non-Willful Conduct Under Streamlined Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program

Non-willful conduct is required under the Streamlined Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (Streamlined OVDP).  If the failure to report foreign bank accounts and/or foreign financial assets was non-willful, you may be subject to a lower penalty base.  The key question is, what constitutes non-willful actions by a taxpayer?  Generally, the IRS would consider non-willful to mean the conduct or failure to properly report was due to a mistake, negligence or based upon a good faith misunderstanding of the law.  Perhaps an understandable lack of knowledge may lead to non-willful conduct.

The video below also provides a short explanation of non-willful conduct, which of course is based upon the facts and circumstances of each case.  Please remember to consult with your tax attorney directly if you have questions relating to FATCA, FBAR filings and/or other foreign tax compliance issues.

You can contact The McGuire Law Firm to speak with a tax attorney regarding your issues.

Streamlined OVDP by Denver Tax Attorney

What is the Streamlined Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP)?  Simply put, the Streamlined OVDP is a program established by the IRS that may be considered “shortened” or “simpler” than the normal OVDP, and has a reduced or lesser penalty of 5% in comparison to the OVDP.  Certain criteria must be met to be eligible for the Streamlined OVDP, one of which is that the taxpayer must show the failure to report the assets and income was non-willful.  That being said, the IRS would define non-willful conduct as “conduct that is due to negligence, inadvertence, or mistake or conduct that is the result of good faith misunderstanding of the requirements of the law.”

If an individual is eligible for the Streamlined OVDP the scope and effect of the streamline procedure is as follows:

The taxpayer must file amended tax returns, including all of the required informational tax returns (8938, 3520, 926 etc.) for each of the three most recent years for which the tax return due date has passed. For example, if it is May 20, 2015 and Joe Taxpayer has filed his 2012, 2013 and 2014 1040 tax returns, but failed to report all gross income due to foreign financial assets (and may have failed to file the FBAR), Joe would amend his 2012, 2013 and 2014 1040s to include the necessary income from the foreign financial accounts.  In addition:

  • The taxpayer must also file FBARs for the most recent 6 years the FBAR was due and should have been filed. FBAR is filed by filing FinCEN Form 114 online, which was previously TD F 90-22.1.
  • The taxpayer must pay the necessary offshore penalty, which is currently 5% for the Streamlined OVDP. The total amount of tax due when including the necessary income in gross income, interest and the streamlined offshore penalty should be remitted when filing the amended tax returns.

 

Now that we know the procedure for the streamlined program, how is the 5% penalty calculated?  The offshore penalty of 5% is calculated by taking 5% of the highest aggregate balance (or value) of the taxpayer’s foreign financial assets that would be subject to the offshore penalty for the years covered by the tax return and FBAR period.  The highest aggregate balance is determined by taking the year-end balances and year-end asset value(s) of the foreign financial assets that would be subject to the offshore penalty for the applicable periods of tax return and FBAR filings.  The highest value for a single year, for the applicable years would then be subject to the penalty.

 

What assets are subject to the 5% offshore penalty?  If a foreign financial asset should have been reported on an FBAR, but was not, the asset is subject to the penalty.  An asset can also be subject to the 5% offshore penalty even if the asset was reported, but gross income from the asset or in respect of the asset was not included in the taxpayer’s gross income.

 

If you have failed to report foreign financial assets and/or income, a tax attorney at The McGuire Law Firm can represent you before the IRS and assist you with your obligations.  This article has been drafted by John McGuire, a tax attorney in Denver, Colorado with The McGuire Law Firm.  Mr. McGuire’s practice focuses primarily on tax matters before the IRS, tax planning & related issues and business transactions.  You can schedule a free consultation with a Denver tax attorney by contacting The McGuire Law Firm.

OVDP Denver Tax Attorney

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program

What is the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program?  Often referred to as the OVDP, this program was created to allow taxpayers with foreign financial accounts and interests to voluntarily disclose their interests for a reduced penalty.  Currently the foreign bank reporting requirements require that taxpayers with foreign financial accounts or interests report these interests when the aggregate amount in the accounts exceeds a certain threshold, which is currently $10,000.  This is often referred to as the FBAR.  When taxpayers fail to report such interests, penalties can be assessed by the Internal Revenue Service.  Thus the OVDP provides a means for taxpayers to be in compliance with the FBAR requirements, and reduce penalties that would apply if they do not voluntarily disclose and are eventually caught by the Internal Revenue Service.  John McGuire is a tax attorney in Denver, Colorado with The McGuire Law Firm and has prepared the video below to provide additional information regarding the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.  You can speak with a tax attorney by contacting The McGuire Law Firm and schedule a consultation.