On September 28, 2018, i.e. in four days, the IRS is terminating the 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (O.V.D.P.) which may trigger very serious legal consequences for eligible non-compliant US taxpayers. The program allows US persons who are willfully non-compliant with their US tax- and foreign financial accounts reporting obligations to avoid criminal charges and excessive civil penalties that would otherwise apply, by voluntarily disclosing all their foreign assets, filing original or amended US tax returns for the previous 8 tax years and paying outstanding taxes, along with penalties for outstanding tax liabilities.
Many taxpayers may believe they always have a choice to take the less expensive route offered by the Streamlined disclosure procedures by mistakenly considering themselves eligible. Indeed, coming in compliance under Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures would only cost a taxpayer 5% penalty over the highest balance of their unreported foreign financial accounts (or even no penalty at all for qualified non-residents under Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures) and result in paying the outstanding tax liabilities for only 3 to maximum 6 years in some cases, with no additional tax penalties, as well as in filing fewer tax forms. But as appealing as it may sound, in certain cases Streamlined Procedure may not be an available option.
Unlike with O.V.D.P. program, Streamlined Procedures are not considered amnesty and thus filing under Streamlined Procedures does not fully protect taxpayers from civil penalties and criminal charges should IRS doubt the conduct was non-willful. Therefore, for those non-compliant US persons who were aware of FBAR reporting requirements and their US tax obligations, the O.V.D.P. program currently remains the safest and the only solution to receive the amnesty and avoid civil penalties and even criminal charges.
It is always suggested to seek professional assistance from a qualified cross-border tax specialist to find out whether you qualify under O.V.D.P. or under a Streamlined Procedure. And since the O.V.D.P. program will be gone in just 4 days, we urge those US persons who think they may not be eligible under Streamlined Procedures to get professional advice immediately and to use this last chance to come forth and take advantage of the O.V.D.P. amnesty program while it is still possible.
The IRS has also announced on numerous occasions this year that the Streamlined Procedures may also be closed in the near future. But this information has neither been confirmed yet, nor was the date officially set. Those taxpayers who were unaware of their US tax obligations and foreign assets reporting obligations or were otherwise non-willful, are urged to come into compliance under the Streamlined Procedures while they remain available.