The IRS definition of non-willful covers a lot of territory. Negligence, for example, includes “any failure to make a reasonable attempt to comply with the provisions of the Code” (IRC Sec. 6662(c)) or “to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in the preparation of a tax return” (Reg. Sec. 1.6662-3(b)(1)). Further, “negligence is a lack of due care in failing to do what a reasonable and ordinarily prudent person would have done under the particular circumstances.” (Kelly, Paul J., (1970) TC Memo 1970-250). The court also stated that a person may be guilty of negligence even though he is not guilty of bad faith. So the fact that you ignored the FBAR filing requirements for many years, and failed to report your foreign income, might be negligent behavior, but it’s probably not willful. That means you likely qualify for one of the new streamlined procedures. On the other hand, if you loaded piles of cash into a suitcase and lugged it over to Switzerland to conceal it from the IRS, you don’t qualify, because that is willful conduct. If you believe your behavior may have been willful under these guidelines, consult with an attorney before submitting returns through one of the streamlined procedures. We work with attorneys who are experts in this field and we would be happy to provide a referral, free of charge or obligation.
Notably, the definition of “non-willfulness” for the Streamlined Program is the same as the definition for the new “IRS Relief For Former Citizens Program”.
Part A – IRS Relief For Former Citizens Who Relinquished U.S. Citizenship After March 18, 2010 (the date FATCA became law)
In July of 2018 I moderated a discussion on “tax residency”. The discussion was at an immigration conference in Los Angeles that was primarily focused on the EB-5 program. The EB-5 program will lead to a Green Card (meaning that one becomes a permanent resident of the United States).
Here is a video of the discussion. Some parts are audible and others not. But, I decided to create a post which focuses on the issues discussed.
Introduction to the world of Global Mobility
Global mobility is the norm in the 21st century. The United States, Canada and Australia are prime destinations for those seeking “permanent residency” and ultimately a second “citizenship”. Canada has been a pioneer in investor immigration. The United States has long been an area of prime interest. It is important to distinguish between “residency” for immigration purposes (are you legally allowed to live in a country) from “residency” for tax purposes (to what extent are you subject to taxation in the country).
The purpose of this post is to create awareness of some aspects of what it means to become a “tax resident” of the United States. When a non-citizen becomes a U.S. “permanent resident” (for immigration purposes), one becomes a “tax resident” of the United States. Once a “tax resident” of the United States (1) very specific procedures must be followed to sever “U.S. tax residency” and (2) “long term residents” will be subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax rules.
The IRS recently announced that it was ending OVDP – the “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.”
The reaction of the “tax compliance community has been largely that the “retiring” of the OVDP program should be interpreted to be a “last, best chance to come into compliance!” A comment at the Isaac Brock Society asks:
“Those who still wish to come forward have time to do so.”
I haven’t finished reading John’s farewell to OVDP but that IRS statement caught my eye. It does NOT say “who must come forward” or “who have yet to come forward”. Who the heck would ever “wish” to come forward, especially after reading about Just Me’s trial by OVDP fire and the betrayal of trust suffered by our dear Dr. Marcus Marcio Pinheiro (aka markpinetree)?
I suppose there could be two possible reasons:
1. The OVDP program could be replaced with something worse; and/or
2. There could be some (few and far between) situations where OVDP might actually be better than streamlined.
Why a nonwillful taxpayer might prefer OVDP to streamlined – The "penalty base" in #OVDP is different from the "penalty base" in streamlined and treatment of #PFIC is is different. But, … "IRS OVDP to End on September 28, 2018" | US OVDP Tax Law Firm https://t.co/KGr5e3yabd
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) March 19, 2018
What do the “tax professionals” think? A collection of comments from the twittersphere follows: #OVDP Tweets
Interestingly, the IRS announcement was accompanied by the statement that:
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.
Doesn’t this just mean that they will move from the “voluntary disclosure” model to the “enforcement model” where they will begin to use the information gathered in FATCA, etc, to send notices to people with large fines?
To me, this sounds more like a gunshot that begins the battle between the IRS and expats versus an expat victory.
And in the real world …
Last week I was shown a sample of an IRS form letter received by an elderly American woman who has (apparently) not lived in the United States for fifty years. During those fifty years she had dutifully and responsibly filed her U.S. tax returns. Of course, she was living in a “foreign” country outside the United States.
Those interested might have a look at the following form letter she received. Notice that the letter appears to have been prompted because the IRS received information that she had an account at a “foreign bank”. IRS – ltr form 6019
Looks like quite the fishing expedition to me. What a “penalty laden” list of possible accusations. Would you like to receive a letter like this about your “local” bank accounts?
Has it become too much work to remain a U.S. citizen? Has the time come to renounce U.S. citizenship? Would you be a "covered expatriate" if you renounced? Subject to the "Exit Tax"? https://t.co/1sSX7ZQeX9 via @ExpatriationLaw
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) March 11, 2018
The reality of being a “DUAL” Canada U.S. tax filer is that you are a “DUEL” tax filer
“It’s not the taxes they take from you. It’s that the U.S. tax system leaves you with few opportunities for financial planning”.
I was recently asked “what exactly are the issues facing “Canada U.S. dual tax filers?” This is my attempt to condense this topic into a short answer. There are a number of “obvious issues facing U.S. citizens living in Canada.” There are a number of issues that are less obvious. Here goes …
There are (at least) five obvious issues facing “dual Canada U.S. tax filers in Canada”.
I have written many posts that include a discussion of PFICs. This post has been motivated by a post by Karen Alpert at “Fix The Tax Treaty” (well it can’t really be fixed). The post focuses on the use of “non-U.S. mutual funds” in retirement planning. The post is written from the perspective that “non-U.S. mutual funds” ARE PFICs.
If you don’t know what a PFIC is be happy, be happy! A bit of knowledge (especially if you know things that aren’t true) can be a dangerous thing. Although most “tax professionals” treat non-U.S. mutual funds as PFICs, there is little explanation or analysis of WHY or HOW a “non-U.S. mutual fund” is a PFIC. In other words, most “tax professionals” know that “non-U.S. mutual funds” are PFICs. But, they don’t do a good job of explaining why. This post is based on a series of comments on Karen’s post that are consolidated as tweets in this Storify post.
The Internal Revenue Code of the United States requires two things:
1. The calculation of taxes; and
2. The reporting of information. The Internal Revenue Code of the United States is based on three basic principles:
1. A dislike of all things “foreign”. (If you see the word “foreign” a penalty is sure to follow.)
2. A hatred of all forms of non-U.S. “tax deferral”
3. An attempt to stop the “leakage” of “U.S. taxable assets” from the U.S. tax base. (Examples include the U.S. tax treatment of the “alien spouse” and the U.S. S. 877A “Exit Tax” that may be payable when one makes the decision to renounce U.S. citizenship).
“Forms” AKA “information returns” are for the purpose of forcing disclosure of information relevant to “foreignness”, “deferral” and “leakage”.
The above tweet references an earlier post describing many of the “forms” required of Americans abroad. The post also describes the significant penalties which can be potentially imposed for the failure to file those forms.
For Americans abroad the information reporting requirements are extensive, burdensome and penalty laden. Normally (but not in all cases) the “forms” are filed as part of the tax return (1040 or 1040NR). NEVER FORGET MR. FBAR – THE NEW SYMBOL OF U.S. CITIZENSHIP – AND THE POTENTIAL FBAR PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO FILE THE FBAR! THOSE WHO HAVE FAILED TO FILE MR. FBAR SHOULD BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT HOW THEY “FIX THE FBAR PROBLEM“.
(Interestingly, Mr. FBAR has been used as a model for Russia which now has (for lack of a better term) the Russian FBAR.)
Many people do NOT understand that they may be required to file “information returns”, even though they may NOT meet the income thresholds to file a tax return! Continue reading →