If you have unfiled tax returns or willfully submitted tax returns with information that you know to be false, but have not been contacted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you may be eligible to participate in the IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program. The Voluntary Disclosure Program allows taxpayers with criminal exposure due to unfiled or fraudulently filed tax returns to come forward voluntarily, correct their wrongdoing, and potentially avoid criminal prosecution or mitigate liability for civil penalties.
The IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program, announced in November 2018, replaces the Domestic Voluntary Disclosure Program (DVD) and the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) and provides a uniform procedure for all IRS disclosures. The new Voluntary Disclosure Program is effective for all disclosures, domestic and offshore, submitted after September 28, 2018, but the IRS has discretion to apply the new procedures to unresolved DVD submissions received prior to September 28, 2018.
To be eligible to participate in the Voluntary Disclosure Program, the taxpayer must be willing to cooperate with the IRS in determining the correct tax liability, and the taxpayer must pay the taxes, interest, and penalties in full or make a good faith payment arrangement. The disclosure must be timely, and all income must be from legal sources.
IRS Voluntary Disclosure Overview:
Under the new Voluntary Disclosure Program, taxpayers must submit a request for preclearance with the IRS Criminal Investigation Division (CI). The preclearance request will require information related to the noncompliance, including a narrative providing the facts and circumstances, assets, entities, related parties, and any professional advisors involved in the noncompliance.
Upon CI preclearance and acceptance into the Voluntary Disclosure Program, the taxpayer must submit all required voluntary disclosure documents using an updated Form 14457. The taxpayer’s disclosure will then be subjected to examination by the IRS under standard IRS examination procedures.
The new guidelines introduce significant changes from the previous OVDP and DVD programs. Among the changes, the new procedures limit the disclosure window to six years (as opposed to eight under the 2014 OVDP), adjust the penalty structure, and provide for a right to an administrative appeal. Previously, the IRS generally applied a 20 percent penalty on the tax liability for each disclosure year. Under the new guidelines, however, the IRS will impose the 75 percent penalty for civil fraud (or fraudulent failure to file, as the case may be) against the one tax year with the highest tax liability. The IRS further reserves the right to assert the civil fraud penalty for additional years in limited circumstances, such as failure to cooperate or if there is no agreement as to the tax liability. The IRS may apply a lower penalty under exceptional circumstances, but the IRS has indicated that such circumstances will be rare.
The new guidelines provide that penalties for failure to file information returns will not be imposed automatically but, rather, that decision will be left to the discretion of the examining Revenue Agent. Similarly, penalties related to excise taxes, employment taxes, and estate and gift tax will be handled based upon the facts and circumstances of each case.
The new Voluntary Disclosure Program guidelines also provide for a right to an administrative Appeal if an agreement cannot be reached during the examination. Although this provision appears to be beneficial to taxpayers at first glance, that may not be the case. In a public discussion of the new guidelines, the IRS has indicated that, when a taxpayer requests review by the Office of Appeals, examiners may assert the civil fraud penalty for all years in dispute, even where the disagreement is non-frivolous, made in good faith, and the taxpayer has otherwise been fully cooperative.
Taxpayers who wish to avoid the risk of IRS Criminal Investigation for unreported offshore accounts or improperly filed tax returns should take advantage of the Voluntary Disclosure Program before it is too late. Contact the experienced dual-licensed tax attorney-CPA’s at the law firm of Daniel Rosefelt & Associates as soon as possible to review your legal options.
To learn more about the Voluntary Disclosure Program and any other options available to you, contact the dual-licensed Attorney-CPA’s at Rosefelt Tax Law by calling 866-995-0061 or reach out by completing our ten-second contact form to know your real options. We serve clients from around the world at our offices in Bethesda, Maryland (Greater Washington D.C. Metro area), or from our satellite offices by appointment in Fairfax, Virginia and Saint Petersburg Florida.