Orange County taxpayers haven’t been the only folks to line up to take advantage of a voluntary disclosure program offered by the government. Over 100 foreign banking institutions signed up to take part in anti-prosecution agreements with the Department of Justice earlier this year. This was, in large part, a response to the huge settlement between the DOJ and UBS, back in 2009. UBS handed over fines of roughly 780 million dollars and agreed to hand over the names and account information of tens of thousands of its American account-holders.
Now that the DOJ has a large chunk of the Swiss banks wrapped around their finger, they have started making demands with very serious consequences for noncompliance. As new details about the agreement come to light, it is clear that the U.S. government intends to get any and all information regarding American taxpayers that have foreign accounts. If the Swiss banks do not provide “total cooperation”, they will face criminal prosecution.
While all of these agreements were being arranged, many Americans with money stashed away overseas surely asked themselves what the likelihood of cooperation would actually be between foreign banks and the American government. That question can be simply answered now that the FATCA implementation date has come and gone. Foreign governments and individual banks alike are bending over backwards to make sure that they are in compliance with American anti-secrecy laws. There is one simple explanation as to why that is: better you than them. Foreign banking institutions are looking out for themselves and trying to keep out of the crosshairs of a DOJ criminal prosecution for tax crimes like aiding and abetting income tax evasion and conspiracy.
What does this mean for you? If you are an American taxpayer with money in an overseas account and at any time during the year, the balance reaches $10,000, you are obligated by law to report it. Even if you haven’t earned any interest on the accounts, you are still required to disclose its existence. The penalties for non-disclosure are steep and could even negatively change your life. If you are found to have willfully failed to notify the government of your foreign account, you face penalties that can easily surpass the balance of the account and worse, a criminal prosecution that can land you behind bars in a federal prison.
At this point, it’s only a matter of time until your foreign bank saves themselves by giving up your personal information. And for banks who didn’t participate in the anti-prosecution program, it is likely that their country will force them to hand over the information through the implementation of its own intergovernmental agreement with the United States. The bottom line is that there is only one way to make sure that you are safe from hefty fines, penalties and prison time is to participate in either the streamlined program or the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program. The decision of what program to enter is purely the work of an experienced international criminal defense tax attorney.
The OVDP was set up by the IRS to allow for taxpayers to avoid some of the draconian penalties of failing to file an FBAR and other required documents associated with offshore accounts. But don’t think that the government is doing you a favor by allowing for this method of disclosure. The process is complicated and if handled incorrectly, can land you right in the middle of an IRS criminal investigation. An experienced tax attorney is in the best position to help you through the process.
The tax professionals at the Tax Law Offices of David W. Klasing have extensive experience with helping taxpayers navigate through the OVDP and streamlined programs. Further, they have also represented taxpayers that have been targeted by the IRS Criminal Investigations Division. When your freedom is on the line, trust a firm that understands the stakes and has a proven track record of guiding clients through the disclosure process without criminal charges being levied. Call the Tax Law Offices of David W. Klasing for a reduced-rate consultation at (800) 681-1295.