IRS Announces Second Special Voluntary Disclosure Initiative for Taxpayers With Undisclosed Offshore Accounts


The Internal Revenue Service announced on February 8, 2011 the creation of a second special voluntary disclosure initiative for U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign bank and other financial accounts. This new program is a follow-on to the IRS' original voluntary disclosure initiative that closed on October 15, 2009. The 2009 program reportedly attracted some 15,000 voluntary disclosures by taxpayers with previously undisclosed offshore accounts, and has been viewed within the government as a success in getting taxpayers "back into the U.S. tax system" by offering them the ability to avoid or significantly mitigate various the criminal and civil penalties that would otherwise have potentially applied had their failure to disclose been discovered by the IRS on audit.

As background, U.S. persons are generally required to file an annual information statement with the IRS disclosing any beneficial interest in, or signatory authority over, bank or other financial accounts located outside the U.S. This information statement is filed on Form TD F 90-22.1, and is generally referred to as an "FBAR" (Foreign Bank Account Report"). From an accountholder perspective the failure to file FBARs as required can potentially lead to a large array of both civil and criminal penalties – including monetary penalties of up to 50% of the unreported account balance (per year) and criminal penalties if the failure to file was willful.

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