IMPROVEMENTS ARE NEEDED IN OFFSHORE VOLUNTARY DISCLOSURE COMPLIANCE AND PROCESSING EFFORTS
Final Report issued on June 2, 2016
Highlights of Reference Number: 2016-30-030 to the Internal Revenue Service Commissioner for the Large Business and International Division and the Chief, Criminal Investigation.
IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS
The United States generally taxes its citizens and resident aliens on their worldwide income. Some taxpayers use offshore bank/financial accounts to hide assets and income outside the United States in an effort to evade their Federal tax obligations. Taxpayers who intentionally fail to report income earned on offshore accounts or who neglect to disclose foreign assets as required by law face significant penalties and possible criminal prosecution if discovered by the IRS. While giving noncompliant taxpayers the opportunity to resolve their potential tax delinquencies through the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP), it is important for the IRS to ensure that these taxpayers actually become compliant with their tax obligations.
WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT
This audit was initiated to assess how well the IRS is managing the OVDP and its efforts to improve taxpayer compliance and hold taxpayers who fail to report their offshore financial activities on their tax returns and Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) accountable.
WHAT TIGTA FOUND
The IRS needs to improve its efforts to address the noncompliance of taxpayers who are denied access to or withdraw from the OVDP. TIGTA reviewed a stratified random sample of 100 taxpayers from a population of 3,182 OVDP requests that were either denied or withdrawn from the OVDP. Although 29 of these 100 taxpayers should have been potentially subject to FBAR penalties, the IRS did not initiate any compliance actions. Projecting the sample results to the population of denied or withdrawn requests, the IRS did not assess approximately $21.6 million in delinquent FBAR penalties.
TIGTA also identified internal control weaknesses that led to delayed or incorrect processing of OVDP requests through poor communication among IRS functions involved in the OVDP. These weaknesses include the use of separate inventory controls and two separate IRS addresses for taxpayers to send correspondence, which contributed to incorrect processing of some taxpayer disclosure requests. In addition, the IRS does not have a process to determine the appropriate skill level needed for revenue agents to work OVDP request certifications. OVDP cases are not equivalent to audits of taxpayers’ returns and generally do not require as much technical analysis as traditional tax audits.
WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED
TIGTA recommended that the IRS: 1) review all denied or withdrawn offshore voluntary disclosure requests identified in this report for potential FBAR penalty assessments and criminal investigation; 2) develop procedures for reviewing denied and withdrawn cases for further compliance actions; 3) centrally track and control OVDP requests; 4) establish one mailing address for taxpayer correspondence; 5) ensure that employees adhere to timeliness guidelines throughout the entire OVDP process; and 6) classify OVDP certifications so that some can be worked by lower-graded revenue agents.
IRS management agreed with all six recommendations and has taken or plans to take corrective action on five of them. Although the IRS agreed with the potential value of establishing one mailing address for taxpayer correspondence, this recommendation has been put on hold until a decision is made about the future status of the OVDP.
READ THE FULL REPORT
To view the report, including the scope, methodology, and full IRS response, go to:
Phone Number / 202-622-6500
E-mail Address / TIGTACommunications@tigta.treas.gov
Website / https://www.treasury.gov/tigta