Never Forget What Happened in 2011 – JustMe and the OVDP, an 851-day Nightmare

 
reblogged from the Isaac Brock Society

A Series of Posts to Explain the Anger and Vehemence Fueling the anti-FATCA, anti-IGA & anti-CBT Movement
 

 

An excerpt from January 5, 2012 post from the renounceuscitizenship WordPress Blog
 
PART I: The Players
 
UPDATED Thursday November 26
 
The Taxpayers Part 2 – Those who ventured into OVDP/OVDI
 
First Part of Post (from yesterday) is HERE
 

Do the drudgery……do your own research
LCU’s……Life Credit Units
minnows…..little guys
whales…big guys
CCW……… Complain Comply & Warn
OVDP……..Overseas Voluntary Disclosure Program
DATCA… Domestic Account Tax compliance Act
GATCA….Global Account Tax Compliance Act

As usxcanada recently said, anyone who cannot guess right away who the above terms come from, needs to learn some Brock History!

MarvinAfter a much-earned vacation from years of FUBAR expat life, “Just_Me” (Marvin van Horn) may not be posting and tweeting much anymore but those of us who were lucky enough to have “known” him cannot help but smile. He was nothing short of a human dynamo, completely wound up in communicating our plight to everyone and anyone.I remember wondering if he ever slept; he would be online when I first got up in the morning and seemingly still there when I would get to bed in the wee hours of the next morning. He was omnipresent! It didn’t seem to matter whether he was in the U.S., sailing on his boat or at home in New Zealand. Marvin was the reason I learned Twitter. Marvin was the reason I joined LinkedIn groups. He taught me how to make a link. He was the reason many of us knew about the Taxpayer Advocate. He educated us about how horrible it was, to enter OVDP. Above all, he was a true example of what a real person is; he was not bitter in spite of an absolutely miserable experience; “took responsibility” for not being aware of filing; tried to do the “right thing” putting himself at great peril. He devoted himself to the “cause” and refused to let it ruin his life. I cannot recall ever hearing anyone having a bad thing to say about him.

To the best of my recollection, Marvin had been posting on Jack Townsend’s blog and when Peter read his comments, he invited him to become an author at Brock. For Marvin, the 2009 OVDP program was an 851- day process. I have taken excerpts from a couple of his posts to try and capture his story: OVDI drudgery for minnows and Letters to Shulman or a case sudy of OVDP communication attempts with the IRS
 

Just_Me writes:

Rightfully or wrongly, I came to the conclusion that joining the OVDP was my only option. My logic was probably flawed, but it went like this…

Prior to the moment I heard about the IRS program on NPR during the family visit back to the Seattle area, I didn’t know that a FBAR existed or understand foreign income reporting requirements. Those considerations never enter your mind when you are sailing the Pacific in a small yacht, or gardening in NZ. Maybe that represented some due diligence failure on my part for not staying fully aware of all the complex tax rules and reporting requirements even for my simple existence. I had never visited the IRS.gov web site in my life.

From that moment in late September, 2009, until I submitted my letter in October 12th there was a very stressed and compressed journey. First I had to convince my wife this was something that we could not ignore and had to do. There was the scramble for knowledge. I had to search out attorneys, and CPAs for a cram course of discovery of what my obligations were. There were returns to amend, and the almost unfathomable foreign tax credit form 1116 to complete that the CPA couldn’t even do correctly. There was a long distance bank record compilation effort that was extremely difficult to do in the time frame I had. There was the embarrassment of your predicament which meant you didn’t want family and friends to know. Then came the very hard, emotional and lonely decision which ended with you walking into the Seattle IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) division offices feeling like a criminal. I did all that, because I had reluctantly came to the conclusion, that once I was aware of my failures and aware of the IRS program, I had knowledge and could not escape it.

I KNEW! Therefore, now, I had to do the right thing.

So, what was the choice given my knowledge? To me, None! I had to enter the OVDP. My big mistake was assuming that the IRS would realize that I was a Minnow and not subject me to the harsh 20% penalties. I naively thought my appeals to Shulman would result in logic and reason prevailing. They would do the right thing, and not treat me as a Whale. How wrong I was!!
Continue reading “Never Forget What Happened in 2011 – JustMe and the OVDP, an 851-day Nightmare”

Never Forget What Happened in 2011

reblogged from the Isaac Brock Society

 
A Series of Posts to Explain the Anger and Vehemence Fueling the anti-FATCA, anti-IGA & anti-CBT Movement
 

 

Perspective:

This post was written approximately 3 months after the mass hysteria (there simply is no other word for it) of late Fall 2011. Brock was less than a month old. We had only just started to gather information, starting at the ExpatForum. Renunciation was a very scary topic only slightly less than the terror of imagining losing everything due to FBAR penalties. IMHO, FBAR will prove to be the number one issue that fueled the expat movement, hands-down.
 

An excerpt from January 5, 2012 post from the renounceuscitizenship WordPress Blog
 
PART I: The Players
 
RenounceUSCitizenship writes:

 

The IRS assault on U.S. citizens living outside the United States has been a frightening interplay among three groups:

1. The Taxpayers

2. The Cross Border Professionals

3. The IRS

Let’s imagine the perspective of each.

The Perspective of the Taxpayers

I suspect that few U.S. expats will forget the events of 2011. It was a year where they realized how quickly life could change. For the most part U.S. citizens living abroad are hard working honest people who are paying higher income and value added taxes than they would be in the U.S. The U.S. uses citizenship-based taxation. Many of them have been filing U.S. tax returns. But, virtually none of them (except those who always had the benefit of specialized and expensive legal and tax advice) knew about FBAR. When they heard about FBAR, OVDI and the rest they were:

– scared out of their minds; and

– wanted to be compliant

It’s just that they didn’t know how. Hence, they did what anybody would do. They sought professional help.

Furthermore, professional help did not come easily. It did not come inexpensively. It was typically like this: “Yes, I will meet with you. But, bring in a money order for $2000 (or more) and we will start the conversation. The conversation usually focused on whether to enter OVDI. Entering OVDI was a logical option, an expensive option, but I believe for most people a bad option. It was also (because it was a new kind of program) something not well understood by the so called “cross border professionals”.

The Decision To Enter OVDI

For many there was no “decision” to enter OVDI. The entry into OVDI was an “emotional reaction” based on fear.

What happened was something like this:

1. Media publishes articles written by journalists who don’t have a clue what they are talking about. Yes, the IRS is going after U.S. taxpayers who don’t reside in the U.S. Yes, there is OVDI and you must get in the program by August 31, 2011. No, OVDI is not amnesty – but let’s pretend that it is and enter it. I have said before and I will say again that some people entered the OVDI program, without a consideration of their individual circumstances, following the advice of the so called “cross border professionals”. They will regret this.

It is interesting that the advice from a number of lawyers was something like:

“You must enter OVDI” – the IRS frowns on quiet disclosures, etc. These lawyers either did not think that “reasonable cause” was available or that the IRS would not consider arguments based on “reasonable cause”. The important point is that there were “cross border professionals” who did NOT inform their clients that:

A. OVDI was an optional program

B. Filing of FBARs was mandatory

C. The FBAR statute recognizes that “reasonable cause” was and continues to be a defense

(It is interesting that the effect of this advice was to deter people from doing what was mandatory (just file the damm FBARs) and encourage people to do what was voluntary (enter OVDI).

The purpose of OVDI was to go after people who were using foreign banks and other entities to evade U.S. taxes. There is nothing illegal about having a foreign bank account. Most U.S. citizens living outside the United States had local bank accounts for the purpose of living their lives. On the other hand, the IRS has publicized the cases of U.S. citizens living inside the U.S. who used foreign bank accounts for tax evasion. Those of you who are aware of (outside of OVDI) anybody paying FBAR penalties based on willfulness, please leave a comment.

Anybody could have entered OVDI – why would the IRS stop you? By entering OVDI you are simply agreeing to pay them penalties. Furthermore, the range of assets subjected to penalties in the OVDI program is greater than what is required to be disclosed on an FBAR (something not explained by some lawyers). Hence, it is clearly to the advantage of the IRS that people enter OVDI (plus the IRS doesn’t have to waste time on “reasonable cause” arguments).

It is important to note that OVDI is a program which is designed for criminals and removes “reasonable cause” from the discussion. The only way to get “reasonable cause” into the discussion is to “opt out” and subject yourself to a full audit along with all the risks and high costs associated with it.

“Reasonable cause” has always been a defense to FBAR penalties. S. 5314 of the FBAR statute bars the imposition of FBAR penalties if two conditions are met:

1. Failure to file FBARs was due to “reasonable cause”; and

2. The FBAR is filed

Now, I understand that there is no clear definition of “reasonable cause”. I also understand that this is a determination made by the IRS. My point is that the same “reasonable cause” arguments must be made either inside OVDI (after an opt out) or outside OVDI.

While OVDI was going on, few “cross border professionals” talked about “reasonable cause”. Maybe, they thought that the IRS wouldn’t recognize or apply the law. Who knows? I invite a lawyer who encouraged clients to enter OVDI to comment on this.

 
Now, if you came to the “expat movement” in say, 2013 or so, you might not think there is so much new info here. But in early 2012, this was very unusual. To find a concise and correct assessment that did not favour the completely chaotic viewpoint of the media and tax compliance community was not only life-saving (literally) but became the base for what we have become today: those who would dare fight back when the U.S. government came knocking, coming after you, your families and your hard-earned, non-U.S. money.
 
Next: stories of expats in the 2009 OVDP/2011 OVDI