Vulnerable Americans Abroad: Legal Weight of IRS Pubs, Info, FAQs = ZILCH!

An article by Virginia La Torre
Jeker JD, at the
angloinfo blog

This is an excellent post. It clarifies how one can determine what the IRS really can (and can’t) do and in particular, points out how the OVDP program is NOT rooted in law. This is important for those who do not/never did belong in OVDP in the first place. OVDP is for criminals. Simply failing to file with no tax due when one is unaware of the requirements does not equate to being a criminal. And don’t forget, once OVDP is entered, there is no “reasonable cause” option available. Instead, one commits to a penalty, pretending to be guilty when likely one is not.

What’s a taxpayer to do? As if the US tax rules are not confusing enough, it’s a sad situation when taxpayers cannot rely on information supplied by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the most commonly accessed and user-friendly formats – such as IRS Publications, “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs), news releases, videos and the like. On May 18, 2017 IRS issued a memorandum to all of its examiners reminding them that FAQs and other items posted on the IRS website www.IRS.gov that have not been published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB) are not legal authority.

The five types of guidance published in the IRB are:

Treasury Regulations
IRS Revenue Rulings
IRS Revenue Procedures
IRS Notices, and
IRS Announcements

Be Careful What You Rely On! Case in Point: OVDP

A good example of how serious the problem of “unofficial” IRS guidance can be is evidenced by the IRS “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program” (OVDP), which was accused of IRS “bait and switch” tactics. Taxpayers with offshore assets and those living abroad are likely very familiar with the OVDP. Even with the critical importance of the OVDP and its monumental impact on thousands of taxpayers, the OVDP is governed only by a long series of FAQs (and much agency secrecy). Taxpayers must be reminded these FAQs are not binding authority, even though the FAQs themselves do not indicate any warning to taxpayers or their advisors of this fact.

More here

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