The Internal Revenue Service announced yesterday that it will end the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) on September 28, 2018 and wind it down over the coming months. IR-2018-52. The IRS established the OVDP voluntary compliance program in 2009, with its current incarnation set up in 2014, to allow taxpayers who willfully failed to report foreign bank accounts/assets to come forward voluntarily without fear of criminal liability, and to limit their civil penalties on specified terms.
Buying Real Property From A Foreign Seller or Closing the Deal? Know the FIRPTA Rules So You Aren’t Liable for Failing to Withhold
FIRPTA, or the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act, is part of the United States’ continued efforts to tax all income/gain connected to the United States. Real estate agents, escrow agents, and buyers should be aware of FIRPTA because it mandates income tax withholding and paying over to the IRS 15% of the sales price on the purchase of a U.S. real property interest from a foreign person under certain circumstances. 26 U.S.C. § 1445. In other words, buyers may not be able to pay all of the purchase price to the seller—some may have to be paid to the IRS. This can include situations where a foreign person (or entity) sells, exchanges, liquidates, redeems, gifts, or transfers in any other way a real property interest. The obligation is imposed on a buyer as well as a buyer’s agent and/or settlement/escrow officer.
Taxpayers Beware: IRS Announces You Can’t Rely On What IRS Says In Its Website FAQs Because They Are Not “Legal Authority.”
The IRS is distancing itself from the advice it offers to taxpayers on its OWN website. The IRS announced on May 18th in Memorandum SBSE-04-0517-0030, that “FAQs that appear on IRS.gov but that have not been published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB) are not legal authority and should not be used to sustain a position.” Essentially the IRS has told its examiners that if a taxpayer relies on an FAQ on the IRS’s website, the examiner need not follow that authority and can find against the taxpayer unless the advice in the FAQ have been published in something that is “legal authority.” Many taxpayers might find it surprising that they can’t rely on what the IRS posts on its own website. We certainly did. Accordingly, before any taxpayer relies on the IRS website, the taxpayer should be sure there is other “legal authority.”