Certification of Non-Willfulness
Certification of Non-Willfulness: When it comes to making a streamlined procedure submission to the IRS, one of the most important aspects is non-willfulness. In order to prove eligibility to the programs, a person must successfully complete a certification of non-willfulness. Since a Taxpayer is making a proactive submission to the IRS, we also recommend seeking out experienced counsel. But, we understand some people want to go at it themselves. Therefore, we have prepared a short list of writing tips and best practices to assist you.
Writing Tips & Best Practices
The IRS Certification of Non-Willfulness (IRS Form 14653 and 14654) is one of the most important aspects of making an IRS Streamlined Offshore Filing Compliance submission. If you are making a Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures submission, you use IRS Form 14653; if you are making a Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures submission, you use IRS Form 14654.
You Cannot Be Even a Little Willful
We understand that common sense would dictate that if a person was willful, then they would not attempt to enter the program – or at least enter it and acknowledge willfulness. But, we have seen that when individuals approach us after being rejected from the program, many of the certification statements have the same problem. The individual has acknowledged that they were willful, but is asking for forgiveness.
If you are willful, you do not qualify for the streamlined program. Thus, you cannot technically draft a certification of non-willfulness. In other words, if you are willful but very, very sorry, you are still willful, and your only option for formalized offshore disclosure is the traditional OVDP.
Do Not Write a Novel
Yes, the certification statement asks for significant facts to substantiate your non-willfulness – which you must provide. But, it is not asking for you to write a novel (no matter how good or interesting your writing is). Typically, you should be able to integrate all of the necessary information for your non-willful certification within a page or so.
Each person’s facts and circumstances are different, but typically no circumstance requires a 10-page summary.
Be Clear and Concise
The IRS agents are overworked and underpaid. If you could find a way to say the same sentence using seven words instead of 15 words, then you should do it. You should do your best to write and rewrite the statement as many times as necessary to get it to its most concise point – while still including all of the necessary information.
If you are submitting your statement after writing it on your first go-round, you should reconsider, and possibly rewrite the statement a few more times before submitting.
The IRS agents are only doing their job; it is not as if the agents have it out for you. Whether you want to believe that or not, we’ve been doing this for many years, and we can tell you most agents are not gunning to become the head IRS person in charge.
They have a job and they have certain protocols for accepting or rejecting a submission. There is no need to be rude to the agents; rather, be respectful and you will find that being respectful will go a long way (no matter how much you have a distaste for the IRS or the U.S. Government in general)
Review the IRS Form Instructions Before Submitting
The IRS periodically updates the program requirements, and updates the version of the forms. It is important that you have met all the necessary requirements, both substantively and administratively — so that your submission does not get kick-backed unnecessarily.
The IRS is a government agency and not the most well-oiled machine. We have had situations where the IRS will send our client a bill asking for payment of the penalty, even after we have submitted the penalty and the IRS accepted and deposited the check.
In other words, do your best to follow all directions but realize even if you do the IRS may follow-up with issues which you know you have already resolved and handled (and even in these situations, you should try to be respectful – no matter how hard it may be)
Make Sure To Apply To The Correct Streamlined Program
It is important to note, that the distinction between domestic and foreign relates specifically to the residence of the applicant – not the location of the accounts. In other words, whether or not you qualify for Streamline Domestic vs. the Streamlined Foreign is determined by whether you qualify as a Foreign Resident or not.
We hope these tips have helped. We’ve also reproduced a summary of our previous article which details the difference between the two streamlined programs for your review
Golding & Golding (Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist)
We specialize exclusively in international tax, and specifically IRS offshore disclosure.
We have successfully represented clients in more than 1,000 streamlined and voluntary offshore disclosure submissions nationwide and in over 70-different countries. We have represented thousands of individuals and businesses with international tax problems.
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