Offshore Account Holders Cannot Sue to Enter into More Lax Disclosure ProgramOctober 17, 2016
The District Court in the District of Columbia in the case of Maze v. Internal Revenue Service, Civ. Action No. 2015-1806 (7/25/16) held that taxpayers cannot sue the Internal Revenue Service to be permitted to enter a more favorable program than the one for which they initially applied.
Background: The taxpayers failed to report foreign accounts so they entered into the voluntary OVDP (Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) which enabled them to come forward without risk of prosecution and pay a fine. The Internal Revenue Service later came out with a simpler and less expensive program called the SFCP or Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures. While SFCP has different requirements, the taxpayers felt that they would have met those criteria and have been eligible for a much lower penalty – 5% instead of 27.5%. The problem is that the SFCP became available only after the taxpayers already filed and were accepted under the OVDP program.
Decision: The Court in Maze determined that the Internal Revenue Service has the authority to set its programs and their parameters and deadlines as it sees fit. Therefore the D.C. Court was unwilling to require the I.R.S. to accept the taxpayers into the easier program. The taxpayers argued for the relief, but the Court ruled that the Anti-Injunction Act found in 26 U.S.C. 7421 prevented the taxpayers from the relief it sought.
Moral of the story: Timing is often everything. But now, both programs (OVDP and SFCP) are available and should be carefully considered with counsel before choosing the program to enter.