OVDP Lawyers & Fees

Foreign Nationals & Expats

Houston Tax Attorney


How much does a Streamlined Case Cost?

Fixed fees. Some attorneys charge fixed fees. The tax laws regarding foreign accounts reporting are onerous. In addition, since there are seemingly unlimited types foreign investments, it takes time to review and understand your policy/investment to determine the correct tax treatment.

If you have investments in foreign life insurance, mutual funds, or stocks, your fees will be higher. Foreign mutual funds and stocks might qualify as passive foreign investment companies (“PFICs”). These are time-consuming to correctly report.

Hourly. For attorneys who use the hourly billing model, usually the tax preparation work will be fixed and the attorney’s time will be billed hourly. The tax preparation work might be done by a different firm. The hourly fee is not so much as important as what the total fees will be (a lesser experienced attorney might bill at $200/hr and spend 10 hours, whereas an experienced one billing at $400/hr might spend 5 hours). You should request that your attorney provide a range of what he expects your total costs to be.

Do you Need OVDP or Streamlined?

The Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) is for taxpayers who need protection from criminal prosecution or civil willfulness penalties. Read more about OVDP vs. Streamlined. The following factors (not exclusive) are some indicators of willfulness.

  1. Opening an account in a jurisdiction in which the taxpayer has no other ties. Do you have legitimate business or personal ties to the jurisdiction where your foreign assets are located? Or are they located in offshore tax havens such as Switzerland, Panama, Cyprus, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Austria, and others where there have (or had) bank secrecy?
  2. A consistent pattern of under-reporting large amounts of income
  3. Use of bank accounts held under fictitious names
  4. Setting up foreign trusts or corporations to conceal sources of income
  5. Selectively filing some forms but not others
  6. Using different passports
  7. Requesting your bank to not send statements
  8. Using code words
  9. Only making cash deposits and withdrawals, and visiting the bank in person
  10. Opening an account in a jurisdiction in which the taxpayer has no other ties
  11. Receiving letters from the foreign bank regarding reporting requirements
  12. Failure to supply an accountant with accurate and complete information
  13. Keeping a double set of books
  14. Hiding, destroying, throwing away, or “losing” books and records
  15. Placing property or a business in the name of another (nominees)
  16. Use of bank accounts held under fictitious names

Deciding between OVDP and the streamlined filing compliance procedures is sometimes a difficult judgment call. Often one or more of the above factors are present in a case, but that does not necessarily make a client willful. The decision to enter the OVDP should not be made lightly. Not only are you conceding wilfulness, but you are making a huge commitment in terms of penalties and professional fees.

Do I Need a Tax Lawyer, or can I use a CPA?

While certain communications with a CPA retained by an attorney are privileged through the use of a Kovel Letter, a client should not directly reach out to a CPA in a legal matter where they may be facing civil or criminal penalties for a tax violation.

Can we just Forget about my past Non-Compliance and file Correctly Going Forward?

Our job is to bring clients into compliance safely and will not advise or assist you in your strategy of “going forward compliance.”

Client Tips

  1. Be Upfront During your Initial Consultation. This means truthfully and completely answering all questions, and proffering relevant information. It is important to identify any weaknesses so that they may be addressed early on, as well as to identify the full scope of the work involved.
  2. Be Organized. If you’re paying hourly, then obviously good organization on your part will save you money. If your attorney is charging a fixed fee and does not sense that you are organized, you can expect that your fees might be higher to reflect the additional time commitment on the attorney’s part.

Why hire Mitchell & Patel?

We assist taxpayers who have undisclosed foreign financial assets. Schedule an appointment to see how we can help.

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