U.S. persons including businesses with at least a 10 percent interest in a foreign corporation or who are officers of a foreign corporation in which any U.S. person owns or acquires a 10 percent interest are required to file a Form 5471 with their tax return to disclose their ownership.
The IRS has begun to automatically applying the $10,000 penalty for each Form 5471 and Forms 5472that was filed after the due date.
There are ways to defend against these automatic assessments and request penalty abatement. There are four defenses that you should consider when assess the penalty for filing an international information return after the due date.
Follow the Delinquent Information Return Procedure - First, the taxpayer can file through the Service's procedures for delinquent international information returns. This procedure is appropriate for taxpayers who can establish reasonable cause for their failure to file or whose failure to file has caused no or nominal tax non-compliance. This procedure cannot be used, however, if the taxpayer is already under audit or investigation or has otherwise been contacted by the Service about the delinquent information returns. Under this procedure, the taxpayer files the delinquent returns with a statement of the facts establishing reasonable cause for the failure to file. In the "Frequently Asked Questions" section, the Service explains that taxpayers with tax noncompliance can use this procedure, but that the Service may impose penalties if it does not accept the taxpayer's reasonable cause explanation.
Ask for a First-Time Offender Abatement (FTA) - Generally, an FTA can provide penalty relief if the taxpayer has not previously been required to file a return or has no prior penalties (except the estimated tax penalty) for the preceding three years with respect to the same IRS File (IRM §188.8.131.52.6.1). With respect to a Form 5472 late-filing penalty, the IRM provides for an FTA if an FTA was applied to the taxpayer's related Form 1120 late-filing penalty or no penalty was assessed on the related Form 1120 (IRM §184.108.40.206.2).
Reasonable Cause Defense - Under Section 6038 of the tax code, which lays out the information reporting requirements for individuals and businesses with an interest in foreign corporations and the penalties for delinquent filing, penalties may be abated if a reasonable cause exists for the failure to file. However, neither the statute nor the applicable regulations define a reasonable cause standard for the abatement. Treasury Regulations Section 301.6651-1(c) provide a definition of what constitutes reasonable cause for failure to file corporate income tax returns and says that "if the taxpayer exercised ordinary business care and prudence and was nevertheless unable to file the return within the prescribed time, then the delay is due to reasonable cause." and
Statute of Limitations - Though a $10,000 penalty may discourage some from filing in international information return after the deadline, there is a greater exposure to not late filing and information return and that is that the statute of limitations for tax returns which is generally three years does not apply for returns that are missing the information reports and the statute remains open indefinitely. Under the indefinite statute of limitations, not only can the IRS make adjustments to items related to the international information returns, but they also can examine any other area on the tax return.
Automatic $10,000 Penalty for a Late Form 5471 or 5472?
Read more at: Tax Times blog