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Are Streamlined Procedures Right for Non-Willful Taxpayers? 

Non-willful Tax Payers Blog Summary

Are Streamlined Procedures Right for Non-Willful Taxpayers? 

Tax compliance can be a complex and overwhelming process, especially for individuals who reside outside the United States or who have foreign financial assets. The IRS Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures offer a potential solution for non-willful taxpayers seeking to become compliant with their U.S. tax obligations. Here, we’ll explore what the Streamlined Procedures are, who they are designed for, and how non-willful taxpayers can determine if this option is the right choice for them. 

Section 1: Understanding the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures 

The Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures are a set of IRS guidelines designed to help taxpayers living abroad or those with foreign financial assets to become compliant with their U.S. tax obligations. These procedures consist of two programs: 

  • Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (SFOP): For eligible U.S. citizens and green card holders residing outside the United States, this program allows them to catch up on their U.S. tax filings and report foreign financial assets without facing penalties for previous non-compliance. 
  • Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (SDOP): This program is intended for U.S. residents who, while living in the U.S., failed to report their foreign financial assets. Like SFOP, it offers an opportunity to become compliant without penalties for previous non-compliance. 

Section 2: Eligibility for the Streamlined Procedures 

The Streamlined Procedures are designed for non-willful taxpayers. But what does “non-willful” mean in this context? 

  1. Non-Willful Conduct:

To be eligible for the Streamlined Procedures, taxpayers must certify that their non-compliance with U.S. tax and reporting requirements was non-willful. Non-willful conduct generally means that the taxpayer’s failure to comply with tax obligations was unintentional, due to negligence, misunderstanding, or a good-faith mistake. 

  1. Risk Assessment:

Before deciding to participate in the Streamlined Procedures, non-willful taxpayers should conduct a risk assessment. They should assess their non-compliance and the potential penalties they might face if they don’t take corrective action. 

Section 3: Benefits of the Streamlined Procedures 

Participating in the Streamlined Procedures offers several benefits for non-willful taxpayers: 

  1. Penalty Relief:

One of the most significant advantages of the Streamlined Procedures is the opportunity to avoid hefty penalties. Typically, non-compliant taxpayers can face substantial penalties, including those for unfiled FBARs (Foreign Bank Account Reports) and late tax returns. Under the Streamlined Procedures, these penalties are waived. 

  1. Reduced Stress:

Non-compliant taxpayers often experience stress and uncertainty regarding their tax status. Participating in the Streamlined Procedures can provide peace of mind and relieve the anxiety associated with unresolved tax issues. 

  1. Legal Compliance:

By participating in the Streamlined Procedures, non-willful taxpayers can achieve legal compliance with U.S. tax laws. This ensures that they are on the right side of the law and can avoid future complications. 

Section 4: The Streamlined Procedures Process 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the Streamlined Procedures process for non-willful taxpayers: 

  1. Self-Certification Statement:

Non-willful taxpayers must complete a self-certification statement. This statement requires the taxpayer to attest to their non-willful conduct. They should also provide an explanation of the specific circumstances that led to their non-compliance. 

  1. Review Tax Returns:

Taxpayers are required to file delinquent or amended tax returns for the most recent three years. For SFOP participants, six years of delinquent or amended returns are required. Ensure that these returns accurately report all income, deductions, and foreign financial assets. 

  1. Report Foreign Financial Assets:

Taxpayers must file FBARs for the last six years if they have foreign financial accounts that exceeded certain thresholds. Additionally, they should report foreign financial assets on Form 8938. 

  1. Pay Any Taxes Due:

Non-willful taxpayers must pay any taxes due, which may include interest on the outstanding amount. However, they are exempt from certain penalties, such as the late filing and late payment penalties. 

  1. Mail the Submission:

The completed package, including the self-certification statement, tax returns, and any required forms, should be mailed to the appropriate IRS address, depending on the taxpayer’s location. 

Section 5: When Are Streamlined Procedures Not the Right Choice? 

While the Streamlined Procedures offer significant advantages, they may not be the best option for all non-willful taxpayers. Here are a few scenarios in which other alternatives might be more appropriate: 

  1. Willful Conduct:

If a taxpayer’s non-compliance with tax obligations was willful, the Streamlined Procedures are not suitable. Willful conduct may include knowingly evading taxes, concealing income, or intentionally failing to report foreign financial assets. 

  1. Ongoing Non-Compliance:

If a taxpayer has been actively concealing income or assets, or their non-compliance is ongoing, the Streamlined Procedures may not provide the desired relief. In such cases, a voluntary disclosure program or other legal remedies may be more appropriate. 

  1. Substantial Tax Debts:

For non-willful taxpayers with significant tax debts, the Streamlined Procedures may not address the entire debt. While penalties for non-compliance are waived, the outstanding taxes and any associated interest must be paid. 


The Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures can be an effective solution for non-willful taxpayers who want to become compliant with their U.S. tax obligations without facing substantial penalties. However, determining whether these procedures are the right choice requires an honest assessment of non-compliance and a careful evaluation of individual circumstances. Consulting with a tax professional or attorney is often advisable to navigate this process effectively and ensure the best possible outcome for non-willful taxpayers seeking to resolve their tax issues. 

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Table of Contents


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