I am a progressive Democrat who is member of Democrats Abroad. I was so surprised to see how the party’s expat branch has been diversifying into sponsoring informational sessions that double as internet marketing for tax preparers. I posted my thoughts on a follow-up comment to the YouTube replay (which replay is apparently not available to the whole Democratic Party.) But the comments didn’t show, so here they are:
I was an attendee on a Zoom call, which apparently was a one-hour “use my services” sales pitch that is disguised as an informational seminar. Nathalie Vu Goldstein, University of Santa Clara 2015, a 28-year-old federal “Enrolled Agent” of the IRS, was the presenter. She practices from the town of Leopoldsdorf in Marchfelde, Austria, using the internet to acquire clients worldwide. I, as a CPA (and attorney) practicing in both the US and for American expats in Japan, have strong concerns about how this seminar presented the IRS’ Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures program. (This was among other concerns as to whether Dems Abroad is commercializing its customer list indirectly, but I have that in my issues-to-take-home bucket when the IRS rep shows at a continuing ed seminar in one of the three states I’m licensed in. Or the state Dems organization there.)
My understanding is that the IRS Streamlined program is for delinquent filers who were “non willful”. To the extent that this was discussed, it didn’t get enough time. It seemed that many questions at the end went to “how do I get this money”? And not to the fact that the willfulness of the non-filing is the #1 hurdle to do Streamlined. Participants were led to believe that “all you have to do is file under this program” for three back years (and 6 years any delinquent FBAR) and you are clear. It’s never mentioned that you can simply file for the three back years anyway, without making the special declaration on Form 14653 of “non willful”, and the IRS will not necessarily scrutinize your return any more than a stateside nonfiler.
Most of the nonfilers abroad are people who know very well that they are supposed to file every year. Especially now in the Internet Quarter Century. Therefore, they are “willful”, and therefore not eligible for the Streamlined program. They can still get their stimulus money if they file late, since all that that money really was, was an advance tax credit for 2020, with the third installment as an advance tax credit for 2021. If you didn’t get your check, it’s either a mail issue with checks—or, you didn’t file. And odds are it was willful until you realized there was a “get” for you in filing.
That doesn’t make you “non willful”.
You do not need to pay 690 Euros to a preparer in a village in Austria to do this. You can e-file yourself on the various canned software products, or paper file if you are prepared to wait atop the COVID backlog of five million returns.
I suspect that the software being offered through Ms. Goldstein’s company does NOT have a due diligence window whereby the due diligence that is required of any regulated tax preparer (EA, CPA, and/or attorney) is carried out. That’s part of the reason why things cost. The ordinary EA can’t just take people’s word for things over the internet.
It really should have been explained that you don’t need to do a special program (the “Streamlined”) where you open yourself up to making a fraudulent representation (with its own trapdoor of consequences) in order to avoid penalties that very likely won’t happen if you don’t owe the Treasury, but still want your check. Just file.
(You don’t need MyExpatTaxes or the Streamlined Program to do that . . . )