Posts Tagged With: News

Costa Rica starts imposing immigration law from 2010 as of 8/1/14

Costa Rica News – Seems that Costa Rica has finally decided to start getting imposing laws in regards to illegal immigration and visa status in the country. The $100 a month fine for over staying your visa is finally being implemented. There are also fines for hotels and landlords that are housing those that do not have legal visa status.  The question is will this have a negative effect in Costa Rica down the line?

nicaragua-costa-rica-border 1On 1st August, the Director General for Migration and Immigration announced that from that day forward, they would be imposing fines on employers with workers in either construction or the domestic service if they couldn’t prove the legal residency of these workers.

Kathya Rodríguez, the General Director of Migration, explains that the penalty range between ¢798.800 to ¢4,8 million, depending on the degree of the breach of the law.

This is how the General Migration Law is set up, which became valid on 1st March 2010. However, collection of these imposed fines was often not properly organised; firstly due to an amnesty, and then due to an extension period which lasted around 2 years.

Rodriguez and the Government’s vice-Minister, Carmen Muñoz, explained that they were awarded a new extension, but one which would apply only to employers in agricultural industries.

Businesses in this sector would have from now until the 31st January 2015 to put themselves down on a special register. Following that, they would have a year in which to work through the entire legalisation process.

Migration Police, by paying attention to complaints and general disruption, will be working to detect any sorts of irregularities surrounding migrant workers.

In the case of domestic workers they will be assessing their treatment, if they are receiving minimum wage and any bonuses or benefits they may be receiving; not just their own immigration status. The higher the number of breaches found, the higher the penalty to the employer will be.

For cases outside the agricultural sector, Migration will keep the same entry policy as normal. During past extensions, it was possible to begin the immigration process for a person who illegally entered the country; from the 1st August, this will no longer be an option.

Rodriguez said that they would only process cases where the person in question has had some sort of migration status, or where they still hold a valid passport.

First paragraph added by Dan Stevens, rest of article translated by Leah Hendre from La Nacion

Pura Vida! Well maybe not any more for some! This could get ugly.

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I was just bragging how this stuff doesn’t happen here. :-(

A National Police officer overlooks a crowd gathering at the Fuente de la Hispanidad in San Pedro, San José, after the Costa Rica-Netherlands World Cup match on July 5, 2014. (Courtesy Public Security Ministry)

National Police arrested 90 people in brawls and other incidents during and after Costa Rica’s match against the Netherlands on Saturday, according to a statement from the Public Security Ministry. More than half the arrests involved domestic violence, despite a government campaign to curb a recent spike in domestic abuse complaints during the World Cup.

Members of the national men’s football team, known as “La Sele,” hold signs in Brazil reading “No to violence,” as part of the government’s campaign against domestic violence.

Courtesy Public Security Ministry

 

One of the most dramatic events of the weekend took place in the Plaza de la Democracia in downtown San José, where a brawl broke out between several fans. Police confirmed Saturday evening that two victims were stabbed and another hit with a bottle. Eight arrests were reported, but no motive was disclosed.

More than half of Saturday’s arrests – 48 – involved domestic violence. Violent intrafamily incidents spiked during Costa Rica’s games during the World Cup. Guillermo Aroyo, president of the Costa Rican Red Cross, said that during Costa Rica’s June 29 match against Greece the organization responded to 200 more calls than usual. The Public Security Ministry, Presidency Ministry and other government bodies launched a campaign called “Give Domestic Violence the Red Card” last week to raise awareness about celebrating the games responsibly.

Some 23 suspects were arrested for fighting in alcohol-related incidents during or after the game that knocked Costa Rica out of the World Cup. Most of the arrests took place in San José, where police confiscated drugs and knives. Police also aprehended three suspects in the act of committing a crime, three for property damage, four for drug possession, one for robbery, and two for illegal gun possession, among others.

Some 3,500 police were out across the country and on the streets of San José, including at the Fuente de la Hispanidad, Plaza de la Democracia and Parque Central for Saturday’s game.

Originally posted Tico Times

Pura Vida!

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UPDATE: 2 Costa Rica fans stabbed, another hit with a bottle in Plaza de la Democracia while watching Netherlands match

No Costa Rica say it isn’t so. 😦 Don’t be like the U.S.!!!!!!

Police cleared the front of the Plaza de la Democracia where Costa Ricans were gathered to watch the game after a stabbing that injured at least three. Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times

The Public Security Ministry (MSP) released a statement Saturday evening reporting that Red Cross responders attended to three victims from a fight that broke out in the capital’s Plaza de la Democracia. Two victims were injured from a stabbing and a third received treatment after being hit with a bottle. Police arrested eight involved in the disturbance, including one suspect identified by the last names Delgadillo Ruiz who was wanted on a weapon possession charge.

Authorities still don’t know what started the brawl that interrupted an otherwise peaceful gathering. More than 1,000 fans watched Costa Rica and the Netherlands battle for a spot in the World Cup semifinals on a large LED screen at the plaza in downtown San José.

Tico Times reporter Lindsay Fendt, who was at the scene, said that fans toward the back of the plaza did not realize what was unfolding in front of them and continued cheering the national team.

An ambulance arrived soon arrived to the area and removed the injured on stretchers.

Original article continues here:

A Costa Rican fan lies in the Plaza de la Democracía in downtown San José after being stabbed in the back while watching Costa Rica play the Netherlands in the World Cup quarterfinals.AFP

Police and spectators rushed to assist injured Costa Rican fans at the Plaza de la Democracia in San José. Three people were reportedly injured, although the extent of those injuries has not yet been confirmed by authorities.

Fans  gathered in the capital’s public plaza to watch the match. Police have sealed off the scene of the alleged crime and are investigating.

A Costa Rican fan lies on the street after being stabbed in his back in the Parque de la Democracia in downtown San José, while watching Costa Rica play the Netherlands in the World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday.AFP

Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times

 

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Originally Posted Tico Times
Pura Vida!

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In Search of Wild Costa Rica

Clockwise from top left: Rain forest in Corcovado National Park; a tapir in the park; a cabin at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge; spying on a toucan at the lodge. CreditScott Matthews for The New York Times

By the end of our fourth day on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, we had seen, according to the tally kept by my 9-year-old, Sasha, dozens of species of animals. We had peered at leafcutter ants, army ants and zombie ants. We had been deafened by howler monkeys, beguiled by squirrel monkeys and strangely stirred by capuchin monkeys, whose feet bear an eerie resemblance to human hands. That afternoon, in the national park that covers a third of the peninsula, we had even spied two tapirs, endangered mammals that look like hornless rhinoceroses with long snouts.

To sample this extravaganza of biodiversity, we had risen early each morning of our vacation. So when our guide informed us that he would be taking us out at 4:30 a.m. to witness the rain forest waking up, I — the motivating force behind, and thus bearer of responsibility for, this trip — glanced apprehensively at my family and swallowed hard.

“We’ll be up!” I said brightly.

I had shepherded Sasha and my husband, Scott, to Osa in hopes of a tropical wildlife experience that was, in fact, wild. But as we crawled into our tent that night, the beaten path from which I had so resolutely steered clear was starting to look more inviting.

Photo

Nito Paniagua, a guide, finds an anole lizard. CreditScott Matthews for The New York Times

Costa Rica, home to large tracts of untouched yet accessible rain forest, had seemed the obvious place to immerse ourselves in nature for a week in February. On Facebook, people responded with the Costa Rican phrase “pura vida!” (“pure life”) at the mere mention of the country. We had admired photographs of bright-colored birds, frogs and butterflies from the preserves near the capital, San José, which could be reached by direct flight from New York. The ubiquitous “canopy tours” through the treetops seemed a great way to indulge Sasha’s love of zip lining.

But as I researched where to go in the West Virginia-size country, I began to suspect that its popular ecotourist destinations might not quench my yearning for the untamed. On TripAdvisor, phrases like “well-developed” and the less-charitable “Disneyfied” arose in regard to the storied Monteverde Cloud Forest in the central highlands. Manuel Antonio National Park on the central Pacific Coast, widely loved for its beaches and restaurants, was reportedly better for night life than wildlife.

The more people who can enjoy the rain forest without destroying it the better, of course: The 70,000 or so who visit a sliver of Monteverde each year help pay to preserve the rest of it. But the remote Osa Peninsula, which juts into the Pacific Ocean from Costa Rica’s southwestern corner, seemed to hold an increasingly rare chance to observe the rain forest in all its fecund, carbon-storing, oxygen-producing glory, without quite so much human company.

Mostly mentioned in travel guides as an alternative for those who had hit the other highlights, Osa did not rank on Lonely Planet’s list of “Top 10 Costa Rica Spots for First-Timers.” To get there requires a second flight or a seven-hour drive from San José. And while the draw is the 160-square-mile Corcovado National Park, accommodations there are limited to a few dozen bunks and a tent platform at the Sirena Ranger Station.

I mapped a tentative itinerary that would bring us to each of two jumping-off points to the park, Puerto Jiménez to the southeast, and Drake Bay to the northwest, both of which have several excellent lodging options. In between, we would stay one night in the park, perhaps the last refuge in the country, I read, of the sweet-looking Baird’s tapirs Sasha and I had fallen for while searching online for “Costa Rica animals.”

An email from a well-traveled friend sealed the deal: “Costa Rica is very touristy,” he wrote. “Osa is not.”

Our first stop, Bosque del Cabo, was a 40-minute ride by taxi from Puerto Jiménez, the biggest town on the peninsula with a population of 1,780. I had chosen one of the two cabins at Bosque just steps from the rain forest, at the edge of a large clearing planted with native trees and plants. A half-mile away from the main lodge area, these “garden cabinas” are reached by a trail through the forest that crosses high above a river over a suspension bridge.

Photo

The author and her daughter in a tide pool near Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge.CreditScott Matthews for The New York Times

“We ask that only guests that feel they will be comfortable with the walk and the increased isolation of these accommodations book into them,” the lodge’s website warns.

Any pangs I might have had about passing up the dozen or so bungalows with ocean views disappeared as soon as we found ourselves in the company of spider monkeys, swinging from branch to branch at eye level on our first pass over the bridge. The lodge staff member escorting us waited patiently, albeit with the amusement of a New Yorker watching tourists marvel at pigeons.

“Do you feed them?” I couldn’t help asking. He assured me they did not.

A few steps off the bridge, we stopped short with the odd sensation that the earth was shifting under our feet. The highway of leafcutter ants hauling their leaf-bits toward the entrance to their underground caverns was our first inkling, repeatedly confirmed over the next few days, that they were in charge there. (“Are there more ants in Costa Rica than there are humans in the world?” Sasha would ask. Answer: many more).

Bosque itself sits on 750 acres that encompass some primary-growth rain forest and large swaths of “jungle,” rain forest that has grown back on land that had once been cleared — in Bosque’s case, for cattle grazing. We would have virtually no chance of seeing a tapir on the hotel’s trails, the staff told us candidly (even in Corcovado, we were told, our chances were 50-50). But we spotted poison dart frogs, lizards and monkeys dozing in the sun. A wild pig called a peccary often visited the lodge’s modest pool, where we cooled off and sipped ginger lemonades.

The hotel also offered nature-oriented activities: One morning we rappelled 70 feet down a strangler fig tree, another we hiked down the empty beach to a waterfall, splashing in the tide pools that form in the reef formations along the way. On an evening wildlife tour, the hotel naturalist taught us the trick of holding our flashlights against our temples, revealing the reflection of thousands of spider eyes shining in the grass.

Dinner, served buffet-style with a bounty of delicious choices (panko-crusted eggplant, roasted hearts of palm, crispy chicken with figs) was eaten at communal tables. And if I needed validation on my destination choice, we found ourselves dining more than once with others who had firsthand knowledge of Costa Rica’s well-traveled spots.

Photo

Capuchin monkeys near Drake Bay. CreditScott Matthews for The New York Times

“Osa is — crunchier,” said one civil rights lawyer from Washington, D.C., as Sasha and another girl her age excused themselves to look at the bats hanging from the bamboo light fixtures.

His wife, a judge, concurred about their desire for a less-processed experience.

“More what we had in mind when we thought about Costa Rica,” she said.

In our cabin, open on three sides, we felt less like observers than residents of the forest, along with monkeys playing in the trees directly above us and the leafcutter ants below. One late afternoon, a rainbow of toucans and scarlet macaws flew by a few feet away, on their way to the fruit trees in the clearing behind us.

Yet knowing that the trees had been planted to attract the birds undercut, just a bit, the pleasure of their proximity. Perhaps it was our own fault, too, for being diverted by rappelling adventures and poolside lemonades. But when we landed the next morning at the ranger station, the headquarters of Corcovado park, it quickly became apparent that there would be no distractions from the natural world. Other than lounging on the shaded porch of the low-slung ranger station, there was really was nothing to do but be in it.

Our guide, Nito Paniagua, who met us in Puerto Jiménez for the 15-minute charter flight, lost no time snagging us a spot on the tent platform at the station and heading out on a trail to the river.

The park has just started requiring tourists to be accompanied by a guide, but in any case we would have been lost without Nito’s six senses. He caught lizards and hung them from our ears, trained his scope on resplendent birds no one else could see and produced bats from furled-up leaves.

Photo

Tent platform at the Sirena Ranger Station in Corcovado National Park. CreditScott Matthews for The New York Times

“Look at the two species playing together,” he said at the trail’s entrance, pointing his viewing scope so we could see the howler and spider monkeys teasing each other in the branches above. “That’s so nice to see.”

Unlike the many hardy backpacker types who had walked 12 miles or more to camp at Sirena, we were not big hikers. But the walk down to the river where we ate lunch was not so much strenuous as it was intense. It took two hours only because we stopped every few steps for a new creature: the bird with the small heart, the carnivorous cricket, bright blue butterflies, the notorious fer-de-lance snake.

And because Nito had quickly divined that we were keen to see tapirs, he brought us to a spot where they are known to nap.

That we were lucky enough to see two of them through the trees from perhaps 50 feet away was one reason for the collective groan that night when Nito announced the 4:30 a.m. wake-up call.

What else, we wondered, did we have to see that couldn’t wait until dawn?

In my grogginess I left the tent without my glasses and had to run back to get them while Scott, Sasha and Nito waited for me on the grass beyond the porch of the ranger station. We stopped to admire a spider web at the start of the dirt trail, then traipsed on toward the beach where Nito wanted us to watch the sky grow light.

That was when the tapir came crashing out of the forest right in front of us. My heart beating hard, I held my breath, wishing I could freeze the moment. Scott and Sasha, too, stood transfixed. For just a split second, the large, strange animal seemed to register our presence. Then the tapir lumbered away from us, down the trail, toward the river as we followed, until it veered off into the darkness.

map ny times

I didn’t know it until then, but this, more than anything, was what I had hoped we would find on the Osa Peninsula. It wasn’t like seeing an animal lured to a spot by human guile, or to where all the guides know it’s likely to go on its own. If I hadn’t forgotten my glasses, we might well have missed it.

It felt wild.

There was no shortage of moments like that in our short time at Sirena. Sasha’s favorite siting may have been the anteater carrying a baby on her back all the way up to the top of a tree, spied that morning after a breakfast of eggs and ham that was, like our dinner there the night before, plain but tasty. We all oohed over the baby hummingbirds in the nest Nito found, and the baby hawks the ranger showed us through his scope in between his other chores at the understaffed station.

Before we left, we walked one more trail, cooler and less dense than the one we had taken the previous day because the soaring tree canopies blocked the light others might use to grow. The logging and slash-and-burn agriculture that had prompted the formation of the park in 1975, Nito told us, had never reached here. As we stumbled into a clearing where one tree, an espavel, or wild cashew, towered some 150 feet above us, we stood again in silent awe. That tens of thousands of acres of such forest are destroyed each day worldwide seemed inconceivable.

Most life in the rain forest, Nito reminded us, lives in the canopy, and never descends to the forest floor. Speaking of untamed, no one even knows entirely what’s up there.

We might have been happy staying longer at Sirena had our tent been pitched on the lawn, rather than the platform, which was hot and crowded at night. (Nito was scheming to go in with other guides on tents with rain flaps that could be used on the lawn.) The ticks, albeit not disease carrying, were also not a plus, especially for Sasha, who pried five off her legs.

As it was, we were happy to get to our final Osa destination, La Paloma Lodge on Drake Bay, after an hourlong boat ride from Corcovado that afternoon. It felt good to take a hot shower and to enjoy the rain forest as a view from the hotel’s elegant dining room, set high on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean.

At night, Tracie Stice, a local naturalist universally known as the “bug lady,” showed us a scorpion (“Don’t sit down,” she suggested as we leaned against the stone wall) and gently pried open the well-camouflaged home of a “trap-door” spider so that we could see the creature promptly slam it shut again.

On our last day, we went on a decidedly human-manufactured, 13-zip-line canopy tour arranged for us, a highlight of the trip for Sasha. But when Scott asked her which leg of the trip she would eliminate, if she had to lose one, she couldn’t choose. Like her parents, she could have happily lived for decades in our first cabin. She wouldn’t give up zip lining.

“And I can’t take out Sirena,” she said. “Because that’s where we saw everything.”

By 

Pura Vida!

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Chikungunya Virus Now Threatens All of Central America and the Caribbean

Last December the first case of the chikungunya virus was recorded in America, which still has no cure and is expanding rapidly across the continent. In the Caribbean alone there have been 165,990 cases of infection.

The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – Last December the first case of the chikungunya virus was recorded in America, which still has no cure and is expanding rapidly across the continent. In the Caribbean alone there have been 165,990 cases of infection.

The chikungunya virus is transmitted by a species of mosquito and is very similar to dengue, making it difficult to diagnose. The virus is not curable and treatment is limited to the relief of symptoms such as fever, rash, severe muscle and joint pain and headache. Only rarely chikungunya kills (mostly among elderly people), but its consequences can be felt for months or even years.

The virus is originated in Africa, Southeast Asia and Oceania, but last December a first case in America, on the Caribbean island St. Maarten, was recorded. From then until June 13 only in the Caribbean 165,990 cases were reported with similar disease symptoms, although only 4,576 of these were officially confirmed as chikungunya, according to the Pan American Health Organization. 14 cases were fatal. The absolute majority of documented cases have been reported in the Dominican Republic and Martinique

On Wednesday, authorities of Cuba confirmed the first six (at least) cases on the island. In addition, the virus has spread along most of the continent, reaching the U.S. and 18 other countries and territories of the continent including Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, Chile and Puerto Rico, as reports the newspaper ‘El Espectador’ citing data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC English) of the U.S. In fact, the region that might be the most affected, is Central America where the chikungunya epidemic threatens to acquire character.

On Wednesday the Salvadoran President, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, announced that an alert condition shall be declared to fight chikungunya transmitters in areas where the disease has appeared in order to avoid its extension across the whole country. He argues that it “could become an epidemic”, especially during this rainy season. So far about 1,119 people have been affected in that country, which has no outlet to the Caribbean Sea. Nicaragua and Costa Rica also have taken steps to deal with a potential outbreak of the virus.

Originally posted by The Costa Rica News (TCRN)

San Jose, Costa Rica

Pura Vida!

Don’t forget to check out our Cafe Press shop! $3 of every item purchased goes to Charities here in Costa Rica. Also check out our House for Saleand Rent listings as well!  If you are traveling and you want a cheap $4.99 a month and good VPN so you can watch hulu, your countries Netflix, and amazon click here. Good for travel or if you live here in Costa Rica. Don’t forget about our Amazon shop as well!

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GALLO PINTO EFFECT?

Ticos consume some 49,000 tons of beans per year. Most are imported as Costa Rica only produces some 14,000 tons. Ronald Reyes/The Tico Times

 

Call it the gallo pinto effect.

Officials from Costa Rica’s Agriculture and Livestock Ministry (MAG) this week warned of a shortage of beans in the country, and issued an order to allow tax-free importation from any country in order to meet an estimated shortage of 21,000 tons needed to supply local demand from July to January.

The country currently has reserves of 3,200 metric tons of black beans and 1,200 metric tons of red beans. But with domestic consumption at 4,100 tons per month, there are barely enough beans for this month. Beans and rice are essential in Ticos’ daily diet.

According to the National Production Council (CNP) a change in agricultural production strategies in Nicaragua – Costa Rica’s main bean provider – severely decreased supplies from that country.

But local producers blame the possible shortage on a requirement of MAG’s State Phytosanitary Service (SFE), which states that all imported beans must be completely clean, without any residue or dirt. The rule this year has prevented some 100 containers of beans – mainly from Nicaragua – from entering the country, producers say.

Alejandro Monge, executive director of the National Association of Bean Industrials (ANIFRI), confirmed that Costa Rica currently produces only 20 percent of all beans consumed in the country, and the remaining 80 percent must be imported from Nicaragua, Argentina and China.

“Strict SFE measures are preventing the entry of imported beans in time to meet current demand,” he said.

The shortage particularly affects red beans. Nicaragua in 2013 supplied 99 percent of Costa Rican red bean imports and 50 percent of all imported beans, according to the CNP.

The situation already is affecting consumers, as the price of red beans this year increased by 10 percent, according to the CNP. Prices likely will continue to increase if the shortage extends longer. The Costa Rican Consumers Association last week asked the Economy Ministry to conduct periodic inspections to prevent price speculation from retailers.

The Grain Industries Chamber agrees with the consumers’ group, forecasting a significant increase in prices in coming months, especially for red beans. They also said in a press release that the situation will not be resolved with MAG’s shortage alert, and they urged the government to modify SFE guidelines and regulations.

ANIFRI requested a change in SFE legislation during a meeting with Agriculture and Livestock Vice Minister Joaquín Salazar. At the meeting they suggested an amendment of legislation to allow up to 2 percent of impurities in imported beans, depending on the grains’ quality. They also suggested fumigation of trucks that might represent contamination risks. However, both sides failed to reach an agreement at the meeting.

ANIFRI will continue pushing for a change in legislation, and in coming days will meet with officials from the Foreign Trade Ministry and the Economy Ministry to propose an amendment of SFE regulations.

 

Originally posted Tico Times

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I.R.S. makes major changes to Offshore Compliance Programs

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service announced today major changes in its offshore voluntary compliance programs, providing new options to help both taxpayers residing overseas and those residing in the United States. The changes are anticipated to provide thousands of people a new avenue to come into compliance with their U.S. tax obligations.

The changes include an expansion of the streamlined filing compliance procedures announced in 2012 and important modifications to the 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). The expanded streamlined procedures are intended for U.S. taxpayers whose failure to disclose their offshore assets was non-willful.

“This opens a new pathway for people with offshore assets to come into tax compliance,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The new versions of our offshore programs reflect a carefully balanced approach to ensure everyone pays their fair share of taxes owed. Through the changes we are announcing today, we provide additional flexibility in key respects while maintaining the central components of our voluntary programs.”

Balanced against the modified programs is the government’s ongoing effort to combat the misuse of offshore assets. The IRS, working closely with the U.S. Department of Justice, continues to investigate foreign financial institutions that may have assisted U.S. taxpayers in avoiding their tax filing and payment obligations. In addition, on July 1, the new information reporting regime resulting from the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) will go into effect. Thousands of foreign financial institutions will begin to report to the IRS the foreign accounts held by U.S. persons.

The current Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program was launched in 2012 and is the successor to prior voluntary programs offered in 2011 and 2009. Since the launch of the first program, more than 45,000 taxpayers have come into compliance voluntarily, paying about $6.5 billion in taxes, interest and penalties.

The expansion of the streamlined procedures and modifications to OVDP reflect the thoughtful input of the tax community given the growing awareness among U.S. taxpayers of their offshore tax obligations.

“Through our enforcement efforts and implementation of FATCA, taxpayers are more aware of their obligations, and we believe want to come into compliance,” Koskinen said. “In this rapidly changing environment, we listened to feedback from the tax community as well as the National Taxpayer Advocate about our voluntary programs. We have made important adjustments to provide opportunities for all U.S. taxpayers to come in, including those who are not willfully hiding assets.”

Streamlined Procedures Expanded

The changes announced today make key expansions in the streamlined procedures to accommodate a wider group of U.S. taxpayers who have unreported foreign financial accounts.

The original streamlined procedures announced in 2012 were available only to non–resident, non–filers. Taxpayer submissions were subject to different degrees of review based on the amount of the tax due and the taxpayer’s response to a “risk” questionnaire.

The expanded streamlined procedures are available to a wider population of U.S. taxpayers living outside the country and, for the first time, to certain U.S. taxpayers residing in the United States. The changes include:

  • Eliminating a requirement that the taxpayer have $1,500 or less of unpaid tax per year;
  • Eliminating the required risk questionnaire;
  • Requiring the taxpayer to certify that previous failures to comply were due to non–willful conduct.

For eligible U.S. taxpayers residing outside the United States, all penalties will be waived. For eligible U.S. taxpayers residing in the United States, the only penalty will be a miscellaneous offshore penalty equal to 5 percent of the foreign financial assets that gave rise to the tax compliance issue.

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) Modified

The changes announced today also make important modifications to the OVDP. The changes include:

  • Requiring additional information from taxpayers applying to the program;
  • Eliminating the existing reduced penalty percentage for certain non–willful taxpayers in light of the expansion of the streamlined procedures;
  • Requiring taxpayers to submit all account statements and pay the offshore penalty at the time of the OVDP application;
  • Enabling taxpayers to submit voluminous records electronically rather than on paper;
  • Increasing the offshore penalty percentage (from 27.5% to 50%) if, before the taxpayer’s OVDP pre–clearance request is submitted, it becomes public that a financial institution where the taxpayer holds an account or another party facilitating the taxpayer’s offshore arrangement is under investigation by the IRS or Department of Justice.

Full details of the changes to both the streamlined procedures and OVDP can be found on IRS.gov.

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