“Not that Lisa” has just had her ‘Opt Out’ success story published at Jack Townsend blog. It is accompanied by his comments which I encourage you to read.
I came to know of Lisa during my dark days on Jack’s blog as “anon5Percent”. Later, due to her efforts to find me, I got to know her personally via phone and email conversations. She started commenting here as Lisa and evolved to Not that Lisa to eliminate confusion between her and another commenter.
I could not be more pleased about this success, and only sorry for her that it has taken so much frustration, anxiety, expense, and LCUs, which still required the intervention of the TAS for the IRS to “do the right thing”. I asked her permission tonight, to also highlight her 30 month saga to add to the resource of self help material on Isaac Brock Society.
I thought it was important to headline this ‘ORDEAL’ as many places as possible. I think she is being too generous to call her escape from the IRS penalty extraction processing factory a mere ‘Odyssey’. It is a total waste of taxpayers time and money for naught, and represents one of the reasons that ACA has called this abuse to the attention of the committees in Congress who are investigating IRS T-party scandal. We can not let this milestone pass as just another low profile comment on the OVDI Drudgery thread lost to a larger audience.
Below are the documents that she has made available to Isaac Brock Society. They are uploaded here for others to access and use as examples for their struggles.
Not that Lisa – FINAL My OVDI Odyssey
Not that Lisa – FINAL Opt Out letter
Not that Lisa – FINAL Opt Out Reasonable Cause Arguments
Not tht Lisa – FINAL Streamlined Program Acceptance Letter
Not that Lisa – FINAL Mitigated FBAR Level II Non-Willful Penalties
Not that Lisa – FINAL Letter 3800
What follows are her comments:
I offer these documents because fellow victims like Just Me, Moby, Sally, ij and bubblebustin have shared their experiences on both the Isaac Brock Society website and/or on Jack Townsend’s Federal Tax Crimes Site. Their experiences in OVDP and OVDI and their ideas have helped me immensely. I was all alone and learned so much from them. I also much appreciated the supportive comments of Michael Miller.
I cannot thank them enough. I would also like to thank those who have published information or made comments on Isaac Brock. Even if it has not always been directly related to my ordeal, it was helpful in understanding the big picture. Hopefully, by sharing my experiences, others will benefit.
Rather than write additional comments, I repeat here the conclusions I make at the end of my OVDI Odyssey story:
The OVDI process was entirely unnecessary and a waste of my time and money. After 30 months and excessive legal costs, I ended up in the same place I would have been without entering any Voluntary Disclosure Program. I filed amended returns, had an examination and was able to argue reasonable cause.
The IRS wasted lots of money and time to collect my $133 a year. The costs of the Taxpayer Advocate Service were additional public costs that were caused by inappropriate IRS policy. Furthermore, I incurred high legal costs and had to live with undue stress, as I was treated in the same category as criminals who had intentionally evaded taxes.
Nina Olson runs a tight ship at the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Her staff helped me to understand and feel less stressed and they were extremely conscientious as well. Congress made a good decision when they created the TAS and they could Not have a better person to lead it than Nina Olson. I am extremely grateful to Nina, her Senior Attorney Adviser and my Case Advocate. The issuance of the TAO changed my life for the better as the IRS finally started to move on my case.
The IRS policy of “one size fits all” was totally misguided. However, there are good, highly professional agents out there who are aware of this and will use the small amount of discretion they are given within the program. I think there is an unannounced policy within the IRS that one size does not fit all anymore. Outside of OVDI, examiners have more discretion, and the regulations in the IRM can work in the favor of most minnows.
The worst part of OVDI for me was dealing with tax professionals. The lawyers I dealt with made me feel like a criminal and ran up excessive fees. My experience with my IRS Revenue Agent was a lot more pleasant, While I think it is a good thing to get legal advice on your options and about the strength of your opt out arguments, ultimately, I did not see the need for extensive legal advice. Run from any lawyer who tells you that a Voluntary Disclosure Program is your only option, and that there is no negotiation.
The IRS needs to develop a better way to assist US person foreign residents to come into compliance. While the Streamlined Program is a start, the rules are confusing and unclear to both those inside and outside the IRS. The Streamlined Program needs to go further! Its rules need clarification and communication. The Streamlined Program could also be extended to immigrants to the US.
I have signed documents allowing my data to be used by the Taxpayer Advocate in the next Taxpayer Advocate Annual Report to Congress (ARC). Hopefully, this data, along with that of others can motivate the IRS and/or Congress to take action to fix the problems created by the OVDI/P approach.
I am grateful for the comments on this blog from other OVD victims and people who wanted to help. You saved me. Thank you and it is now time to move on.
Documents are not available without admin login and password priveleges
They should be downloadable now. Just checked them all out. Sorry about that. Learned a new little trick on how to keep administrator rights from being attached to the file. 🙂
I concur with Lisa. This web site and Jack’s have helped me tremendously.
Not just to gather valuable information, but also not to feel alone in the feelings with have towards those who are treating us that way.
Without just comment of Just Me, ij and others, I was ready to enter OVDI and 2 years of hell.
Maybe one comment that made me decide is the one from rodrog who pointed out the link to the OVDI FBAR mitigated penalty. Lawyers gave so many different directions that they were not that helpful.
Even though there is not one day, where I am not scared of receiving the audit letter in the mail, I hope that this stress will be my only ‘punishment’.
Thanks to all of you.
Unbelievable. Just unbelievable. What a strong person you are Not That Lisa and while I am happy it is finally over for you, I think what happened to you is absolutely criminal. I’ve just read the first document and will continue to read them all. Again, congratulations and hope you can move on with your life.
This is incredibly sad to read and must have been horrible to live through. I’m so sorry you were directed into this program. I’m glad you are done with it all! Astounding to think any “Free” nation of people would think this is acceptable.
Not that Lisa,
The strongest part of your horrendous ordeal is this:
To you, Just Me, Moby, Sally, ij and bubblebustin here at the Isaac Brock Society website and/or on Jack Townsend’s Federal Tax Crimes Site who have shared your stories and helped and given hope to others, thank you. You have all made valuable contributions in showing your fight paid off — and should not have had to be waged in the first place. Incredible peace to you all.
Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around – Hold on til Change Comes: Joan Baez
Everyone concerned with FBAR penalties should take the time to read 3.6.2 & 3.6.3 of the
FINAL Opt Out Reasonable Cause Arguments – Brilliant approach, absolutely brilliant!
Also shows that IRS, DoS and the government are aware their lack of responsibility concerning notification are a contributing factor to the fact that FBARs have not been filed and that they cannot reasonably apply penalties to people in similar situations to Not That Lisa.
some problems now developing: both Sweden and Norway have created information sessions. Attendance is requested via email. Attendance is recorded at the door. Passports are used for identification.
What kind of information sessions in Norway and Sweden? And how do they get the e-mail addresses to contact people? Can you clarify?
Is it like that session we were told about earlier on IBS?
@nobledreamer – Moby deserves the credit for those arguments. I asked the IRS what they thought of those arguments and the only response I got from the agent was, “Never seen those before.” Now they have been used at least 3 times in 3 successful opt outs – me, Moby and ij (only the Google one for ij). I would not depend on these arguments as main arguments. Your individual behavior in the context of the IRM is what is likely most determining.
yes. These information meetings were arranged in Norway and also in Sweden this winter.
Info went out via the embassy website and also was also spread through some orgs such as DemsRepsAbroad.
In order to attend, the registry by ones own email request is shown and described in those posts. That post talks about how they said they had no need for the list of names, however everyone knows they can’t erase emails.
To go to the sessions required email registration which is why I wouldn’t go to the one in Sweden. Passports checked at the door. (The Stockholm one was done at the embassy the Norway was done in the bottom of the church and the post showed that the ambassador was there in Norway).
Mark, who will be running Sweden and Norway’s information sessions? Wouldn’t it be great if they could be similar to the ones done by and attended in Toronto last Saturday? The real people; the real information on what and how and if and what US Persons in Sweden and Norway will or have experienced.
Here is what bubblebustin did for a bank-sponsored information session in her province of Canada: http://isaacbrocksociety.ca/2013/06/12/americansabroad-living-in-canada-face-looming-irs-tax-deadline/comment-page-1/#comment-393317
@Not that Lisa!
I understand. I was thinking more along the lines of a general criticism of the lack of IRS’ Outreach to expats as reprehensible (really bugs me). Even now, they are letting the press (and us) spread the word for them.
What stands out above all, was your efforts to deal with becoming compliant. You, Moby, ij, Just Me, et al, are the “poster cases” for forcing IRS to end this nonsense against minnows. It is just unbelievable to me, what you have all been through. Sort of makes me feel I have nothing to complain about.
@ Not that Lisa,
I really liked the Google argument. I hadn’t thought of that.
I didn’t use the consulate advice argument either, although I had thought of that and had made sure to permanently document statements on consulate websites. I was saving that for court, if we ever got there. I just made clear that I thought having to go to court to get justice would be unfortunate. After all, huge FBAR penalties on minnows are clearly unconstitutional.
@ Not that Lisa,
I remember once you mentioned on Jack’s blog that as if I were your brother in the ovdi/opt-out struggle, and I thought it was very cool. Funny though, ever since, I thought you were a guy (the brother term does not really apply both way -:). Anyway, glad to hear your news — also glad that I finally know a bit more of you — not a brother but a sister -:)
@Not that Lisa
Absolutely fantastic documentation of your ordeal. I am personally encouraged by the fact that this excruciating experience has ended satisfactorily for you. What a colossal waste of resources and energy.
How has this experience changed you as a person?
@Not that Lisa…
I finally got my log-in working at Jack’s blog and left you a note there, once Jack allows it out of moderation.
My God, do this happens in America?…You can not even trust your tax lawyer at 350.00 an hour?
@Thatisme – $350 was the cost of the rookie association. The Partner cost $700 an hour. I fell into the typical trap used by lawyers of “to save you costs, I will assign my associate to do the work.” Ha! They bill lots more hours as they are learning and it takes them twice as long. They also have consultations with the Partner that both of them charge you for. Even worse in my case, my lawyer did not farm out a lot of the grunt work to accountants. He had the associate lawyer go through every line of dozens of bank accounts for 8 years and ask me questions about almost each transaction when some of them were obviously titled “Electric Co”. What also racked up the bills was the Kovel agreement. The associate sat on the phone while the accountant asked me questions about different statements that mostly arose from translation problems. This was all to protect me (and charge me). I still have no idea of how much time was charged for each email that was sent and what the minimum charge was for any contact, but it is obvious that it was a lot.
@Not that Lisa!
My blood boils when I read how your were gouged by your lawyer. Can you still tax his bill? One of our city’s best lawyers charged us in the neighbourhood of 20K CDN for our joint filing AND those related to my husband’s corporation to enter OVDI.
I should mention that at our behest, our lawyer and his accountant gave us ways we could save money and as a result my husband did our FBAR’s, which were proofed by our accountant.
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@bubblebustin – How has this experience changed me as a person? I prefer to answer the question, “Has this experience changed me as a person?” The answer is yes and no.
No, I am still the same person I was before. None of what has happened can take all the good there is in my life away from me. I decided long ago to treat the $54k in costs associated with this debacle as sunk costs and not focus on that. However, I am wiser now.
Yes, in that I will always have a certain distaste for lawyers.
No, in that thanks to the Taxpayer Advocate Service and my Congresswoman, I see there are a few good things in the US system that work and it keeps me believing that I can affect change for Americans abroad and it makes me want to participate more in this process.
Yes, I am 40 lbs heavier than I was at the start. I learned I was a comfort eater, plus the long nights and days of putting together spreadsheets and just general worry made me want to eat more to keep my energy level up. I gave up time for exercising in order to have time to search the internet and work on my submission and arguing my case.
Yes. I changed temporarily for a period of close to 2 years. Taxes were all I thought about. My friends saw a bit less of me than normal. They understood something unjust was happening to me, but could not fathom what I felt inside. They did not want to be around someone who only saw the world in terms of taxes and tax policy.
No, because these people remained my friends and tried their best to help me move on. I was only able to take what they were offering me once the OVDI ordeal ended.
Yes, in that my naivete about how I am viewed as a US citizen has been destroyed. I now recognize that, in many ways, in terms of US policy, I am a second class citizen and the needs of the minority group I belong to, Americans abroad, are not understood, nor addressed. Much destructive legislation for Americans abroad is allowed to be passed.
Yes, in that I have done things that I never thought I would do. While the policy of catching overseas tax cheats was laudable, I blame those at the top for what happened to many of us. I cannot vote for a manager who cannot manage his managers and I voted Republican for the first time in my life in the last election, although I remain a registered Democrat.
Yes in that I had my first argument with my Swiss godson. He was very upset about how I was going to vote in the last election. He talked to me about voting for someone who recognized people’s civil rights and accepted same sex marriage. When I told him that I wanted to vote for someone who recognized my civil rights and did not push through policies and programs that, because I have a foreign account, automatically classify me as a criminal until I prove myself innocent, he did not understand. I told him that I had to vote my pocketbook as the current policies had hurt me. I offered to help him get a Green Card so that he could see for himself how it is to be Swiss and American at the same time. His mother, who has a thriving IT company and had always been trying to attract me to be a part of it, vetoed that as her accountant had just recently told her to avoid a partnership with Americans. My godson still shakes his head when he sees me, but his mother, due to her accountant’s warning, has become more sympathetic to the plight of being an American abroad.
Yes, in that to manage gathering the OVDI documents, translating, copying, etc., I had to take a less demanding job with a subsequent loss of benefits. However, the loss was small compared to the gain in a reduced stress level and I have come to accept it.
I am sure there are other changes, or non-changes I can find, but these are what first come to mind. The change I am probably most happy about is that I will no longer feel as compelled to talk about taxes all the time.
My life will never go back to what is was before becoming FBAR aware as I stress a lot more around tax time than I did before I knew all the bizarre (punitive) rules for Americans living outside of the US, but there are a lot of good things out there and I intend to spend most of the year focusing on them.
@bubblebustin – I did all my own FBARs, obtained all documents, translated all documents, mailed all documents except the final submission and did all the balance transfer calculations. This was the way my lawyer also told me that I could save money. I think he is probably a great lawyer for big fish intentional tax cheats, but he was not the right lawyer for me. My accountant handles many of his firm’s OVDI cases and has never seen another opt out.
@Not that Lisa…
Regarding ur….”My life will never go back to what is was before becoming FBAR aware as I stress a lot more around tax time than I did before I knew all the bizarre (punitive) rules for Americans living outside of the US”
This reminds me of exactly how I felt, and these years later, still do!
There was a post long ago on ISB, back with the blog started, asking How has this affected you. You might relate to the replies that were posted there.
Now that time has passed, I have gone back to see what I was thinking or reflecting upon at the time. At the time, I was trying to find the silver lining in the dark cloud, I guess you could say. However, as time has moved on, I am sadly more cynical of U.S. Tax policies and it’s inability to do the right thing, except under duress and intervention of the TAS ( a ray of enlightened sanity inside the belly of the beast).
Very Sad, and sadder still, most Homeland Americans , even ex Expats who are now back safely on Homeland shores and have not lived “the change we can believe in”, have NO idea and could care less.
I keep saying, I should just move on, and not spend any more time on blogging, tweeting, or commenting on something Americans are not interested in. I am still puzzling out why I continue and don’t just go hiking instead, and forget it all. Speaking of which, I think I will do just that today, and quit reading. 🙂