IRS Form 8938 tax attorney

Specified Foreign Financial Assets | Form 8938 International Tax Lawyers

Specified Foreign Financial Assets is one of the most important terms in contemporary US international tax law. In this article, I will explore what these Specified Foreign Financial Assets are and why they play such an important role in modern US international tax compliance.

Specified Foreign Financial Assets and FATCA

In order to understand the significance of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets, we must turn to one of the most important US tax laws called Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act or FATCA.

FATCA was signed into law in 2010 and it immediately became the most important development in international taxation since at least 1970s, if not all the way to the end of the Second World War. There are three parts of FATCA that made it such a revolutionary development in international tax law. The first part of FATCA requires all foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to report to the IRS, directly or indirectly, Specified Foreign Financial Assets (be careful, this concept can be modified by a FATCA implementation treaty to include and exclude various foreign assets) owned by US persons. In essence, it meant that the world financial community would now serve as an IRS informer, providing the third-party reporting of financial assets owned by US persons.

In order to enforce this “obligation”, the second part of FATCA imposed a 30% penalty on the gross amount of a transaction whenever the transaction is related to an institution that is not compliant with FATCA. Such a huge penalty was meant to force all FFIs to become FATCA-compliant and, to a large extent, this goal has been attained.

With the third-party reporting secured by the first two parts of FATCA, the third part of FATCA imposed a new reporting requirement, Form 8938, on certain categories of US taxpayers who would fall within the categories of Specified Individuals and (starting 2016) Specified Domestic Entities. FATCA Form 8938 forced these Specified Persons to directly report their Specified Foreign Financial Assets with their US tax returns.

Specified Foreign Financial Assets: General Definition

In general, Specified Foreign Financial Assets include: foreign financial accounts and assets that are held for investment and not held in an account maintained by a financial institution. The concept of “assets held for investment and not held in an account” covers stocks or securities issued by anyone who is not a US person, any interest in a foreign entity, any financial instrument or contract that has an issuer or counterparty that is other than a US person, stock issued by a foreign corporation, an interest in a foreign trust or foreign estate and a capital or profits interest in a foreign partnership.

In other words, definition of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets is so broad that it applies to virtually any financial instrument or security one can imagine as long as one of the counterparties and/or issuers is a foreign person. It also includes pretty much any ownership interest in a foreign business entity as well as a beneficiary interest in a foreign trust. Therefore, it is always prudent to contact an international tax attorney to confirm whether your particular investment is covered by the definition of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets.

Specified Foreign Financial Assets: Additional Non-Exclusive Lists of Assets

Additionally, the instructions to Form 8938 specifically state that Specified Foreign Financial Assets encompass an interest rate swap, currency swap, basis swap, interest rate cap, interest rate floor, commodity swap, equity swap, equity index swap, credit default swap, or similar agreement with a foreign counterparty. Specified Foreign Financial Assets also include a note, bond, debenture, or other form of indebtedness issued by a foreign person. Finally, options and other derivative instructions with a foreign counterparty or issuer are also included in the definition of Specified Foreign Financial Assets.

Specified Foreign Financial Assets: Influence of FATCA Implementation Treaties

Despite the broad general definition of Specified Foreign Financial Assets and despite the “laundry” list of assets specifically identified above, one should always look at a specific FATCA implementation treaty in order to verify whether an asset is considered to fall within the definition of Specified Foreign Financial Assets. In particular, one must have extra care with foreign retirement accounts. During the negotiation of FATCA Implementation Treaties, countries often insisted that particular types of retirement accounts should be excluded from FATCA reporting (the United Kingdom was particularly successful in this respect).

A word of caution: even if an asset is excluded from FATCA reporting, it does not automatically mean that it would also be excluded from FBAR reporting. It is possible to have a financial asset reportable exclusively on FBAR, but not Form 8938.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Reporting of Specified Foreign Financial Assets on Form 8938

If you have any of the Specified Foreign Financial Assets listed above, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. In addition to annual tax compliance, our firm can help you with the offshore voluntary disclosure with respect to any delinquent Forms 8938 which you have not timely filed in any of the prior years.

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FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Reporting | FATCA Lawyers

FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Policy reporting is one of the most obscure US tax requirements with which many US taxpayers fail to comply. In this article, I would like to explore FATCA Form 8938 foreign life insurance policy reporting.

FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Reporting: Types of Foreign Life Insurance Policies

In a previous article, I already described the three main types of foreign life insurance policies: traditional policies, cash-surrender non-investment policies and investment policies. The traditional policies refer to straightforward life insurance policies with no cash-surrender value; in essence, this is the traditional understanding of what a life insurance policy should be – a sum of money paid out at death to a policy beneficiary.

The cash-surrender non-investment policies are foreign life insurance policies that have cash-surrender value which, usually, can be obtained at any point prior to the maturity of the policy. There is usually no income associated with a policy, but this is not always the case. The cash-surrender value grows over time mostly through premiums, automatic increases in value and a system of bonuses.

Finally, the investment policies are foreign life insurance policies with a cash-surrender value which largely depends on the growth in investments which underlie the policy. While there might be a death benefit to the policy, the investment life insurance policies are usually simply investment accounts wrapped into a life insurance format. Assurance Vie policies in France is a typical example of such a foreign life insurance policy.

FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Reporting: What is Form 8938

FATCA Form 8938 is a relatively recent addition to the already large list of the U.S. international tax forms; yet, it is already the most comprehensive form in the IRS arsenal. FATCA Form 8938 was born out of the feared Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and it was first due with the 2011 tax return.

FATCA Form 8938 basically requires the reporting of three types of assets. First, it almost duplicates FBAR with respect to reporting foreign bank and financial accounts (with important exceptions, such as signatory authority accounts); more information with respect to these accounts, however, must be supplied by the reporting taxpayer. Second, FATCA Form 8938 introduces the requirement to disclose the ownership of a whole new class of assets which normally would not be reported on any tax form (e.g. paper stock certificates). These are so-called “Other Specified Foreign Assets”. Finally, FATCA Form 8938 requires the taxpayer to report whether he disclosed any assets on Forms 5471, 8865, 8621, 3520 and 3520-A.

FATCA Form 8938 has its own set of independent penalties associated with Form 8938 noncompliance.

FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Policy Reporting Requirements

FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Policy reporting is very similar to the FBAR Foreign Life Insurance Policy reporting. In general, the traditional life insurance policies with no cash-surrender values are ordinarily not reportable (although, there are exceptions). On the other hand, cash-surrender non-investment policies and investment policies should be reported on FATCA Form 8938.

This is just the general guidance. The determination of whether your specific foreign life insurance policies should be reported on FATCA From 8938 must be left to an international tax attorney; I strongly discourage any attempt by US taxpayers to make this determination without professional legal assistance.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Policy Reporting

You should contact the experienced international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office for any legal help with your FATCA Form 8938 Foreign Life Insurance Policy reporting. Foreign life insurance policies can be extremely complex and the US reporting requirements associated with them vary from country to country. Sherayzen Law Office has accumulated tremendous experience in dealing with foreign life insurance policies from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Europe and Asia.

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Application of Offshore Penalty to Business Ownership Interests

In another essay, I previously discussed the possible inclusion of the business ownership interests in the calculation of the OVDP (2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) Offshore Penalty.  In this article, I would like to explore in more depth the application of the Offshore Penalty to ownership of business interests.

OVDP Offshore Penalty

It is a requirement of the OVDP that the taxpayers who enter the program pay the Offshore Penalty. This penalty is imposed in lieu of all other penalties that may apply to the taxpayer’s undisclosed foreign assets and entities, including FBAR and offshore-related information return penalties and tax liabilities for years prior to the voluntary disclosure period. The default penalty rate is 27.5% (in limited cases, the penalty is reduced to 12.5% or 5%) of the highest aggregate balance in foreign bank accounts/entities or value of foreign assets during the period covered by the voluntary disclosure.

The Offshore Penalty calculation includes business ownership interests related to tax noncompliance. Tax noncompliance includes failure to report income from the assets, as well as failure to pay U.S. tax that was due with respect to the funds used to acquire the asset.

Business Ownership Interests Are Included in the Offshore Penalty; Limited Exceptions

As I previously discussed, the Offshore Penalty is much broader than simply the FBAR penalty. Among other items, the Offshore Penalty encompasses ownership interest in businesses related to income tax non-compliance or acquired by tainted funds (i.e. funds that were subject to U.S. tax but on which no such tax was paid; the definition also includes funds derived from illegal sources such as criminal and terrorist activities).

There are exceptions to this rule, however. Two most prominent exceptions deserve to be emphasized here. First, where a business interest was not obtained by tainted funds and there are no under-reported U.S. tax liabilities, the taxpayer is likely to be able to exclude the business interest from the Offshore Penalty.

Second, the OVDP rules carve out a limited exception for U.S. taxpayers who are foreign residents and quality for the third category of 5% penalty rate. For these taxpayers only, the IRS stated that the offshore penalty will not apply to non-financial assets, such as real property, business interests, or artworks, purchased with funds for which the taxpayer can establish that all applicable taxes have been paid, either in the U.S. or in the country of residence. This exception only applies if the income tax returns filed with the foreign tax authority included the offshore-related taxable income that was not reported on the U.S. tax return.

Obviously, the determination of whether either of these two exceptions (or any other exception) applies in your individual case should only be determined by an international tax attorney experienced in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures.

Major Types of Business Ownership Interests Covered by the Offshore Penalty

The biggest category of business ownership interests covered by the Offshore Penalty includes ownership of foreign entities for which information returns, such as Forms 5471, 8865, 8858, 926 and so on, should have been filed by the non-compliant taxpayer. Most often, this category includes ownership of closely-held foreign corporation, interest in the controlled foreign partnership and contribution of property to a foreign corporation.

Notice that, even if the business entity controlled by the taxpayer is not itself tax non-compliant, but it holds the assets which are non-compliant (usually because they were purchased by using tainted funds), the entire ownership interest in the business entity may be exposed to the Offshore Penalty.

Another type of business interest that is often subject to Offshore Penalty involves business entities that are virtually indistinguishable from its owners. In situations where a business entity is an alter ego or nominee of the taxpayer, the IRS may determine that the Offshore Penalty should be applied to the underlying assets of the entity.

The most spectacular reach of the OVDP, however, is the possibility of involving domestic entities. In spite of having “Offshore” in its name, the Offshore Penalty can actually apply to ownership of U.S. businesses acquired with tainted funds. This is a critically-important consideration for non-compliant U.S. taxpayers who repatriated tainted funds back to the United States and invested them into U.S. businesses.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Voluntary Disclosure of Offshore and Domestic Business Ownership Interests

Sherayzen Law Office can help you with the disclosure of any of your foreign assets, including Offshore and Domestic business ownership interests. Our international tax law firm is highly experienced in conducting offshore voluntary disclosures of business interests. We will thoroughly analyze your case, assess your tax liability as well as the liability that you would face under the OVDP, determine the available disclosure options and implement the disclosure strategy (including preparation of all legal and tax documents as well as IRS representation).

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IRS Form 8938 and Revised Form 8621 Filing Requirements Under Notice 2011-55

The IRS recently released Notice 2011-55, partially suspending certain Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) information reporting requirements until Form 8938, (Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets), and a revised Form 8621, (Return by a Shareholder of a Passive Foreign Investment Company or a Qualified Electing Fund) are released.

It is important to note that while the reporting requirements of Forms 8938 and revised Form 8621 have been partially suspended, they have not been excused for taxpayers. Thus, taxpayers should be aware that until the new forms are issued, tax preparation may be necessary in order to be in compliance and avoid severe penalties.

FATCA Reporting Requirements

Congress enacted the FATCA as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (“HIRE” Act). Included in FATCA is the additional information reporting requirements of IRC Sections 6038(D) and 1298(f).

Under 6038(D), taxpayers who hold more than $50,000 in the aggregate in any financial account maintained by a foreign financial institution, or in any foreign stock, interest in a foreign entity (including a foreign trust, or financial instrument with a foreign counterpart that is not held in a custodial account of a financial institution) are subject to file a Form 8938 with their annual return.

IRC Code Section 1298(f) requires a U.S. person who is a shareholder in a passive foreign investment company (“PFIC”) to file an annual report, Form 8621. Notice 2011-55 states that the IRS will be issuing a revised Form 8621. Once the revised form is issued, individuals must retroactively file the revised Form 8621 for tax years beginning after the date of the HIRE Act (March 18, 2010).

The IRS is planning on also issuing further regulations regarding these reporting requirements.

Notice 2011-55

IRS Notice 2011-55 provides that the IRC 6038D Form 8938 reporting requirements are suspended until the form is released. Additionally, as noted above, for U.S. shareholders of PFIC’s who were not previously required to file Form 8621 under the current requirements before the enactment of Section 1298(f), reporting requirements are suspended (but not excused) until the revised Form 8621 is released. Taxpayers who are already required to file Form 8621 under the current instructions must continue to file the form.

When the IRS issues the revised forms, taxpayers who must file will be required to attach the appropriate forms to their next information return or tax return, completed for the suspended tax year. Failure to file (or to properly file) Form 8938 and/or Form 8621 for the suspended tax year may result in the extension of the statute of limitations under section 6501(c)(8), and penalties may also be applied.

A Form 8938 or revised Form 8621 filed for a suspended tax year with a timely filed information or tax return will generally be treated as having been filed in the date that the income tax or information return for the suspended tax year was filed.

Subject to certain exceptions, the statute of limitations for assessment of tax will not expire until three years after Form 8938 and/or revised Form 8621 is received by the IRS.

FBAR Requirements Not Affected

The IRS stated in Notice 2011-55 that the filing requirements of FinCEN Form 114 formerly Form TD F 90-22.1 (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts; “FBAR”) are not suspended under the notice.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office NOW For Experienced Legal Help

This article is intended to give a brief summary of these issues, and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Tax planning and reporting often necessitates an experienced understanding of complex regulations, statutes, and case law, and penalties for failure to comply can be substantial. If you have further questions regarding your own tax circumstances, Sherayzen Law Office offers professional advice for all of your Federal, international, cross-border, and state tax needs. Call now at (612) 790-7024 for a consultation today.