Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts FINCEN Form 114

FBAR Penalties

In this essay, I would like to discuss some of the penalties that may be imposed as a result of the failure to file the FBAR even though you were required to do so. In particular, I will focus on three general scenarios describing specific penalties commonly attributed to each of them. The first scenario is where you willfully failed to file the FBAR, or destroyed or otherwise failed to maintain proper records of account, and the IRS learned about it when it launched an investigation. This is the worst type of scenario which carries substantial penalties. The IRS may impose civil penalties of up to the greater of $100,000, or 50 percent of the value of the account at the time of the violation, as well as criminal penalties of up to $500,000, or 10 years of imprisonment, or both.

Another scenario is where you negligently and non-willfully failed to file the FBAR, and the IRS learned about it during an investigation. Unlike the first scenario, there are no criminal penalties for non-willful failure to file the FBAR; only civil penalties of up to $10,000 per each violation (unless there is a pattern of negligence which carries additional civil penalties of no more than $50,000 per any violation). In this situation, you are likely to fare much better, and you may even be able to obtain lower penalties by showing of reasonable cause for the failure to file.

The third scenario is where you non-willfully fail to file the FBAR, accidentally discover your mistake, and come to an attorney to file a delinquent FBAR before the IRS commences its investigation of your finances. This is the most favorable of all scenarios due to the fact that you may qualify for the benefits of a voluntary disclosure program, despite the fact that the position of the IRS regarding civil penalties for voluntarily filed but delinquent FBARs is uncertain following the October 15, 2009 voluntary disclosure deadline. The best strategy for addressing delinquent FBARs, however, varies depending on the facts and circumstances of the particular case.

A word of caution: this discussion focuses solely on the penalties associated with the failure to file the FBAR. This essay does not address the various strategies that may be employed in dealing with the delinquent FBAR filings in the post-October 15, 2009 world, including qualification for the voluntary disclosure program. In certain situations, there may also be other relevant significant tax issues outside of the FBAR realm – the most important of which is non-payment of taxes on undisclosed income by the U.S. taxpayers – which may significantly alter the amount of penalties, interest, and taxes due to the IRS.

FBAR: Aggregate Value Requirement

FBAR filing is required only if the aggregate balances of a U.S. person’s foreign financial accounts exceed $10,000.

Despite appearances, the requirement that the aggregate value of all of the foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during a calendar year is not without complications. In order to figure out the account value in a calendar year, one needs to look first at the largest amount of currency and/or monetary instruments that appear on any quarterly or more frequently issued account statement for the relevant year. If the financial institution which manages the account does not issue any periodic account statements, then the maximum account value is the largest amount of currency and/or monetary instruments in the account at any time during the applicable year. If the account consists of stocks or other non-monetary assets, then one only needs to consider fair market value at the end of the relevant year. If, however, the non-monetary assets were withdrawn before the end of the calendar year, then the account value is determined to be the fair market value of the withdrawn assets at the time of the withdrawal.

The maximum value of a foreign financial account must be reported in U.S. dollars on the FBAR. Therefore, a taxpayer needs to convert foreign currency into the corresponding amount of U.S. dollars using the official exchange rate at the end of the relevant calendar year.

A final word of caution on the topic of the account balance. Notice the word “aggregate” – it means that the balances of all of the filer’s foreign financial accounts should be tallied to determine whether the $10,000 threshold is exceeded. For example, if the filer has one foreign bank account of $6,000 and another of $5,000, then he still needs to file the FBAR with the DOT, because the aggregate value of both accounts exceeds the required $10,000.

Deciding whether you are required to file the FBAR is a complicated process. Sherayzen Law Office can help you!

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FBAR (Report on Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) is due on June 30, 2010

Pursuant to the Bank Secrecy Act, 31 U.S.C. §5311 et seq., the Department of Treasury (the “DOT”) has established certain recordkeeping and filing requirements for United States persons with financial interests in or signature authority (and other comparable authority) over financial accounts maintained with financial institutions in foreign countries. If the aggregate balances of such foreign accounts exceed $10,000 at any time during the relevant year, FinCEN Form 114 formerly Form TD F 90-22.1 (the FBAR) must be filed with the DOT.

The FBAR must be filed by June 30 of each relevant year, including this year (2010).