Posts

2018 FBAR Civil Penalties | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Following the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, the FBAR civil penalties are adjusted every year by the IRS for inflation. In this brief article, I would like to describe the new 2018 FBAR Civil Penalties that may be assessed by the IRS with respect to FBAR noncompliance.

2018 FBAR Civil Penalties: Pre-2016 FBAR Penalty System

The FBAR penalty system was already complex prior to the FBAR penalty inflation adjustment. It consisted of three different levels of penalties with various levels of mitigation. The highest level of penalties consisted of criminal penalties. The most dreadful penalty was imposed for the willful failure to file FBAR or retain records of a foreign account while also violating certain other laws – up to $500,000 or 10 years in prison or both.

The next level consisted of civil penalties imposed for a willful failure to file an FBAR – up to $100,000 or 50% of the highest balance of an account, whichever is greater, per violation per year.

The third level of penalties were imposed for the non-willful failure to file an FBAR. The penalties were up to $10,000 per violation per year. It is also important to point out that the subsequent laws and IRS guidance imposed certain limitations on the application of the non-willful FBAR penalties.

Finally, there were also penalties imposed solely on businesses for negligent failure to file an FBAR. These penalties were up to $500 per violation; if, however, there was a pattern of negligence, the negligence penalties could increase ten times up to $50,000 per violation.

2018 FBAR Civil Penalties: Penalty Adjustment System

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 further complicated the already complex FBAR penalty system, including for 2018 FBAR civil penalties.

As a result of the Act, with respect to post-November 2, 2015 violations, the exact amount of penalties will depend on the timing of the IRS penalty assessment, not when the FBAR violation actually occurred.

For example, in 2017, the IRS announced that if the IRS penalty assessment was made after August 1, 2016 but prior to January 16, 2017, then the maximum non-willful FBAR penalty per violation would be $12,459 and the maximum willful FBAR penalty per violation would be the greater of $124,588 or 50% of the highest balance of the account.

Similarly, if the penalty was assessed after January 15, 2017, the maximum non-willful FBAR penalty would increase to $12,663 per violation and the maximum civil willful FBAR penalty would be the greater of $126,626 or 50% of the highest balance of the account.

Now, in 2018, post-January 15, 2017 FBAR penalties are adjusted higher.

2018 FBAR Civil Penalties: 2018 Inflation Adjustment

The new 2018 FBAR civil penalties for FBAR violations have increased as a result of inflation. If a penalty was assessed after January 15, 2017, the maximum 2018 FBAR civil penalties for a non-willful violation increased from $12,663 to $12,921. Similarly, the maximum 2018 FBAR civil penalties for a willful violation assessed after January 15, 2017 increased from $126,626 to $129,210.

It should be emphasized that the IRS currently interprets the term “violation” as a failure to report an account on an FBAR. In other words, these higher 2018 FBAR civil penalties can be assessed on a per-account basis.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with 2018 FBAR Civil Penalties

If you have not filed your FBAR and you want to do a voluntary disclosure; if you are being audited by the IRS with the possibility of the imposition of FBAR penalties; or FBAR penalties have already been assessed and you believe that they are too high, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help.

Sherayzen Law Office has helped hundreds of US taxpayers to deal with their FBAR penalties on all levels: offshore voluntary disclosure, FBAR Audit pre-assessment, post-audit FBAR penalty assessment and FBAR litigation in a federal court. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2018 FBAR Criminal Penalties | FBAR Lawyer & Attorney

2018 FBAR criminal penalties should be on the mind of any US taxpayer who willfully failed to file his FBARs or knowingly filed a false FBAR. In this essay, I would like to do an overview of the 2018 FBAR criminal penalties that these noncompliant US taxpayers may have to face.

2018 FBAR Criminal Penalties: Background Information

A lot of US taxpayers do not understand why the 2018 FBAR criminal penalties are so shockingly high. These taxpayers question why failing to file a form that has nothing do with income tax calculation should potentially result in a jail sentence.

The answer to this questions lies in the legislative history of FBAR. First of all, it is important to understand that FBAR is not a tax form. The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”) was born in 1970 out of the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”), in particular 31 U.S.C. §5314. This means that the initial primary purpose of the form was to fight financial crimes, money laundering and terrorism. In other words, FBAR was not created as a tool against tax evasion.

Hence, the FBAR penalties were structured from the very beginning for the purpose of punishing criminals engaged in financial crimes and/or terrorism. This is why the FBAR penalties are so severe and easily surpass the penalties of any tax form.

It was only 30 years later, after the enaction of The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (the “USA Patriot Act”), that the enforcement of FBAR was turned over to the IRS. The IRS almost immediately commenced using FBAR to fight the tax evasion schemes that utilized offshore accounts.

The Congress liked the IRS initiative and responded with the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (“2004 Jobs Act”). The 2004 Jobs Act further increased the FBAR penalties, including the creation of the non-willful penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.

2018 FBAR Criminal Penalties: Description

Now that we understand why the 2018 FBAR criminal penalties are so severe, let’s describe what they penalties actually look like. There are three different 2018 FBAR criminal penalties associated with different FBAR violations.

The first criminal penalty may be imposed under 26 U.S.C. 5322(a) and 31 C.F.R. § 103.59(b) for willful failure to file FBAR or retain records of a foreign account. The penalty is up to $250,000 or 5 years in prison or both.

When the willful failure to file FBAR is combined with a violation of other US laws or the failure to file FBAR is “part of a pattern of any illegal activity involving more than $100,000 in a 12-month period”, then the IRS has the option of imposing a criminal penalty under 26 U.S.C. 5322(b) and 31 C.F.R. § 103.59(c). In this case, the penalty jumps to incredible $500,000 or 10 years in prison or both.

Finally, if a person willingly and knowingly files a false, fictitious or fraudulent FBAR, he is subject to the penalty under 31 C.F.R. § 103.59(d). The penalty in this case may be $10,000 or 5 years or both.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Past FBAR Violations

If you were required to file an FBAR but you have not done it, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore your voluntary disclosure options. Our international tax law firm specializes in FBAR compliance and we have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws while reducing and, in some cases, eliminating their FBAR penalties.

We can help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Happy New Year 2018 From Sherayzen Law Office

Our team at Sherayzen Law Office wishes a very Happy New Year 2018 to our clients; colleagues at other law firms; judges of state and federal courts; our website blog readers; and our followers on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media.

Year 2017 was another highly successful year at Sherayzen Law Office. Our tremendous expertise and experience in US international tax law draws an ever-increasing number of clients from all over the world. We have expanded our client base at existing countries and added clients from new countries, bringing the total number of countries with our client assets to close to seventy. Additionally, we were asked to defend a case in federal court concerning FBAR penalties, successfully advised on expatriation cases and finalized a number of existing and new tax planning cases.

Our biggest success area, however, remains Offshore Voluntary Disclosures with the new highs for Form 3520, 5471 and 926 voluntary disclosures as well as FBAR/FATCA voluntary disclosures. FATCA-based cases were especially prolific with a significant variation in fact patterns and countries.

Furthermore, we have made an unprecedented effort to educate our clients as well as the general public about US international tax law. A combined record number of video posts and website blog posts were made available online. Additionally, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, the owner and the principal attorney of Sherayzen Law Office, spoke at a large number of seminars in 2017, including outside of the United States.

In many ways, year 2017 was also a preparatory year for the new year 2018. We are closely following the rapid changes in US international tax law. The main changes are coming, of course, from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The changes are enormous and will affect virtually every US taxpayer – both, individuals and businesses. We already started a series of articles on this topic. Please, continue to follow our blog in the new year 2018 to learn more about how the Act’s provisions may affect your tax situation.

It is also important to emphasize that, while the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will introduce the main changes in the new year 2018, some of its provisions are very relevant for the tax year 2017. In particular, the new income recognition rules for US Shareholders of foreign corporations (PFIC corporations are exempted from this provision) may impose a significant and unexpected tax burden on US taxpayers. Please, continue to follow our blog in the new year 2018 to learn more about these changes.

Equally important are the new IRS regulations that will be coming in the new year 2018. The IRS has announced that it intends to issue regulations that will target certain obscure areas of tax law which remain unregulated by the IRS or where the regulations are contradictory. In this context, it is particularly important to mention the interaction of PFIC rules with the Throwback Rule concerning distributions of a foreign trust’s UNI.

Finally, the IRS has also stated that it would announce sometime in the new year 2018 dramatic changes to Offshore Voluntary Disclosure options that exist right now. We have written a number articles on this topic and we have warned our readers that the current favorable environment may change dramatically with a potentially complete closure of the IRS OVDP program.

Sherayzen Law Office is a highly experienced law firm with a unique expertise in US international tax law. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring and maintain their US tax affairs in full compliance with US tax laws while ethically and effectively reducing their penalties and tax burden. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FBAR PFIC Reporting | FBAR Tax Attorney

FBAR PFIC Reporting is an important issue for U.S. shareholders of passive foreign investment companies (“PFICs”). I will now briefly explore the FBAR PFIC Reporting requirement and when it applies to U.S. shareholders of a PFIC.

FBAR PFIC Reporting: FBAR Background

FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, commonly known as FBAR, originally came into existence as a result of the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act. FBAR is one of the main and arguably the most important international tax requirement in the IRS. The form must be filed by every U.S. tax resident who has foreign financial accounts the aggregate value of which exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. The aggregate value should be calculated based on all foreign bank and financial accounts in which this U.S. tax resident has financial interest or over which he has signatory or other authority.

Failure to file an FBAR may result in the imposition of draconian FBAR penalties, including criminal penalties in grave cases of willful noncompliance.

FBAR PFIC Reporting: PFIC Definition

PFIC (Passive Foreign Investment Company) is one of the most complex tax requirements of the U.S. tax system. In addition to the potentially tremendously burdensome tax compliance required for PFICs, PFICs may result in the imposition of a much higher income tax with PFIC interest on the PFIC tax.

The basic definition of a PFIC is any foreign corporation in which: “(1) 75 percent or more of the gross income of such corporation for the taxable year is passive income, or (2) the average percentage of assets (as determined in accordance with subsection (e)) held by such corporation during the taxable year which produce passive income or which are held for the production of passive income is at least 50 percent.” IRC Section 1297(a). While many types of companies may unexpectedly be classified as PFICs by the IRS, foreign mutual funds seem to be the most common trap for the unwary U.S. taxpayers.

If a U.S. taxpayer has PFICs, he/she is required to file a separate Form 8621 “Information Return by a Shareholder of a Passive Foreign Investment Company or Qualified Electing Fund” for each PFIC.

FBAR PFIC Reporting: Three Potential FBAR Requirements

There are three most common situations when an FBAR should be filed for a PFIC, assuming the statutory aggregate threshold of $10,000 is satisfied. First, FBAR PFIC reporting is required if a PFIC is held in a financial account; in this case, FBAR PFIC reporting will occur for the account itself (which, in India especially, may correspond to the folio number of a PFIC in any case). For example, if a U.S. person has an Assurance Vie account in France that contains PFICs, he would have to report the Assurance Vie account on the FBAR, including the value of the PFICs.

Second, FBAR PFIC reporting is required if a PFIC shareholder has signature authority over foreign financial accounts owned by a PFIC. In this case, FBAR PFIC reporting will occur for these foreign financial accounts in Section IV of the FBAR.

Finally, the third most common situation where FBAR PFIC reporting is required is a scenario where a U.S. person owns more than 50% of a PFIC and this PFIC has foreign financial accounts. In such case, the U.S. person is assumed to have a financial interest in the foreign financial accounts of this PFIC and he needs to disclose these accounts on his FBAR.

FBAR PFIC Reporting: Filing Form 8621 does NOT Satisfy the FBAR Filing Requirement

It is important to emphasize that filing form 8621 for a PFIC does not relieve the filer from his FBAR obligations. Even if Form 8621 is filed, the filer must also file the FBAR.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with FBAR PFIC Reporting

FBAR PFIC reporting can be extremely complex and it is very easy to make mistakes with respect to what needs to be disclosed and how. These mistakes, however, can be expensive to remedy and may result in imposition of various large penalties.

This is why, if you have PFICs that require FBAR and Form 8621 disclosure, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our team of experienced tax professionals will help you properly disclose your PFICs on your FBAR and report your PFIC income on your personal or business tax returns. If you have not complied with your FBAR PFIC reporting requirement in the past and wish to remedy this situation, Sherayzen Law Office will also help you with the voluntary disclosure of your FBARs and PFICs, including the preparation of all necessary tax forms and legal documents.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!