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2017 FBAR Deadline | FinCEN Form 114 FBAR Lawyer & Attorney

FinCEN recently confirmed the 2017 FBAR deadline and the automatic extension option.

2017 FBAR Deadline: FBAR Background

FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, is commonly known as FBAR.  US taxpayers should use this form to report their financial interest in or signatory authority over foreign financial accounts. Failure to timely file the FBAR may result in the imposition of draconian FBAR penalties.

2017 FBAR Deadline: Traditional FBAR Deadline

Prior to 2016 FBAR, the taxpayers had to file their FBARs for each relevant calendar year by June 30 of the following year. No filings extensions were allowed. The last FBAR that followed this deadline was 2015 FBAR (its due date was June 30, 2016).

2017 FBAR Deadline: Changes to FBAR Deadline Starting 2016 FBAR

The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 (the “Act”) changed the FBAR deadline starting with 2016 FBAR.  Section 2006(b)(11) of the Act requires the FBARs to be filed by the due date of that year’s tax return (i.e. usually April 15), not June 30.

Furthermore, during the transition period, the IRS granted to US taxpayers an automatic extension of the FBAR filing deadline to October 15. The taxpayers do not need to make any specific requests in order for extension to be granted.

In other words, starting 2016 FBAR, the Act adjusted the FBAR due date to coincide with the federal income tax filing deadlines. Moreover, the new FBAR filing deadline will follow to the letter the federal income tax due date guidance. The federal income tax due date guidance states that, in situations where the tax return due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the IRS must delay the due date until the next business day.

2017 FBAR Deadline

Based on the new law, the 2017 FBAR deadline will be April 17, 2018 (same as 2017 income tax return due date). If a taxpayer does not file his 2017 FBAR by April 17, 2018, then the IRS will automatically grant an extension until October 15, 2018. Failure to file 2017 FBAR by October 15, 2018, may result in the imposition of FBAR civil and criminal penalties.

US Taxpayers’ Nightmare Continues: FBAR Penalty Inflation Adjustment

As if the FBAR penalties were not frightening enough, the Congress has mandated the IRS to adjust the FBAR penalties to account for inflation. As a result, the already complicated and severe system of FBAR penalties became even more complex and ruthless. In this article, I would like provide a general overview of the FBAR penalty inflation adjustment and what it means for noncompliant US taxpayers.

FBAR Penalty Inflation Adjustment: The “Old” FBAR Penalty System

The FBAR penalty system was already complex prior to the 2015 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 the willful failure to file an FBAR – up to $100,000 or 50% of the highest balance of an account, whichever is greater, per violation. It is important to emphasize that the IRS has unilaterally interpreted the word “violation” to mean that a penalty should be imposed on each account per year, potentially going back six years (the FBAR statute of limitations is six years).

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.

FBAR Penalty Inflation Adjustment: Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015

Apparently, the Congress did not believe that these FBAR penalties were sufficiently horrific. Hence, it enacted a law awkwardly named Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (“2015 Inflation Adjustment Act”) to “improve the effectiveness of civil monetary penalties and to maintain their deterrent effect.”

The 2015 Inflation Adjustment Act required federal agencies to do two things: (1) adjust the amounts of civil monetary penalties with an initial “catch-up” adjustment; and (2) make subsequent annual adjustments for inflation. It is important to note that only civil penalties, not criminal, were subject to the inflation adjustment.

While the annual adjustment requirement is fairly clear, the “catch-up” adjustment requires a bit more explanation. In essence, the catch-up adjustment requires a federal agency to adjust the penalty (as it was last originally established by an act of Congress) for inflation from the time of establishment through roughly the November of 2015. In other words, a penalty would be adjusted in one year for all of the inflation that accumulated between the time the statutory penalty was created and the time the 2015 Inflation Adjustment Act was enacted. The adjustment was limited to 2.5 times of the original penalty.

The end result of the penalty adjustment was a massive increase in federal penalties in 2016. For example, one OSHA penalty went up from $70,000 to $124,709.

New System under the FBAR Penalty Inflation Adjustment

Luckily, the FBAR penalties were last revisited by Congress in 2004 and the increase in FBAR penalties, while very large (about 25%), was not as dramatic as some of the other federal penalties. Nevertheless, the FBAR penalty inflation adjustment further complicated the multi-layered system of FBAR penalties.

The key complication came from the fact that the FBAR penalty became dependent on the timing of the IRS penalty assessment, bifurcating the already existing FBAR penalty system (that was broadly described above) into two distinct parts: pre-November 2, 2015 and post-November 2, 2015.

If an FBAR violation occurred on or before November 2, 2015, the old FBAR penalty system applies. This is also true even if the actual IRS assessment of the FBAR penalties for the violation occurred after this date. In other words, the last FBAR violation definitely eligible for the old statutory penalties is the one concerning 2014 FBAR which was due on June 30, 2015. Obviously, FBARs for prior years are also eligible for the same treatment.

If an FBAR violation occurred after November 2, 2015 and the FBAR penalty would be assessed after August 1, 2016, the new system of penalties (i.e. the one after the FBAR penalty inflation adjustment) applies. In other words, all FBAR violations starting 2015 FBAR (which was due on June 30, 2016) are subject to the ever-increasing FBAR civil penalties.

With respect to these 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, if the IRS penalty assessment was made after August 1, 2016 but prior to January 15, 2017, then maximum non-willful FBAR penalty per violation will be $12,459 and the maximum willful FBAR penalty per violation will be the greater of $124,588 or 50% of the highest balance of the account.

If, however, the penalty was assessed after January 15, 2017 but prior to January 15, 2018, the maximum non-willful FBAR penalty will increase to $12,663 per violation and the maximum civil willful FBAR penalty will be the greater of $126,626 or 50% of the highest balance of the account.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with Avoiding or Reducing Your FBAR Penalties

Whether you have undisclosed foreign accounts on which the FBAR penalties have not yet been imposed or the IRS has already imposed FBAR penalties for your prior FBAR noncompliance, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to secure professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to reduce and, under certain circumstances, completely eliminate FBAR penalties through properly made voluntary disclosures. We have also helped US taxpayers to fight the already imposed FBAR penalties through appeals to the IRS Office of Appeals as well as in a federal court.

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

FBAR Third-Party Verification and FATCA | FBAR Tax Lawyer Denver

There is an interesting relationship between the FBAR Third-Party Verification problem and the enaction of FATCA that I would like to explore in this brief article.

Lack of FBAR Third-Party Verification

FBAR is undoubtedly one of the most important information returns administered by the IRS. It is the reigning king with respect to reporting of foreign financial accounts. Its requirements are broad and easy to violate. Its penalty system is unmatched in severity by any form created pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code making FBAR also one of the most effective tax enforcement tools in the IRS enforced tax compliance arsenal.

Yet, as an information return (as opposed to a tax enforcement mechanism), FBAR suffers from a very important defect that has limited its use with respect to collection of information – there is no FBAR Third-Party Verification. In other words, no third parties (such as banks and other financial institutions) are required to submit any data to the IRS so that the IRS can verify the information provided on the filed FBARs.

The fact that there is no FBAR Third-Party Verification stands in stark contract with most other reports required by the Bank Secrecy Act (which created the FBAR). CTRs, CTRCs and Forms 8300 all require banks, casinos and specified businesses to verify the data submitted on these reports. This makes the FBAR the only self-reporting information return with no third-party verification.

Without the FBAR Third-Party Verification, there is no direct way for the IRS to determine whether the information submitted on FBARs is correct. Of course, the IRS can verify the information in an indirect way (such as a treaty request during an investigation of a particular individual or if the information was shared by a financial institution pursuant for some specific reason), but it can only be done with respect to specific taxpayers with significant allocation of resources to each case.

FATCA As a Way to Correct the Lack of FBAR Third-Party Verification

While the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) was not specifically tied to the problems with FBAR, the lack of FBAR Third-Party Verification provided an additional incentive for the enaction of FATCA.

As explained above, the IRS needed to somehow resolve the FBAR problems and find a way to standardize the verification of the foreign account information so that it could be applicable to all US taxpayers. FATCA became the most effective solution. On the one hand, FATCA forced all taxpayers with specified foreign assets to file Forms 8938 with their tax returns, while, on the other hand, it required all foreign financial institutions to verity this data through submission of FATCA-related information on an annual basis.

In other words, FATCA solved the FBAR Third-Party Verification problem. From 2011 on, the IRS acquired valuable tools to fill-in the information gaps left by FBAR. Furthermore, the information collected through FATCA may now be used by the IRS to verify the FBAR information and pursue noncompliant taxpayers for FBAR violations based on the FBAR draconian penalty system.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with US Tax Compliance Concerning Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign bank and financial accounts, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Through FATCA third-party information verification, noncompliant US taxpayers are now at a historically-high risk of detection by the IRS. If this happens, they may be subject to extremely high FBAR penalties, including criminal penalties.

Sherayzen Law Office can help you! We have successfully resolved hundreds of FBAR noncompliance cases for US taxpayers residing all over the world. Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FBAR Legislative History | FBAR Tax Attorney Minneapolis

Exploring the FBAR legislative history is not just a theoretical adventure which should interest only legal scholars. Rather, the FBAR legislative history allows us to understand the theoretical and historical basis for the high FBAR penalties and the legal arguments that may serve best to combat the imposition of these severe penalties.

FBAR Legislative History: The Bank Records and Foreign Transactions Act and the Bank Secrecy Act

The obligation to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) originated from the Bank Records and Foreign Transactions Act, which, together with subsequent amendments, is commonly known as the Bank Secrecy Act.

The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) was first enacted in 1970. The BSA created various financial reporting obligations to identify and collect evidence against money laundering, tax evasion and other criminal activities. One of these reporting obligations is U.S. Code Title 31, Section 5314 which directly discusses what became known as the FBAR.

31 U.S.C. §5314 requires a U.S. person to file reports and keep records regarding this person’s foreign financial accounts maintained with a foreign financial institution: “the Secretary of the Treasury shall require a resident or citizen of the United States or a person in, and doing business in, the United States, to keep records, file reports, or keep records and file reports, when the resident, citizen, or person makes a transaction or maintains a relation for any person with a foreign financial agency.” The statute identifies the basic information required to be reported on FBAR and authorizes the U.S. Department of Treasury to prescribe the requirements, including identifying the classes of persons who should file FBARs and the threshold amount triggering this reporting requirement.

FBAR Legislative History Prior to 2001

Prior to 2001, the FBAR legislative history does not reflect any major changes. In fact, the most important development in the FBAR legislative history prior to 2001 came not from Congress, but from the United States Supreme Court.

Prior to 2001, the BSA required that, in order to impose civil and criminal FBAR penalties, the U.S. government had to prove willful failure to file an FBAR. Here is where the Supreme Court made its decisive contribution in Ratzlaf v. United States, 510 U.S. 135, 149 (1994). In that case, the Court established the willfulness standard as a “voluntary, international violation of a known legal duty”. The Court further held that merely structuring a transaction to avoid the applicability of the BSA did not constitute willfulness.

In other words, after 1994, the DOJ (the U.S. department of Justice) had to show that the defendant structured the transactions with knowledge that such structuring was in itself unlawful. Such a high standard was difficult to satisfy and the FBAR-related indictments became relatively rare.

FBAR Legislative History After 2001

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, resulted in significant changes in the FBAR legislative history which propelled the FBAR to its current prominence. Let’s focus on three such changes.

1. USA PATRIOT Act

The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (“USA PATRIOT Act”) charged the U.S. Treasury Department with improving FBAR enforcement, particularly with respect to illegal offshore banking activities. The USA PATRIOT Act reflected the Congress’s findings that terrorist funding was successfully concealed through offshore banking activities which provided secrecy and anonymity of the parties involved. It is worth noting that the focus of the USA PATRIOT Act was still on the money-laundering and terrorist activities, not tax enforcement.

The USA PATRIOT Act further required the Treasury Department to submit recommendations to improve FBAR policies and procedures.

2. Treasury Reports and the Delegation of FBAR Enforcement to the IRS

In response to the Congress’ request, the Treasury Department released three reports between 2002 and 2004. The importance of these reports lies in the evolution of the FBAR role from the original purpose of fighting terrorism to international tax compliance.

The first report was released in 2002 complained that, due to the small probability of imposition of civil penalties and limited FBAR filing guidance, compliance with the FBAR was lower than 20% (in retrospect, this was still a very generous assessment because FBAR compliance was, in reality, much lower). Therefore, the Treasury Department outlined a number of objectives to improve FBAR policies and procedures, such as improving forms, enhancing outreach and strengthening enforcement.

Most importantly, for the first time, the Treasury Department suggested delegating the enforcement of civil FBAR penalties from FinCEN to the IRS. While nothing yet expressly suggested in the FBAR legislative history that FBAR should be used for tax enforcement, it is difficult to interpret the Treasury Department’s report in any other way. At the very least, the first report hinted at such a possibility.

The second report issued by the Treasury Department (in 2003) was much more direct. The report noted that the civil enforcement of FBAR was already delegated to the IRS and contained the key statement: “one could argue the FBAR is directed more towards tax evasion, as opposed to money laundering or other financial crimes, that lie at the core mission of FinCEN”. This was the first time the IRS officially stated the true purpose of FBAR in the post-9/11 world.

It is worth noting that the final report of the Treasury Department (issued in 2004) happily related to the Congress that the FBAR filings had increased in 2003 by 17% from the year 2000 as a result of the IRS enforcement action, confirming the correctness of the Department’s original objectives stated in the first report.

3. American Jobs Creation Act of 2004

No summary of the post-2001 FBAR legislative history would be complete without discussion of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (“2004 Jobs Act”). The 2004 Jobs Act was enacted partially as a result of the Treasury Department’s reports and its complaints about the difficulty of imposing civil sanctions for a failure to file FBAR and partially seeking an increase revenue. As a result of the 2004 Jobs Act, the Congress made one of the most important changes to FBAR by significantly increasing the FBAR penalties, including the imposition of a non-willful penalty for up to $10,000 per violation.

FBAR Legislative History: New FBAR Deadline Starting 2016 FBAR

The most recent change in the FBAR Legislative History came from the innocently-sounding “The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015″ that was enacted on July 31, 2015. As a result of this new law, starting with the 2016 FBAR, the FBAR deadline moved from June 30 to April 15 (with an extension possible for the first time in the FBAR legislative history).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for FBAR Legal and Tax Help

If you have not complied with the FBAR requirement in the past or you need to determine whether FBAR applies in your situation, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with their FBAR compliance and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Usefulness of FBARs for the IRS and DOJ | International Tax Law Firm

The usefulness of FBARs for the U.S. tax enforcement agencies may seem to be an odd issue, but, in reality, it concerns every taxpayer with foreign bank and financial accounts. Why the FBAR is important and how the IRS and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) utilize it in their prosecution tactics is the subject of this essay.

Two Periods of the Usefulness of FBARs

In describing the usefulness of FBARs, one can distinguish two distinct periods of time. The first period lasted from the time FBAR came into existence in the 1970s through most of the year 2001. It is definitely a simplification to place this entire period of time into one category, but this simplification is intentional in order to contrast this first period of usefulness of FBARs with the second one.

The second period commenced right after the FBAR enforcement function was turned over to the IRS in 2001 and it continues through the present time. In this period of time, the usefulness of FBARs was expanded to a completely different level. It is important to point out, however, that it has not lost its original usefulness that dominated the first period of time of its existence.

Usefulness of FBARs Prior to 2001

Prior to 2001, the main purpose of FBAR had been the enforcement leverage in prosecution of financial crimes. This leverage came from the draconian FBAR penalties which often would offer a worse outcome than the statute associated with a criminal activity (especially after a plea deal). Moreover, it was much easier for prosecutors to establish an FBAR violation (any failure to report a foreign account on the FBAR would do) than to prove specific criminal activity.

The usage of FBAR prosecutions was particularly useful in money laundering cases where it was difficult to prove specified unlawful activities and certain criminal tax cases where it was difficult to establish the receipt of illicit income. In such criminal cases, instead of charging criminals solely with tax evasion or money laundering activities, the prosecutors would opt for charging the criminals with a (willful and/or criminal) failure to file an FBAR that occurred while the defendants engaged in a criminal activity. It was easier to get a plea deal this way, because, obviously, criminals would not report the foreign accounts used in a criminal activity on FBARs.

Why was the usefulness of FBARs limited to being an enforcement leverage; in other words, why were FBARs not used for collection of data? After all, FBAR was born out of the Bank Secrecy Act and its stated purpose was to collect data with respect to foreign bank and financial accounts owed by US persons.

The answer is fairly simple – there was no third-party verification mechanism for the data submitted on FBARs. In other words, the FBAR reporting was completely dependent on honest self-reporting (in fact, this is one of the reasons for the creation of FATCA) and, unless, an investigation was conducted with respect to a specific individual, there was no direct way for FinCEN to corroborate the information submitted on FBARs.

It is important to emphasize that, in this first period of its existence, the usefulness of FBARs was primarily non-tax in nature. It was not until after September 11, 2001, that FBAR commenced to acquire a new level of usefulness with which we are familiar today.

Usefulness of FBARs After 2001

The usefulness of FBARs underwent a tremendous change after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, the enforcement of FBARs was taken away from FinCEN and given to the IRS.

The IRS decided to shift the scope of the usefulness of FBARs from financial crimes to tax evasion. The Congress wholeheartedly agreed and further expanded the already-severe FBAR penalties in the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 to their current draconian state. From that point on, FBAR became the top international tax compliance enforcement mechanism for the IRS.

The potential FBAR penalties were so extreme that even non-willful taxpayers preferred to enter IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (and, later, Streamlined Compliance Procedures) and pay the appropriate Offshore Penalties rather than to directly confront the potential consequences of FBAR noncompliance. In other words, the usefulness of FBARs expanded further to indirect tax enforcement.

Furthermore, the UBS case victory in 2008 and the enaction of FATCA in 2010 meant that the IRS could now obtain FBAR-required information from third parties (foreign financial institutions) and verify a taxpayer’s compliance with the FBAR requirements. This further reinforced the FBARs already dominant position in US international tax compliance.

This FBARs dominance in the tax enforcement with respect to foreign accounts continues even today despite the appearance of a rival – Form 8938 (born out of FATCA). While Form 8938 has a broader scope of reportable assets, its penalty structure is highly inferior to the terrifying FBAR penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with FBAR Compliance

If you have foreign bank and financial accounts that were not disclosed on FBARs as required, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office, PLLC as soon as possible. Sherayzen Law Office is an experienced international tax law firm that has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their delinquent FBARs, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!