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!