FBAR Lawyers

IRS Issues FBAR Fact Sheet | FBAR FATCA Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On April 4, 2019, the IRS issued the FBAR Fact Sheet in order to acquaint US taxpayers with this highly important reporting requirement for foreign accounts held by US persons. Let’s analyze the new fact sheet in more detail.

FBAR Fact Sheet: Organizational Structure of the Fact Sheet

The IRS FBAR Fact Sheet can be divided into seven parts: (1) introduction to FBAR and the need to report foreign accounts to the IRS; (2) identification of who needs to file FBARs; (3) explanation of how to file FBARs (including special cases such as joint accounts and the determination of highest balances); (4) discussion of Form 8938 and FBAR; (5) amended and late FBARs; (6) description of FBAR recordkeeping requirements; and (7) more IRS resources concerning FBAR. These parts are not clearly delineated in the Fact Sheet; rather, they are summaries of various information that this brochure contains.

FBAR Fact Sheet: Introduction to FBAR

The IRS FBAR Fact Sheet commences with the warning to US taxpayers that they are required to report their foreign bank and financial accounts even if they do not produce any interest income. April 15 is identified as the critical deadline for these taxpayers. Later, the IRS also states that there is an extension available for FBARs. Again, the IRS did not do a very good job in organizing the Fact Sheet.

FBAR Fact Sheet: Who Needs to File FBARs?

Then, the IRS Fact Sheet finally introduces FBAR and states that it was created by the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act; there is no discussion of the significance of this legal history. Then, the IRS focuses on the persons who may have to file FBARs and introduces the concept of “US Person”. It defines US person as a “citizen or resident of the United States or any domestic legal entity such as a partnership, corporation, limited liability company, estate or trust.”

There is a hidden trap in this IRS definition. “Resident of the United States” does not only include US permanent residents (as most non-lawyers would read it), but also US tax residents. I encourage the readers to read this article with respect to the definition of “resident” for FBAR purposes.

The IRS also defines “United States” for FBAR purposes. The readers can read this article published by Sherayzen Law Office for a more detailed analysis of this concept.

FBAR Fact Sheet: How to File FBARs

This part of the FBAR Fact Sheet focuses on the details concerning how to file FBAR electronically. The IRS cautions taxpayers that FBAR should not be filed with their federal tax returns.

Then, the IRS discusses in more detail certain special cases such as joint accounts and US retirement accounts. The IRS finishes this part of the FBAR fact sheet with the discussion on the determination of the highest value of a foreign account.

FBAR Fact Sheet: Form 8938 & FBAR

In this part of the Fact Sheet, the IRS introduces taxpayers to an existence of another requirement concerning foreign accounts, FATCA Form 8938. The IRS urges the readers to search the IRS website with respect to this form and how it compares to FBAR.

FBAR Fact Sheet: Amended and Late FBARs

The next part of the Fact Sheet focuses on amended and late FBARs. First, the IRS discusses how to amend an FBAR. Then, the IRS states that, as soon as a taxpayer learns that he did not file the required FBARs, he needs to e-file them. At that point, the IRS casually discusses that there is space available on the form to explain the reason for late filing. Finally, the IRS describes the severe FBAR criminal penalties, stating the following: “the IRS will not penalize those who properly report a foreign financial account on a late filed FBAR, and the IRS finds they have reasonable cause for late filing.”

Sherayzen Law Office believes that the IRS has not done a good job in this part of the Fact Sheet. It has completely failed to emphasize the importance of seeking a legal advice prior to filing a late FBAR. A taxpayer may get the wrong impression that he should file a late FBAR as soon as possible before exploring the options on how to do it in a way that protects him from excessive FBAR penalties.

Moreover, the IRS also failed to emphasize the importance of offshore voluntary disclosure with respect to late FBARs. Besides a casual mention of an “IRS compliance program”, there is nothing about the various available voluntary disclosure options for US taxpayers who are filing late FBARs. The IRS does not refer at all to the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures.

FBAR Fact Sheet: Recordkeeping Requirements

In the next part of the Fact Sheet, the IRS discusses how many years the FBAR filers need to keep the supporting documentation and copies of FBARs. Curiously, the IRS states that the filers should keep the documents for five years from the due date of FBAR, but the FBAR Statute of Limitations is six years.

Sherayzen Law Office does not believe that the IRS advice is correct here. We urge FBAR filers to keep their FBAR records and copies of the filed FBARs for six to ten years.

FBAR Fact Sheet: IRS Resources

The IRS concludes its FBAR Fact Sheet with the discussion of additional available resources to US taxpayers, including FBAR hotline and Publication 4261.

Sherayzen Law Office’s View of the FBAR Fact Sheet

We believe that the FBAR Fact Sheet can serve only as a general introduction to FBAR, but it is not sufficient to provide US taxpayers with sufficient guidance on how to properly deal with late FBARs. On the contrary, a US taxpayer may actually put himself in a worse legal position if he only relies on the Fact Sheet to file his late FBARs.

If you should have filed FBARs but you have not done so, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. As the IRS states in its FBAR Fact Sheet, the FBAR penalties are extremely severe. Hence, it is important to approach any FBAR violations with an extreme caution and retain Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to deal with late FBARs, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Determination of the FBAR maximum account value is a problem with which every FBAR filer has to deal. In this article, I would like to provide the main guidelines for the determination of the FBAR maximum account value.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Background Information

The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts or FBAR requires each filer to disclose his financial interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts to the IRS. As part of this disclosure, the filer must calculate and report the maximum account value for each of his foreign accounts on his FBAR.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Definition of Highest Value

FinCEN defines the maximum value of an account for FBAR purposes as “a reasonable approximation of the greatest value of currency or nonmonetary assets in the account during the calendar year.” In other words, the IRS does not expect you to always get the highest possible value. A reasonable approximation of this value will do if the exact highest value is not possible to determine.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Usual Problems

There are two main problems that each FBAR filer faces whenever he tries to identify the maximum account value for FBAR purposes. The first and most obvious problem is the determination of the highest account value. How does one determine the highest value for a bank account? What about a securities account where stocks fluctuate all the time? What about a precious metals account which has investments in different precious metals?

Second, FBAR requires that all amounts be stated in US dollars. Hence, an issue arises with respect to proper currency conversion – i.e. what is the proper currency exchange rate? Should the spot rates be used? Or December 31 exchange rates?

Let’s discuss each of these problems in more depth.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Methodology

Determination of maximum account value depends to a certain degree on the type of an account for which the filer is trying to determine this value. There is no question that, with respect to checking and savings bank accounts, the IRS wants you to use the full-year statements to determine the day on which the highest value was achieved for each of these accounts. This is a simple and effective method.

Determining the maximum value of a securities account is much harder, because securities fluctuate on a daily basis. For this reason, the IRS allows you to rely on periodic account statements to make this determination, especially end-of-year statements. This method is allowed only as long as the statements fairly approximate the maximum value during the calendar year.

Even this method, however, is often insufficient when one deals with mixed-currency accounts, mixed-investment accounts, mixed-metal accounts, et cetera. These situations should be handled on a case-by-case basis by your international tax attorney.

Let’s illustrate the complexity of the issues involved here by a relatively simple example. Generally, an end-of-year statement for an investment account is a good approximation of the maximum value of the account. If, however, there was a withdrawal of funds from the account following a major sale of investments, then the end-of-year statement cannot be relied upon. Instead, one should try a different method to approximate the highest value. One possibility is to use a reliable and known financial website for valuing the remaining assets on the date of the sale plus the proceeds from the sale of investments. The method, however, may fail if the highest value of investments was at the beginning of the year, not the date of sale.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Currency Conversion

Unlike the identification of the highest account value with its various complications, the currency conversation part of the FBAR maximum account value determination is fairly straightforward. All filers must use the end-of-year FBAR rates published by the Treasury Department. These rates are officially called “Treasury Financial Management Service rates”, but they are commonly called “FBAR rates” by US international tax lawyers. The FBAR rates are division rates, not the multiplication ones. This is standard in US international tax law.

Hence, for the currency conversion purposes, you need to identify the currency in which your account is nominated, find the appropriate FBAR conversion rate for the relevant year and divide your highest balance by the relevant FBAR rate. For your convenience, Sherayzen Law Office also publishes FBAR rates on its website.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your FBAR Preparation

If you are required to file FBARs, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to comply with their FBAR obligations, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Joint Account FBAR Reporting | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

As an FBAR tax attorney, I constantly deal with the issues of joint account FBAR reporting. In most cases, the joint account FBAR reporting goes relatively smooth, but problems may surface from time to time. In this essay, I would like to address the general issues concerning joint account FBAR reporting.

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: FBAR Background

FBAR is the acronym for the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114. A US person has to file an FBAR if he has a financial interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts the aggregate value of which exceeds $10,000 at any point during the relevant calendar year.

It is important to emphasize that, with respect to joint accounts, each joint owner takes the entire value of the account in calculating whether he or she exceeded the $10,000 filing threshold.

A US person should file an FBAR separately from the tax return. Since 2016 FBAR, the Congress aligned the FBAR filing deadline with that of an income tax return (i.e. April 15). For example, the 2018 FBAR is due on April 15, 2019.

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: Joint Owners

If two or more persons jointly maintain or own a partial interest in a foreign bank or financial account, then each of these persons has a financial interest in that account. Hence, as long as they are US persons, each of these US persons has to report the account on his or her FBAR.

Moreover, each of the filers must also indicate the principal joint owner of the joint account, even if this owner is not a US person. I wish to repeat this important point: the joint owner must be disclosed on FBAR even if he is not a US person. Besides the name of the joint owner, the filer must report the joint owner’s address and tax identification number (US or foreign).

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: Report the Entire Value of the Account

Even though the same joint account may be reported at least twice, FinCEN requires the FBAR filer to disclose the entire value of each jointly-owned foreign account on his FBAR.

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: Exception for Spouses

In certain circumstances, spouses may file a joint FBAR. This means that the spouse of an FBAR filer may not be required to file a separate FBAR, but she can join her husband in filing one FBAR for both of them.

In order to qualify for this exception, the spouses must meet the following three conditions. First and most important, all of the financial accounts that the non-filing spouse has to report are jointly owned with the filing spouse. The filing spouse may have additional accounts, but the non-filing spouse should not have any other foreign bank and financial accounts. Beware, however, that if one spouse is an owner of a foreign account, but the other spouse only has a signatory authority over the same account, then separate FBARs must be filed by each spouse.

Second, the filing spouse reports the jointly owned accounts on a timely filed FBAR and a PIN is used to sign item 44.

Third, both spouses must complete and sign Form 114a, a Record of Authorization to Electronically File FBARs (maintained with the filers’ records).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Joint Account FBAR Reporting

If you have foreign bank and financial accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with US international tax compliance and FBAR reporting. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their FBAR filings, including joint FBAR filings, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney Houston

As an FBAR tax lawyer & attorney, I can see that one of the most common tax compliance mistakes made by US taxpayers is ignoring their disregarded entity FBAR obligations. These taxpayers believe that, since disregarded entities are ignored for tax purposes, these entities do not need to file any FBARs. In this article, I will explain why this view is completely false and how US taxpayers should comply with their disregarded entity FBAR obligations.

Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations: What Are Disregarded Business Entities?

Under US tax law, certain juridical persons are disregarded for tax purposes. In other words, an entity is not recognized for tax purposes as something separate from its owner; the owner and the entity are merged into one tax person for tax purposes.

A disregarded entity may have only one owner. If there is more than one owner, then the entity is treated as a partnership for US tax purposes (unless it elects to be treated as a corporation).

A disregarded entity does not file its own tax return. Rather its owner reports all of the entity’s income and expense items on the owner’s tax return.

It is important, however, that one does not confuse the tax and legal treatment of a disregarded entity. Despite being ignored for tax purposes, a disregarded entity continues to exist legally. In other words, for all legal purposes, it is a separate juridical person with its own legal rights and obligations.

The most typical example of a disregarded entity is a single-member limited liability company (“SMLLC”). Another prominent example is a grantor trust.

Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations: Required FBAR Compliance

A US disregarded entity must file an FBAR if it has a financial interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts the highest aggregate value of which exceeds $10,000 at any point during the relevant calendar year.

FBAR is not filed with a US tax return. Hence, disregarded entities must file FBARs even though they do not file US tax returns. Taxpayers need to make sure to obtain an EIN number for their disregarded entities.

It is important to emphasize that all FBARs of disregarded entities are filed under the names of these entities, not their owners or managers. In other words, if a grantor trust files an FBAR, the trustee will sign FBAR which is officially filed in the name of the grantor trust.

Also note that I stated that a “US disregarded entity” must file an FBAR. A foreign disregarded entity does not need to file an FBAR (though, its US owner will have to do it under the FBAR rules).

Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations: FBAR is not a Tax Requirement

Why is it that a disregarded entity has to file FBARs if it is disregarded for tax purposes? The answer to this question requires us to look into the legislative origin of FBAR.

The key to understanding why a disregarded entity has to file FBARs is the fact that FBAR is not part of the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”). In other words, FBAR is not a tax form. FBAR is a creation of the Bank Secrecy Act and belongs to Title 31 (IRC is Title 26) of the United States Code.

As I stated above, a disregarded entity is ignored only for tax purposes, but it continues to exist for legal purposes. Hence, for FBAR purposes, the entity is not disregarded but continues to exist as a separate juridical person with its own legal compliance duties, including FBAR obligations.

Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations: Why IRS Enforces FBAR Compliance

There is one more issue we need to clarify: if FBAR is not part of the IRC, why is the IRS agency in charge of enforcing it? The answer to this question also lies in FBAR’s history (now, the readers can appreciate why I insist that an international tax attorney should know the legal history of different legal and tax requirements).

Prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the IRS was not in charge of enforcing FBAR compliance. Instead, for many years prior to 2001, FinCEN (the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) was in charge of FBAR.

Why? The answer is simple: the original purpose of FBAR was not to fight tax noncompliance; it was not created as a tax form. Rather, FBAR was a tool to fight financial crimes, such as money laundering and terrorist financing. This fell straight within the competence of FinCEN.

In 2001, however, the US Congress turned over the function of enforcing FBAR compliance to the IRS (technically, FinCEN delegated the enforcement of FBAR to the IRS). The IRS almost immediately shifted the focus of FBAR from financial crimes to international tax enforcement.

Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations: Frequent FBAR Violations

FBAR compliance is miserably low among disregarded entities. The main reason for so many FBAR violations is the fact that most taxpayers are completely unaware of the legal analysis of FBAR which I have set forth above. As I stated above, they incorrectly believe that FBAR is a tax form and, since disregarded entities are ignored for tax purposes, these entities do not or did not file FBARs. Unfortunately, even these non-willful situations may lead to the imposition of substantial FBAR penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations

In order to avoid these FBAR penalties and ensure proper tax compliance, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your disregarded entity FBAR obligations. Sherayzen Law Office has filed FBARs for every type of a disregarded entity. If your entity has not filed FBARs in the past, but it was required to do so, Sherayzen Law Office can also help you determine the best offshore voluntary disclosure option for your entity and do all of the work necessary to bring you and your entities into full compliance with US tax laws. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

New Zealand Bank Accounts | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney Madison Wisconsin

There is a vibrant community of New Zealanders in Wisconsin (though New Zealanders can be found in many other places in the United States). Many members of this community continue to maintain their pre-immigration New Zealand bank accounts. Some of these owners of New Zealand bank accounts are aware of at least some US tax requirements with respect to these accounts, others are confused and still others are completely unaware of the existence of any such requirements. In this article, I will explain the three most common US reporting requirements – worldwide income reporting, FBAR and Form 8938 – concerning New Zealand accounts as well as describe, in general, those required to comply with them.

Note that, in this article, I will concentrate solely on individuals, not businesses, trusts or estates.

New Zealand Bank Accounts: US Tax Residents, US Persons and Specified Persons

Let’s commence our discussion with the issue of who is required to comply with US reporting requirements concerning New Zealand bank accounts. The first issue to note here is that US tax reporting requirements do not always define the required filers in the same manner.

In fact, each of aforementioned three requirements has its own definition of required filers. The worldwide income reporting requirement will follow the general definition of US tax residents. On the other hand, “US Persons” are required to file FBAR and “Specified Persons” are required to file Form 8938.

Despite these differences, however, the definitions of US Persons and Specified Persons are very similar to the concept of US tax residency; there are some specific differences, but, overall, these two concepts follow the definition of US tax residents very closely.

Hence, we should do the same and concentrate on the definition of a “US tax resident”. This is a broad term which covers a variety of US taxpayers, including: US citizens, US permanent residents, persons who satisfy the Substantial Presence Test and individuals who declare themselves as US tax residents. This general definition of “US tax resident” is subject to a number of important exceptions, such as visa exemptions (for example, an F-1 visa five-year exemption for foreign students) from the Substantial Presence Test.

Both, US Persons and Specified Persons include the same categories of taxpayers, but differences arise with respect to the treatment of individuals who declare themselves as US tax residents. The most common differences arise with respect to the treaty “tie-breaker” provisions to escape US tax residency and persons who declare themselves tax residents of the United States.

I strongly recommend that you contact an international tax attorney in order to determine whether you fall within the definition of any one or all of these filers. An attempt to do it by a non-professional is fraught with legal dangers.

New Zealand Bank Accounts: Worldwide Income Reporting

All US tax residents must report their worldwide income on their US tax returns. In other words, US tax residents must disclose both US-source and foreign-source income to the IRS. In the context of New Zealand bank accounts, foreign-source income means all bank interest income, dividends, royalties, capital gains and any other income generated by these accounts.

New Zealand Bank Accounts: FBAR Reporting

The official name of the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”) is FinCEN Form 114. FBAR requires all US Persons to disclose their ownership interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over New Zealand (and any other foreign country) bank and financial accounts if the aggregate highest balance of these accounts exceeds $10,000. I encourage you to search our website sherayzenlaw.com for article concerning the definition of a US Person.

There is one aspect of the FBAR legal test that I wish to discuss here with more specificity – the definition of an “account”. The FBAR definition of an account is substantially broader than what this word is generally means in our society. “Account” for FBAR purposes includes: checking accounts, savings accounts, fixed-deposit accounts, investments accounts, mutual funds, options/commodity futures accounts, life insurance policies with a cash surrender value, precious metals accounts, earth mineral accounts, et cetera. In fact, whenever there is a custodial relationship between a foreign financial institution and a US person’s foreign asset, there is a very high probability that the IRS will find that an account exists for FBAR purposes.

Finally, FBAR has a very complex and severe (to an astonishing degree) penalty system. The most feared penalties are criminal FBAR penalties with up to 10 years in jail (of course, these penalties come into effect only in the most egregious situations). On the civil side, the most dreaded penalties are FBAR willful civil penalties which can easily exceed a person’s net worth. Even FBAR non-willful penalties can wreak a havoc in a person’s financial life.

Civil FBAR penalties have their own complex web of penalty mitigation layers, which depend on the facts and circumstances of one’s case. One of the most important factors is the size of the New Zealand bank accounts subject to FBAR penalties. Additionally, since 2015, the IRS has added another layer of limitations on the FBAR penalty imposition. These self-imposed limitations of course help, but one must keep in mind that they are voluntary IRS actions and may be disregarded under certain circumstances (in fact, there are already a few instances where this has occurred).

New Zealand Bank Accounts: FATCA Form 8938

Since 2011, FATCA Form 8938 has been another higher important requirement of US international tax law. This form is filed with a federal tax return and considered to be an integral part of the return. This means that a failure to file Form 8938 may render the entire tax return incomplete and potentially subject to an IRS audit.

Form 8938 requires “Specified Persons” to disclose on their US tax returns all of their Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”) as long as these Persons meet the applicable filing threshold. The filing threshold depends on a Specified Person’s tax return filing status and his physical residency. For example, if he is single and resides in the United States, he needs to file Form 8938 as long as the aggregate value of his SFFA is more than $50,000 at the end of the year or more than $75,000 at any point during the year.

The IRS defines SFFA very broadly to include an enormous variety of financial instruments, including foreign bank accounts, foreign business ownership, foreign trust beneficiary interests, bond certificates, various types of swaps, et cetera. In some ways, FBAR and Form 8938 require the reporting of the same assets, but these two forms are completely independent from each other. This means that a taxpayer may have to do duplicate reporting on FBAR and Form 8938.

Specified Persons consist of two categories of filers: Specified Individuals and Specified Domestic Entities. You can find a detailed explanation of both categories by searching our website sherayzenlaw.com.

Finally, Form 8938 has its own penalty system which has far-reaching consequences for income tax liability (including disallowance of foreign tax credit and imposition of higher accuracy-related income tax penalties). There is also a $10,000 failure-to-file penalty.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the US Tax Reporting of Your New Zealand Bank Accounts

If you have New Zealand bank accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US international tax compliance. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their US international tax issues, and We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!