FBAR Lawyers

2021 FBAR Civil Penalties | IRS FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

As if they were not high enough, the US Congress has obligated the IRS to adjust FBAR civil penalties for inflation on an annual basis. In this article, I will provide a broad overview of the current FBAR penalty system and describe the current 2021 FBAR civil penalties.

2021 FBAR Civil Penalties: Overview of the FBAR Penalty System

FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (commonly known as “FBAR”), has always had a very complex, multi-layered system of penalties, which has grown even more complicated over the years. These penalties can be grouped into four categories: criminal, willful, non-willful and negligent.

Of course, the most dreaded penalties are FBAR criminal penalties. Not only is there a criminal fine of up to $500,000, but, in some case, a person can be sentenced to 10 years in prison for FBAR violation (and these two criminal penalties can be imposed simultaneously). Since the focus of this article is on FBAR civil penalties, I will not devote more time to the discussion of FBAR criminal penalties here.

The next category of penalties are FBAR civil penalties imposed for the willful failure to file an FBAR. These penalties are imposed per each violation – i.e. on each account per year, potentially going back six years (the FBAR statute of limitations is six years).

The third category of penalties are FBAR penalties imposed for a non-willful failure to file an FBAR or a filing of an incorrect FBAR. These penalties can be imposed on US persons who do not even know that FBAR exists.

Finally, with respect to business entities, a penalty can be imposed for a negligent failure to file an FBAR or a filing of an incorrect FBAR.

It is important to note that FBAR has its own reasonable cause exception that may be used to fight the assessment of any of the aforementioned civil penalties. Moreover, each of these penalty categories has numerous levels of penalty mitigation that a tax attorney may utilize to lower his client’s FBAR civil penalties.

2021 FBAR Civil Penalties: Penalties Prior to November 2 2015

Prior to November 2, 2015, FBAR penalties were not adjusted for inflation and stayed flat at the levels mandated by Congress. Let’s go over each category of penalties prior to inflation adjustment.

As of November 1, 2015, Willful FBAR penalties were up to $100,000 or 50% of the highest balance of an account, whichever is greater, per violation. Again, a violation meant a failure to correctly report an account in any year. Non-willful FBAR penalties were up to $10,000 per violation per year; it is far less clear what “violation” meant in this context. At that time, the IRS took a clear position that non-willful FBAR penalties are imposed on a per account basis similarly to willful penalties, but the validity of this position has been heavily compromised by recent court decisions. Finally, FBAR penalties for negligence 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.

2021 FBAR Civil Penalties: Inflation Adjustment

The situation changed dramatically in 2015. As a result of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (“2015 Inflation Adjustment Act”), Congress mandated federal agents to: (1) adjust the amounts of civil monetary penalties with an initial “catch-up” adjustment; and (2) make subsequent annual adjustments for inflation. The inflation adjustment applied only to civil penalties.

The “catch-up” adjustment meant a huge increase in penalties, because federal agencies were required to update all of these penalties from the time of their enactment (or the last year the Congress adjusted the penalties) through November of 2015. This meant that, in 2015, the penalties jumped to account for all accumulated multi-year inflation. The catch-up adjustment was limited to two and a half times of the original penalty.

Fortunately, the Congress adjusted FBAR penalties in 2004 and the “catch-up” adjustment did not have to go back to the 1970s. It still meant a very large (about 25%) increase in FBAR civil penalties, but it was not as dramatic as some other federal penalties.

2021 FBAR Civil Penalties: Bifurcation of FBAR Penalty System

The biggest problem with the inflation adjustment, however, was the fact that it further complicated the already dense multi-layered FBAR system of civil penalties – FBAR penalties became dependent on the timing of a violation and IRS penalty assessment. In essence, the 2015 Inflation Adjustment Act split the FBAR penalty into two distinct parts.

The first part applies to FBAR violations that occurred on or before November 2, 2015. The old pre-2015 FBAR penalties described above applies to these violations irrespective of when the IRS actually assesses the penalties for these violations. The last FBAR violations definitely eligible for the old statutory penalties are those that were made concerning 2014 FBAR which was due on June 30, 2015. The statute of limitations for the 2014 FBAR ran out on June 30, 2021.

The second part applies to all FBAR violations that occurred after November 2, 2015. For all of these violations, the exact amount of penalties will depend on the timing of the IRS penalty assessment, not when the FBAR violation actually occurred. In other words, if an FBAR violation occurred on October 15, 2017 and the IRS assessed FBAR penalties June 17, 2021, the IRS would use the inflation-adjusted FBAR penalties as of the year 2021, not October 15, 2017.

2021 FBAR Civil Penalties: Penalties Assessed On or After January 28, 2021

Now that we understand the history of FBAR penalties, we can specifically discuss the 2021 FBAR civil penalties. The first thing to understand is that we are talking about penalties assessed by the IRS on or after January 28, 2021; prior to that date, the 2020 FBAR civil penalties were still effective.

The 2021 Willful FBAR penalty imposed under 31 U.S.C. §5321(a)(5)(C)(i)(I) is $136,399 per violation. So far, for willful FBAR penalties, “violation” is applied on a “per account for each year” basis described above. Last year (i.e. penalties assessed after February 19, 2020 and before January 28, 2021), the willful penalty was $134,806.

The 2021 Non-Willful FBAR penalty imposed under 31 U.S.C. §5321(a)(5)(B) is $13,640 per violation; last year, the non-willful penalty was $13,481. The term “violation” in the context of non-willful FBAR penalties at this point has not been settled. Starting last year and culminating with the recent 11th Circuit court decision, the courts have been applying the term “violation” on a per-form (rather than per-account) basis. It other words, a taxpayer can argue that a non-willful violation of $13,481 should be applied per each delinquent FBAR rather than each account reported on an FBAR. This is of course a highly beneficial approach (for taxpayers) to FBAR penalty imposition, but it is still a struggle to get the IRS to accept this position.

The 2021 Negligence FBAR penalty imposed under 31 U.S.C. §5321(a)(6)(A) is $1,166; if there is a pattern of negligence under 31 U.S.C. §5321(a)(6)(B), then the penalty goes up to $90,743. Last year, the respective amounts were $1,146 and $89,170.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Prior FBAR Noncompliance

Sherayzen Law Office is a leader in US international tax law and FBAR compliance. We have successfully helped hundreds of clients from over seventy countries resolve their prior FBAR noncompliance concerning disclosure of their foreign bank and financial accounts. We can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2020 FBAR Deadline in 2021 | FinCEN Form 114 International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

The 2020 FBAR deadline is one of the most important deadlines for US taxpayers this calendar year 2021. What makes FBAR so important are the draconian FBAR penalties which may be imposed on noncompliant taxpayers. Let’s discuss the 2020 FBAR deadline in more detail.

2020 FBAR Deadline: Background Information

The official name of FBAR is FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. US Persons must file FBAR if they have a financial interest in or signatory or any other authority over foreign financial accounts if the highest aggregate value of these accounts is in excess of $10,000. FBARs must be timely e-filed separately from federal tax returns.

Failure to file an FBAR may result in the imposition of heavy FBAR penalties. The FBAR penalties vary from criminal penalties and willful penalties to non-willful penalties. You can find more details about FBAR penalties in this article.

2020 FBAR Deadline: Pre-2016 FBAR Deadline

For the years preceding 2016, US persons needed to file FBARs by June 30 of each year. For example, the 2013 FBAR was due on June 30, 2014. No filing extensions were allowed.

The last FBAR that followed the June 30 deadline was the 2015 FBAR; its due date was June 30, 2016. Due to the six-year FBAR statute of limitations, however, it is important to remember this history for the purpose of offshore voluntary disclosures and IRS FBAR audits. The 2015 FBAR’s statute of limitations will expire only on June 30, 2022.

2020 FBAR Deadline: Changes to FBAR Deadline Starting with the 2016 FBAR

For many years, the strange FBAR filing rules greatly confused US taxpayers. First of all, it was difficult to learn about the existence of the form. Second, many taxpayers simply missed the unusual FBAR filing deadline.

The US Congress took action in 2015 to alleviate this problem. As it usually happens, it did so when it passed a law that, on its surface, had nothing to do with FBARs. 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 (which continues to this date), the IRS granted to US taxpayers an automatic extension of the FBAR filing deadline to October 15. Taxpayers do not need to make any specific requests in order for an extension to be granted.

Thus, starting with the 2016 FBAR, the Act adjusted the FBAR due date to coincide with the federal income tax filing deadlines. This is the case even if federal law requires a different filing date. For example, 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; the FBAR deadline will follow suit and also shift to the next business day.

2020 FBAR Deadline

Based on the current law, the 2020 FBAR deadline will be April 15, 2021. However, it is automatically extended to October 15, 2021.

The 2020 FBAR must be e-filed through the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (FinCEN) BSA E-filing system.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your FBAR Compliance

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts, contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Sherayzen Law Office is a leader in US international tax compliance and offshore voluntary disclosures. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the globe with their FBAR compliance and FBAR voluntary disclosures; and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2020 FBAR Criminal Penalties | FBAR International Tax Lawyers

2020 FBAR criminal penalties is a potential threat to any US taxpayer who willfully failed to file his FBARs or knowingly filed a false FBAR. In this essay, I would like to review the 2020 FBAR criminal penalties that these noncompliant US taxpayers may have to face.

2020 FBAR Criminal Penalties: Background Information

A lot of US taxpayers do not understand why the 2020 FBAR criminal penalties are so shockingly severe. 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 initially created to combat tax evasion.

Rather, FBAR criminal 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 allegedly to fight terrorism. Instead, 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 existing penalties and created an new non-willful penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.

2020 FBAR Criminal Penalties: Description

Now that we understand why the 2020 FBAR criminal penalties are so severe, let’s describe what these penalties actually may be. There are three different 2020 FBAR criminal penalties associated with different FBAR violations.

First, a 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.

Second, 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 may be penalized 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, contact Sherayzen Law Office 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 resolve their past FBAR noncompliance while reducing and, in some cases, even eliminating their FBAR penalties.

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

October 31 2020 FBAR Deadline | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

US taxpayers can still timely file their 2019 FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) by the new October 31 2020 FBAR deadline. This FBAR deadline extension is highly unusual and requires some explanation.

October 31 2020 FBAR Deadline: What is FBAR?

The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”) is officially known as FinCen Form 114. This form must be filed by US persons with an ownership interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts if the aggregate value of such accounts exceeds $10,000 at any point during a calendar year. This is a very important US international information return; a failure to timely and correctly file an FBAR may result in an imposition of draconian FBAR penalties. This is why it is so important to learn about FBAR deadlines.

October 31 2020 FBAR Deadline & FinCEN Mistake

The 2019 FBAR deadline extension became possible as a result of an incorrect message posted by FinCEN on its BSA (Bank Secrecy Act) website. On October 14, 2020, FinCEN posted a message that incorrectly stated that the 2019 FBAR deadline was extended to December 31, 2020 for all FBAR filers. Within twenty-four hours, FinCEN removed the message.

On October 16, 2020, FinCEN posted a corrected message that stated that the extension to December 31, 2020, was intended only for victims of recent natural disasters listed in FinCEN’s October 6, 2020 notice.

Since, however, there were filers who have missed the October 15 deadline due to the incorrect October 14 message, FinCEN decided to allow these filers to have an extra couple of weeks to file their 2019 FBARs. For this reason, FinCEN established a new October 31 2020 FBAR deadline for all FBAR filers (except those who were victims of natural disasters listed in the aforementioned October 6 list).

October 31 2020 FBAR Deadline & December 31 2020 FBAR Deadline

Thus, there are two separate FBAR filing deadline extensions still outstanding. The first one is the October 31 2020 FBAR deadline which applies to all FBAR filers except the ones who are also eligible for the second deadline extension.

The second deadline extension to December 31, 2020 applies only to victims of natural disasters listed in FinCEN’s October 6, 2020 notice.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with FBAR Compliance

Sherayzen Law Office is a leading US international tax law firm that specializes in US international tax law and FBAR compliance. We have filed thousands of FBARs for our clients. We have also helped US taxpayers from over 70 countries to deal with FBAR filing violations for prior years, including as part of a voluntary disclosure (such as Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures, Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures and Reasonable Cause disclosures). Our FBAR clients include individuals, corporations, partnerships, estates, trusts and disregarded entities.

We can help you! Contact Us Today To Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Form 114 Trust Filers | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney Nevada Las Vegas

FinCEN Form 114 trust filers constitute a highly problematic category of FBAR filers. Form 114 trust filers are problematic not so much because the FBAR requirement itself is unclear, but, rather, because the trustees do not realize that this requirement applies to them. In this article, I would like to educate potential Form 114 trust filers about the FBAR requirement and when it applies to them.

Form 114 Trust Filers: FBAR Background Information

The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114, commonly known as FBAR, was created in the 1970s as a result of the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970. Originally designed to fight financial crimes and terrorism, FBAR turned into a formidable weapon for the IRS after 2001 to fight US international tax noncompliance.

The biggest reason why FBAR became such a useful tool to fight US international tax compliance are the draconian penalties associated with FBAR noncompliance. FBAR has a full range of penalties from criminal (i.e. a person actually going to jail for FBAR noncompliance) to non-willful (which may apply in situations when a person did not even know that FBAR existed).

A US person must file FBAR if he has a financial interest in or signatory authority over foreign financial accounts and the aggregate value of these foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. Prior to 2016 FBAR, the FBAR deadline was June 30 of each year. Starting 2016 FBAR, the FBAR deadline is aligned with the tax return deadline, including automatic extension to October 15 (this is still true as of the tax year 2019). This may change in the future years.

FinCEN Form 114 Trust Filers: Trusts Must File FBARs

All US persons who meet the FBAR filing requirements must file the form by the required deadline. The term “US persons” includes not just individuals and businesses, but also estates and trusts. A trustee’s failure to timely file an accurate FBAR may result in the imposition of FBAR penalties on the trust.

All types of trusts (as long as they are US persons) must file FBARs, including non-grantor trusts and grantor trusts. It is important to emphasize that the fact that all trust income passes to the grantor or another owner of the trust does not absolve the trust from its obligation to file FBARs.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With FinCEN Form 114 Trust Filings and Trust Offshore Voluntary Disclosures

Unfortunately, many trustees still miss the fact that they must file FBARs on behalf of the trust. As I stated above, this may expose the trust to significant FBAR penalties.

Hence, if you are a trustee of a trust which has not complied with its FinCEN Form 114 obligations, then you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers, including trusts, to resolve their prior FinCEN Form 114 noncompliance. We can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!