US GAAP Conversion of Foreign Financials: Most Common Issues | Form 5471 Lawyer

Form 5471 generally requires US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices) conversion of foreign financial statements for the purposes of reporting book income, because foreign accountants usually prepare these statements based on a different foreign standard.  While Treas. Reg. Reg. §1.964-1(a)(2) contains a limited exception to the US GAAP conversion adjustments for “non-material” items (the same exception applies to tested/income loss calculation for GILTI purposes; see Treas. Reg. §1.951A-2(c)(2) (which refers to Treas. Reg. §1.952-2, which, in turn, mention the “materiality” rules of the §964 regulation)), the translation of foreign financial statements to US GAAP is a common problem for tax professionals who deal with Form 5471.

In this article, I will outline the most common issues related to the conversion of foreign financial statements to US GAAP.

US GAAP Conversion Issues: Depreciation

At the top of the US GAAP adjustments are different methods of depreciation and amortization. These differences cover pretty much all types of depreciable assets: fixed assets and intangible assets (including goodwill).

When we at Sherayzen Law Office prepare Forms 5471 for our clients, it is our standard practice to request that foreign accountants provide a detailed depreciation report, including amounts and dates concerning the purchase/sale of assets, the amortization/depreciation conventions used in foreign financial statements and the methods of accounting for increase/decrease in the value of depreciable assets.

US GAAP Conversion Issues: Inventory

Another very common area of US GAAP adjustments involves inventory. Here there could be an array of variations from FIFO/LIFO to expense capitalization methods and valuation of inventory.  Common problems arise when the inventory valuation adjustments result from related-party transactions.

For example, in one of our cases, our client had contracts of sale drafted between the head office in the United States and a foreign branch office (due to the foreign country’s requirements), making it impossible to directly rely on the foreign branch’s financial statements to determine the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) due to varying mark-ups on tens of thousands of items.

US GAAP Conversion Issues: Valuation of Assets

One highly-problematic area for US GAAP adjustments is the valuation of assets in the foreign financial statements.  Oftentimes and in a large number of tax jurisdictions, historic cost of assets is replaced with another valuation method allowed by a local accounting standard but not by US GAAP.

We see this problem appear often in tax jurisdictions as varied as Czech Republic, Jamaica, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, et cetera.

US GAAP Conversion Issues: Mergers, Dissolutions and Acquisitions

Mergers, dissolutions and acquisitions may result in a bewildering array of differences between foreign financial statements and US GAAP requirements: from income recognition to asset valuation, treatment of reserve, E&P calculations and so on. Sometimes, there may be a break in the continuity of financial statements due to a dissolution of one entity and creation of another entity for US GAAP purposes while entities are treated as one entity in a foreign jurisdiction. I remember one case from Pakistan and one case from Poland where we had to make just an enormous amount of changes to bring these financial statements into compliance with US GAAP precisely due to the issues of mergers and acquisitions.

US GAAP Conversion Issues: Hyperinflation

Hyperinflation may present a US international tax attorney with its own challenges. As it is especially common in Latin America, local financials would incorporate inflationary adjustments that are incompatible with US GAAP.  An international tax lawyer has to identify these adjustments, reverse them and, if necessary, replace with adjustments required by GAAP.

US GAAP Conversion Issues: Reserves

Finally, the last most common area of problems has to do with reserves.  The problem usually arises in situations where local accounting rules permit allocation of certain reserves in a manner incompatible with US GAAP rules.

US GAAP Conversion Issues: Special Case of Consolidated Financial Statements

In a situation where a US parent company of a foreign subsidiary prepares consolidated financial statements, problems may arise with respect to whether these statements provide all relevant information needed to create a GAAP-compliant Form 5471. There are four main areas of concern in this type of cases: artificial consolidations through check-the-box rules, foreign currency fluctuations, deductions related to pensions and transfers within the group.  I will discuss these issues in more detail in a future article.

E&P Adjustments

I want to mention here that, in addition to GAAP adjustments to local financial statements, Form 5471 also requires E&P adjustments to GAAP-compliant financial statements. I will explore this topic in a future article.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office For Professional Help with Form 5471 Preparation and Offshore Voluntary Disclosures

If you are a US person who owns (fully or partially) a foreign corporation and you need to prepare a Form 5471 for a current year or any previous years, then you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help.

Our international tax team, led by an international tax attorney and founder of Sherayzen Law office, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, is a group of highly experienced and creative tax professionals with profound knowledge of US international tax law and US international tax accounting rules. We have filed hundreds of Forms 5471 in the past helping clients around the globe with their current US tax compliance as well as offshore voluntary disclosures related to prior Form 5471 noncompliance. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Incorrect or Delinquent Form 5471 Penalties

Various Form 5471 penalties are associated with failure to file Form 5471 or the filing of an incorrect Form 5471. In this article, I will describe the most important of these penalties.

IRS Form 5471

The IRS Form 5471 is an extremely complex form that is used to satisfy the reporting requirements of two esoteric sections of the Internal Revenue Code: 26 U.S.C. § 6038 (“Information reporting with respect to certain foreign corporations and partnerships”) and 26 U.S.C. § 6046 (“Returns as to organization or reorganization of foreign corporations and as to acquisitions of their stock”).

As long as Form 5471 requirements are met, the Form must be filed by certain U.S. citizens and residents who are officers, directors, or shareholders in specified foreign corporations with their US tax returns.  Failure to file Form 5471 or failure to file a correct Form 5471, can result in steep penalties.

Form 5471 Penalties: Failure to file information required under section 26 U.S.C. § 6038(a) 

From the outset, it is important to note that 26 U.S.C. § 6038 applies to two different parts of Form 5471: the Form 5471 proper (i.e. the first four pages containing the identifying information and Schedules A through I) and Schedule M of Form 5471.   Failure to file either is enough to trigger a $10,000 penalty for each annual accounting period of each foreign corporation. If the IRS sends the taxpayer a notice of a failure to file, an additional $10,000 penalty (per foreign corporation) will be charged for each 30-day period (or fraction thereof), during which the failure continues after the 90-day period in which the notification occurred, has expired. This additional penalty is limited to a maximum of $50,000 for each failed filing.

Furthermore, there is an income tax penalty associated with the failure to comply with 26 U.S.C. § 6038 in a timely manner – the taxpayer may be subject to a 10% reduction of certain available Foreign Tax Credits. A further 5% reduction may be applied for each 3-month period (or fraction thereof), during which the failure to timely report or file continues after the 90-day period of IRS notification has expired. (26 U.S.C. § 6038(c)(2) places certain limitations on this penalty).

The Second Set of Form 5471 Penalties: Failure to file information required by 26 U.S.C. § 6046 and related regulations (Form 5471 and Schedule O)

In addition to 26 U.S.C. § 6038 Form 5471 penalties, there is also an additional set of Form 5471 penalties associated with 26 U.S.C. § 6046 (Form 5471 and Schedule O).  Failure to comply with 26 U.S.C. § 6046 will subject the taxpayer to another $10,000 penalty for each failure for each reportable transaction. Additionally, if the failure to report or file continues for more than 90 days after the date the IRS mails notice of this failure, an additional $10,000 penalty will apply for each 30-day period (or fraction thereof) during which the failure continues after the 90-day period has expired. This additional penalty is limited to a maximum of $50,000.

Form 5471 Non-Compliance May Result in Criminal Penalties

In addition to civil penalties under 26 U.S.C. § 6038 and 26 U.S.C. § 6046, criminal penalties may apply to Form 5471 filers in certain circumstances. In particular, a willful failure to file an accurate Form 5471 may activate the  broad provisions of 26 U.S.C. § 7203 (“Willful failure to file return, supply information, or pay tax”), 26 U.S.C. § 7206 (“Fraud and false statements”), and 26 U.S.C. § 7207 (“Fraudulent returns, statements, or other documents”).

Form 5471 Penalties and Persons Other Than the Filer

In situations where the filer should have filed Forms 5471 for other persons, but failed to do so, Form 5471 penalties may be extended to these other persons.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office For Help With Form 5471 Penalties and Compliance

If you partially or fully own a foreign corporation, you may be subject to the Form 5471 requirements.  As explained in this article, failure to timely and/or correctly comply with Forms 5471 may result in steep Form 5471 penalties.

This is why you should contact the experienced Form 5471 tax professionals of Sherayzen Law Office.  We can help you  prepare and file your Form 5471 as part of your annual compliance as well as help deal with the Form 5471 voluntary disclosure. So, Call Us Now to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Costa Rica Corporations and U.S. Tax Reporting

It has become common for U.S. citizens to engage in business abroad through a foreign corporation.  Costa Rica is definitely one of the most favored countries in Central America, partially due to its reputation for stability.  It is important to understand, however, that U.S. citizens who engage in business abroad through a foreign corporation must comply with very important tax reporting requirements.   In this article, I will try to briefly go over some of the most common US tax reporting requirements that may concern U.S. owners of Costa Rica corporations.

Form 5471

IRS Form 5471 is the most direct reporting requirement that U.S. owners of Costa Rica corporations may face.  Form 5471 may undoubtedly be considered as one of the most complex U.S. tax forms, both in its content as well as its scope.

As of the time of this writing, there are four non-exclusive (i.e. a taxpayer can belong to multiple categories at the same time) categories of filers of Costa Rica corporations who must file Form 5471.  Determining the categories, if any, to which a taxpayer belongs is a legal decision and a very important one since the number and severity of the reporting requirements directly depends on the number of  categories applicable to the taxpayer.

If the taxpayer is required to Form 5471 for Costa Rica corporations, then he must do so by attaching the completed Form 5471 with all of the numerous attachments to his tax return.

Failure to file Form 5471 for Costa Rica corporations may have severe consequences.  Explore this article for more information on Form 5471 penalties.

Form 8938

IRS Form 8938 is a newcomer to the world of U.S. tax compliance – in fact, the tax year 2001 is the first year that the form must be filed with the taxpayer’s U.S. tax return.

Form 8938 should be filed only if certain threshold requirements are met.  In case the taxpayer already disclosed the information regarding the specified foreign asset on Form 5471, Form 8938 should be filed to cross-reference Form 5471.  Explore this article to learn more about Form 8938.


As long as the basic threshold requirement is met, the Report on Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”) may be required if the taxpayer is the owner of a foreign corporation and has signatory authority (either as an officer of the corporation or an owner) over the corporate accounts.

It is highly important to comply with the FBAR requirement because the FBAR contains perhaps the most severe penalty structure of any other reporting requirement in the entire Internal Revenue Code (IRC).

Subpart “F” Income

If you are an owner of a Controlled Foreign Corporation (“CFC”) and the CFC has subpart “F” income, then you may be required to report subpart “F” income on your personal tax return (e.g. Form 1040).  This income is likely to be treated in a highly unfavorable way by the IRC.

Other Forms

Other forms may be required to be filed as a result of the your ownership of Costa Rica corporations.   Most of these additional tax reporting requirements are triggered by various transactional activities conducted by the corporation or between you and your corporation.  You should consult an international tax attorney for detailed analysis of your specific situation.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for U.S. Tax Compliance Requirements if You Own Shares of Costa Rica Corporations

If you own a corporation in Costa Rica or you intend to do so, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office.  Owner Eugene Sherayzen will analyze your particular situation, determine what U.S. tax reporting requirements apply to you and help you comply with them, and offer a rigorous ethical tax plan designed to make sure that you do not overpay your U.S. taxes under the current IRC provisions.