Foreign Life Insurance Policies are very popular around the world, especially in India, Germany and France (Assurance Vie accounts). Yet, very few U.S. taxpayers (especially H-1B holders and U.S. permanent residents) are aware of the fact that these policies may be subject to numerous and complex IRS tax reporting requirements in the United States. In this article, I would like to generally discuss the FBAR requirements applicable to foreign life insurance policies.
I will not be discussing here the requirements for a qualified foreign life insurance policy, because it is mostly irrelevant since the great majority of foreign life insurance policies would not be qualified policies.
Types of Foreign Life Insurance Policies
Before we start exploring which foreign life insurance policies (also known as Life Assurance Policies) are subject to the FBAR requirement, it is important to distinguish three general categories of foreign life insurance policies.
In the order of rising complexity, the first category of foreign life insurance policies consists of simple, straightforward life insurance policies with no cash surrender value, no income payments and no income accumulations. The taxpayer simply makes the required premium payments and he expects a fixed-amount payout at death.
The second category of foreign life insurance policies has a cash-surrender value, but no income. The taxpayer pays a premium and expects a certain payout when the policy is surrendered or matures. The cash surrender value grows over time mostly through premiums and bonuses which would be paid out when the policy is surrendered. There is also a potential death benefit.
Finally, the third category of foreign life insurance policies has a cash-surrender value with investments and/or income. There is a large variety of investment life insurance policies. The most common arrangement, though, is where the taxpayer pays a relatively large initial premium which is invested in foreign mutual funds; the growth in mutual funds will usually determine the cash-surrender value. Oftentimes, the cash-surrender value in these policies is tax-free if certain requirements are met (for example, Assurance Vie policies in France or certain life insurance policies in India).
In some cases (for example, in Malaysia), an investment foreign health insurance policy may be tied into a life insurance policy.
FBAR – FinCEN Form 114
FinCEN Form 114 – Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (commonly known as FBAR) is the most important US tax information return. FBAR must be filed by a US tax resident if the aggregate value of foreign financial accounts (in which this US person has financial interest and/or over which this US person has signatory authority) exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. The 2015 FBAR must be received by the IRS by June 30, 2016 without any extension possible; however, starting the reporting for the calendar year 2016 (i.e. 2016 FBAR) the FBARs are due on April 15 with an extension possible.
The importance of FBAR stems from the draconian FBAR penalties. Unlike many other information returns, FBAR imposes penalty not only on the willful non-filing, but also on the non-willful failure to file the FBAR. The willful FBAR penalties range from criminal penalties with up to 5 years in prison to up to $100,000 penalty per account per year. The FBAR statute of limitations is six years, which means that up to six years maybe subject to a penalty (though, usually it would be 2-4 years).
Foreign Life Insurance Policies and FBAR Reporting
Foreign life insurance policies must be reported on the FBAR if they have a cash-surrender value. Therefore, foreign life insurance policies that fall into categories two and three described above are always reportable. Investment foreign life insurance policies promoted by national governments (such as Assurance Vie accounts in France) are reportable even if they are considered to be held by a foreign trust (such as Superannuation Accounts in Australia).
The first category of foreign life insurance policies I listed above (i.e. life insurance policies without any cash-surrender value) are not likely to be reportable, but there are exceptions.
The determination of whether your foreign life insurance policies are reportable on the FBAR should be made by an international tax attorney; I strongly discourage any attempt by US taxpayers to make this determination without legal assistance.
Foreign Life Insurance Policies and Other Reporting Requirements
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Foreign Life Insurance Policies
If you have foreign life insurance policies, contact Sherayzen Law Office for assistance as soon as possible. Foreign life insurance policies can be extremely complex and the US reporting requirements associated with them vary from country to country. Sherayzen Law Office has accumulated tremendous experience in dealing with foreign life insurance policies from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Europe and Asia. We can help You!