As the FATCA deadline to report Indian preexisting accounts approaches for Indian foreign financial institutions, more and more Indian-Americans and Indians who live and work in the United States receive Indian FATCA Letters (i.e. FATCA letters from Indian foreign financial institutions).
Many U.S. taxpayers of Indian origin are completely unprepared for Indian FATCA Letters and do not understand what they need to do. In this article, I would like to discuss the origin and purpose of Indian FATCA Letters as well as what you should do if you received such a letter.
Indian FATCA Letters
Indian FATCA Letters are the tools used by Indian foreign financial institutions to comply with their FATCA obligations. Since its enaction into law in 2010, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) has had a tremendous impact on global tax information exchange, forcing foreign financial institutions from more than 110 jurisdictions to comply with FATCA provisions.
One of the most prominent aspects of FATCA is the fact that it forces foreign financial institutions to report (directly or indirectly) certain information regarding U.S. owners of foreign bank and financial accounts. In essence, foreign financial institutions around the world are now forced to play the role of IRS informants, actively spying and turning over information regarding foreign financial activities of U.S. taxpayers to the IRS.
FATCA is implemented worldwide through a network of bilateral treaties. India signed such a treaty which came into force on August 31, 2015, forcing Indian foreign financial institutions to adopt FATCA-compliant procedures.
Indian FATCA Letters represent this compliance effort by Indian foreign financial institutions. In particular, Indian FATCA Letters are designed to collect various information required by FATCA, such as: the name and address of a U.S. taxpayer, the tax identification number of a U.S. taxpayer, and other information required to determine the U.S. tax status of the accountholder.
Indian FATCA Letters and Undisclosed Indian Bank and Financial Accounts
Indian FATCA Letters may have profound impact on U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed bank and financial accounts in India. First of all, Indian FATCA Letters automatically establish the awareness of U.S. tax requirements on the part of U.S. taxpayers – i.e. after receiving these letters, the taxpayers must take prudent steps to assure current and future U.S. tax compliance if they wish to avoid willful noncompliance with consequent imposition of heavy IRS penalties. This is especially important for taxpayers who receive Indian FATCA letters right before the tax return and FBAR filing deadlines.
Second, Indian FATCA Letters “start the clock” for U.S. taxpayers who wish to do voluntary disclosure. This is done in two ways – direct and indirect.
The direct impact of Indian FATCA Letters is the FATCA requirement that foreign financial institutions report the required FATCA information to the IRS with respect to their U.S. (or suspected U.S.) accountholders within certain limited period of time. If the taxpayer refuses to answer his Indian FATCA Letters, the financial institutions will report him to the IRS as a “recalcitrant” taxpayer. This, in turn, may lead to a subsequent IRS examination which may deprive the taxpayer of the ability to take advantage of any type of a voluntary disclosure option.
The indirect impact of Indian FATCA Letters is linked to the “knowledge” issue described above – Indian FATCA Letters start the clock for the taxpayers to do their voluntary disclosure. If they do not do it within reasonable period of time (which may differ depending on circumstances), the IRS may proceed based on the assumption that prior noncompliance with U.S. tax requirements by the procrastinating taxpayers was willful.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office if You Received Indian FATCA Letters
If you received one or more Indian FATCA Letters from foreign financial institutions, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our experienced legal team is led by one of the leading experts in offshore voluntary disclosures in the world – attorney Eugene Sherayzen. He will personally analyze your situation, advise you with respect to your FATCA Letter, and develop your voluntary disclosure strategy. Then, our legal team will implement this strategy, including the preparation of all required tax forms.