After having handled so many offshore voluntary disclosures for my Indian and Indian-American clients, I can clearly see that US tax reporting obligations concerning Indian mutual funds is one of the most troublesome areas for my clients. In this article, I will focus on the three most important US tax reporting requirements that may be applicable to US taxpayers with Indian mutual funds – FBAR, FATCA Form 8938 and Form 8621.
Indian Mutual Funds: FBAR Reporting
The first and most important requirement that applies to US taxpayers with Indian mutual funds is FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, commonly known as “FBAR”. As long they meet the filing threshold, US taxpayers are required to disclose all of their Indian mutual funds on FBAR.
FBAR is a very dangerous form. On the one hand, it is very easy to fall into noncompliance with this form due to its very low filing threshold – just $10,000. Moreover, this threshold is determined by taking the calendar-year highest balances of all of the taxpayer’s foreign accounts (even if these accounts are located in another country in addition to India) and adding them all up. Sometimes, this results in significant over-reporting of a person’s actual balances, which easily satisfies the FBAR reporting threshold.
On the other hand, FBAR has the most severe noncompliance penalties among all information returns concerning foreign asset disclosure. Its penalties range from non-willful penalties (i.e. potentially a situation where a person simply did not know about FBAR’s existence) to extremely high civil willful penalties and even criminal penalties. In other words, in certain circumstances, FBAR noncompliance may result in actual jail time.
Indian Mutual Funds: FATCA Form 8938
When it comes to the FATCA Form 8938 compliance, a taxpayer with Indian mutual funds will find it fairly easy as long as he correctly files his Forms 8621 (see below) and indicates on Form 8938 how many of these forms were filed with the tax return. This ease of reporting is meant to alleviate double-reporting of foreign mutual funds on a US tax return.
It is important to emphasize three points with respect to Form 8938 compliance for taxpayers with Indian mutual funds. First, even if you file Forms 8621, Form 8938 must still be attached to your tax return as long as you meet the relevant filing threshold (and the assets listed on Forms 8621 must be counted toward the threshold). Failure to file a Form 8938 may still draw a penalty in these circumstances and keep the statute of limitations open on your entire US tax return.
Third, unlike FBAR, Form 8938 comes with a third-party FATCA verification mechanism. Under FATCA, the IRS should receive foreign-account information not only from taxpayers who file Forms 8938, but also from their foreign financial institutions. This means that it is much easier for the IRS to identify Form 8938 (and thereby Form 8621) noncompliance than that of FBAR. It also means that a Form 8938 noncompliance may have a higher chance to be investigated and penalized by the IRS.
Indian Mutual Funds: Form 8621 PFIC Reporting
We now come to the most critical difference in US tax compliance between foreign mutual funds and most other foreign assets. All foreign mutual funds, including the funds incorporated in India, are classified as PFICs or Passive Foreign Investment Companies under US international tax law.
While I will not explain here the complex PFIC calculations and the various PFIC elections that may be available to a US taxpayer with foreign mutual funds, I wish to discuss four most important points concerning PFIC compliance.
First, pursuant to the worldwide income reporting requirement, all US tax residents must calculate and disclose their PFIC income on their US tax returns. This is a significant compliance burden as PFIC calculations can be very complex and expensive. The professional fees for PFIC calculations may easily outstrip all other professional fees related to other aspects of your US tax compliance.
Second, since PFIC tax and PFIC interest are calculated independent of a taxpayer’s actual tax bracket, a taxpayer with Indian mutual funds may see a significant rise in his US tax liability. It may occur even in a situation where a taxpayer may not otherwise owe any tax to the IRS. This fact may be especially significant in a voluntary disclosure context.
Third, the actual disclosure of PFIC income occurs on Form 8621 before it is entered into your personal or business tax return. This information return must be filed with your US tax return. Unfortunately, since the vast majority of tax software programs (consumer and professional) do not support Form 8621 compliance, it is very likely that you will not be able to e-file your US tax return; rather, you may have to mail it.
Finally, Form 8621 is a very obscure requirement known mostly to a handful of US tax professionals who specialize in US international tax compliance (such as Sherayzen Law Office). This means that the majority of US taxpayers are not even aware of the fact that they need to comply with their Form 8621 reporting obligations. In other words, they believe themselves to be in compliance with US tax laws even though, in reality, they are not. Thus, the obscurity and complexity of Form 8621 pushes many US taxpayers into tax noncompliance.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With US Tax Reporting of Your Indian Mutual Funds
If you are a US taxpayer with Indian mutual funds, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with foreign mutual funds, including Indian mutual funds, to resolve their past FBAR, FATCA and PFIC noncompliance, and we can help you!