The IRS loves FBAR. Undoubtedly, FATCA Form 8938 is a very serious rival, but even this form cannot match the FBAR‘s popularity among the IRS agents with respect to foreign accounts. What is behind this popularity? Or, stated in another way, why does the IRS love FBAR and prefers them to any other international tax enforcement mechanism for undisclosed foreign accounts?
First Reason Why the IRS Loves FBAR
The first reason why the IRS loves FBAR is because FBAR used to be the main and almost only form that dealt directly with the foreign accounts. Until 2011, when Form 8938 appeared for the first time, there was simply no form created pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code that would match the FBAR’s reach with respect to foreign bank and financial accounts.
Second Reason Why the IRS Loves FBAR
The second reason why the IRS loves FBAR is the ease with which a taxpayer can commit an FBAR violation. First, since FBAR comes from Title 31 and it is not part of the Internal Revenue Code, it is a fairly obscure requirement. Obviously, it is much better known now after the IRS voluntary disclosure programs. Still, there are many taxpayers and even accountants who simply do not know of FBAR’s existence.
Second, FBAR has a very low reporting threshold. As long as the highest aggregate balance on the foreign accounts was $10,000 or more at any point during a year, all of the accounts must be reported on FBAR. In essence, any more or less active use of an account is likely to trigger the FBAR requirement.
Third Reason Why the IRS Loves FBAR
The third reason why the IRS loves FBAR is the wide net that the FBAR casts over taxpayers. Not only does the FBAR define the term “account” in a very broad manner (including in this term such odd “accounts” as life insurance policies, bullion gold investments and so on), but its penalty structure forces compliance among all levels of taxpayers irrespective of their earnings or their willfulness (or lack thereof) with respect to FBAR violations.
Fourth Reason Why the IRS Loves FBAR
Finally, the fourth reason why the IRS loves FBAR is its draconian penalty structure that may result in the imposition of penalties that far exceed the balance (to emphasize: not the earnings, but the balance) of the unreported accounts. FBAR imposes high penalties of up to $10,000 even with respect to non-willful violations. Criminal penalties, including jail time, may be possible for willful violations.
In other words, FBAR is the ultimate punishment that the IRS can hammer out on noncompliant US taxpayers. This is probably the most important reason for the popularity of FBAR among IRS agents and even US Department of Justice prosecutors.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Undisclosed Foreign Accounts and Foreign Assets
If you have not disclosed your foreign accounts on FBARs or you have other unreported foreign assets, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Our legal and accounting team is led by one of the best international tax lawyers in the country, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with their FBAR compliance and we can help you!