Despite the fact that FATCA has been implemented already in July of 2014, a lot of US taxpayers are still unaware of their obligation to disclose their Japanese bank accounts in the United States. In this essay, I will discuss the three most important US international tax requirements concerning Japanese bank accounts: worldwide income reporting, FBAR and FATCA Form 8938.
Japanese Bank Accounts: Japanese Income Must Be Disclosed on US Tax Returns
All US tax residents must disclose their worldwide income on their US tax returns. This requirement includes all income generated by the Japanese bank accounts. This obligation applies to all types of income: bank interest income, dividends, capital gains, et cetera.
In this context, it is important to reject two incorrect, but commonly-held beliefs concerning the reporting of Japanese-source income. First, a significant number of US taxpayers believe that Japanese income does not need to be reported if it never left Japan. This is completely false; it does not matter where the income is earned or held – as long as you are a US tax resident, you must disclose your Japanese income on your US tax returns whether or not it was ever transferred to the United States.
The second and most common myth is the belief that, if the income is subject to Japanese tax withholding, it does not need to be reported in the United States. Some taxpayers hold this belief because of their familiarity with the territorial system of taxation, while others assume that this is true due to the prohibition of double-taxation under the US-Japan tax treaty.
In either case, this myth is also completely false. All US tax residents must disclose their Japanese income on their US tax returns even if it is subject to Japanese tax withholding or reported on Japanese tax returns. However, you may be able to take advantage of the Foreign Tax Credit to reduce your US tax liability by the amount of taxes paid in Japan.
Japanese Bank Accounts: FBAR
The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114 (popularly known as “FBAR”) is one of the most important reporting requirements that applies to Japanese bank accounts. Generally, a US person is required to file FBAR if he has a financial interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts which, in the aggregate, exceed $10,000 at any point during a calendar year.
FBAR has a severe penalty system for failure to file the form, failure to provide accurate information on the form and failure to maintain supporting documentation for the amounts reported on FBAR. The penalties range from criminal penalties (i.e. actual time in jail) to willful and non-willful civil penalties. The civil penalties are adjusted for inflation each year.
Given the fact that FBAR penalties may completely destroy one’s financial life, US taxpayers should strive to do everything in their power to make sure that they comply with this requirement.
Japanese Bank Accounts: FATCA Form 8938
In addition to FBAR, US tax residents with Japanese bank accounts may be required to file Form 8938. Form 8938 is the creation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”). US tax residents must disclose their Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”) on Form 8938 in each year their SFFA exceed the form’s filing threshold.
Form 8938 has a higher filing threshold than FBAR, but it is still relatively low, especially if the owner of Japanese bank accounts resides in the United States. For example, if a taxpayer resides in the United States and his tax return filing status is “single”, then he would only need to have $50,000 or higher at the end of the year or $75,000 or higher at any point during the year in order to trigger the Form 8938 filing requirement.
Moreover, SFFA is defined very broadly to include a lot of more financial assets than what is required to be reported on FBAR; hence, it is easier for US taxpayers to meet the Form 8938 filing Threshold. SFFA includes foreign bank and financials accounts, bonds, swaps, ownership interest in a foreign business, beneficiary interest in a foreign trust and many other types of financial assets. A word of caution: even when FBAR and Form 8938 cover the same assets, both forms must be filed despite the duplication of the disclosure.
The readers should also remember that Form 8938 has it own distinct penalty structure for failure to file the form or failure to comply with all of its requirements.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Reporting of Your Japanese Bank Accounts in the United States
This essay broadly covered three most important and most common reporting requirements concerning Japanese bank accounts. There may be a lot more of these requirements depending on your particular fact pattern.
Sherayzen Law Office has extensive experience working with Japanese clients and their bank accounts. We can help you identify your US international tax requirements and prepare all of the tax documents necessary to comply with them. Moreover, if you did not comply with any of these US tax obligations in the past, we will help you with your offshore voluntary disclosure to minimize your IRS penalties and avoid IRS criminal prosecution.
We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers to deal with their US international tax compliance, and We can help You!