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FinCEN Form 114 Filers | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney Minnesota Minneapolis

The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114 (a/k/a FBAR) is arguably the most important information return concerning foreign accounts. Its importance stems first and foremost from the extremely severe Form 114 penalties, which range from criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison to willful and even non-willful penalties that may exceed the value of the penalized accounts. Given these penalties, it is important to understand who the FinCEN Form 114 filers are – i.e. who is required to file Form 114?

For today’s purposes, I will concentrate only on the individual FinCEN Form 114 filers.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: General Definition

At the center of the definition of FBAR filer is a United States person (“US person”). A US person must file FinCEN Form 114 if he has a financial interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over any foreign financial accounts and the aggregate maximum value of these accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: Main Categories of US Persons

Under the 31 CFR 1010.350(b), the definition of a US Person is very specific and consists of five main categories: (1) a citizen of the United States; (2) a resident of the United States; (3) an entity created or organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States; (4) a trust formed under the laws of the United States; and (5) an estate formed under the laws of the United States. As I stated above, today, I will focus only on categories 1 and 2; I will deal with business, trust and estate FinCEN Form 114 filers in other articles.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: US Citizens

This is by far the easiest category of FinCEN Form 114 filers to analyze. If an individual is a US citizen and has foreign accounts that exceed the filing threshold, then, he must file Form 114.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: Definition of “Residents of the United States”

In the context of FBAR compliance, a “resident of the United States” has a special meaning which corresponds for the most part, but not exactly, to the US income tax definition of a tax resident. There are three distinct categories of individuals who fall within the definition of a “resident of the United States” for FBAR purposes: US permanent residents, persons who satisfy the Substantial Presence Test, and certain non-resident aliens who make the first-year election to be treated as US tax residents. Additionally, Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §7701(b)(2) contains a number of provisions that regulate when individuals are considered to be US residents for FBAR (as well as income tax) purposes during the first-year and the last-year of residency.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: US Permanent Residents

The first category of residents of the United States is not complex. All US Permanent are US persons and, if they have foreign accounts that exceed the FBAR filing threshold, also FinCEN Form 114 filers.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: Substantial Presence Test

The second category of residents of the United States for FBAR purposes are the individuals who satisfied the Substantial Presence Test described in IRC §7701(b)(3). Under the Substantial Presence Test, an individual is a US person if: (1) he was present in the United States (as defined under 31 CFR 1010.100(hhh)) for at least 31 days during the calendar year in question; and (2) the sum of the number of days on which such individual was present in the United States during the current year and the two preceding calendar years equals or exceeds 183 days. The amount of days in the two preceding years should multiplied by the applicable multiplier as follows: first preceding year – one-third; second preceding year – one-sixth.

For example, if we are trying to determine the tax residency for the tax year 2019, we will take all the sum of the days an individual was physically present in the United States in 2019, one-third of the days in 2018 and one-sixth of the days in 2017. If the total amount equals or exceeds 183 days, then this individual is a US person for FBAR purposes.

It should be pointed out that this is the general rule. There are numerous exceptions to the Substantial Present Test, including the famous “closer connection exception” and certain visa exemptions. Hence, you should retain an international tax attorney to analyze your specific set of facts in order to determine whether you should be considered a US person for FBAR purposes.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: First-Year Residency Election

The third category of residents of the United States for FBAR purposes includes all individuals who made a first-year election on their US tax returns to be treated as residents pursuant to IRC §7701(b)(4). Generally, we are talking about a situation where a person does not have a green card, does not meet the Substantial Presence Test and comes sometime during a year. In other words, this person is not a US person under any other category, but decides to make an election to be treated as a US tax resident.

In order to make this election, the person must satisfy certain requirements outlined in IRC §7701(b)(4). Failure to meet any of these requirements will result in a person becoming a non-resident alien for the entire year.

It is also important not to confuse the IRC §7701(b)(4) election with the IRC §6013(g) or (h) election. In the latter cases, the elections do not affect the residency status for FBAR purposes.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: First- and Last-Year Residency Provisions of IRC §7701(b)(2)

IRC §7701(b)(2) is not technically a fourth category of a resident of the United States. Rather, this section regulates when US residency actually starts or ends once it is acquired or lost under other categories. Nevertheless, it is important to understand and be aware of these provisions.

FinCEN Form 114 Filers: Tax Treaties & FBAR Residency Status

Most tax treaties contain what are known as “tie-breaker provisions” for determining a person’s tax residency. Sometimes, a person can use these provisions to escape the income tax residency rules. The IRS has specifically stated that, as long as one of the residency test of IRC §7701(b) is met, the tax treaty non-residency determination does not affect the residency status of a person for FBAR purposes.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for the Determination of Whether You and Your Family Should Be Considered FinCEN Form 114 Filers

If you have foreign bank accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help concerning whether you need to file an FBAR. Sherayzen Law Office is a highly-experienced international tax law firm which has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their FBAR issues. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FBAR Noncompliance & Taxpayer’s Options | FBAR Lawyer & Attorney

FBAR noncompliance is the worst nightmare for US taxpayers due to enormous FBAR penalties even for non-willful taxpayers. US Taxpayers who are not facing an IRS examination or a DOJ (US Department of Justice) lawsuit have three options with respect to their FBAR noncompliance: (1) do nothing with respect to correcting their prior FBAR noncompliance, close the accounts and hope that the IRS will never discover them; (2) do a quiet disclosure; and (3) come forward and voluntarily disclose their unfiled FBARs.

I already explored the highly-risky strategy of a quiet disclosure in another article. In this article, I will focus on option #1 – doing nothing about prior FBAR noncompliance. In the next article, I will discuss the option of Offshore Voluntary Disclosure as a way to deal with prior FBAR noncompliance.

This article does not constitute legal advice, but merely provides information for educational purposes.

Advantages of Doing Nothing With Respect to Prior FBAR Noncompliance

Doing nothing with respect to FBAR noncompliance is a position that some taxpayers prefer, because it requires no action, no immediate legal expenses and no immediate payment of IRS penalties.

In other words, if a taxpayer chooses to do nothing with respect to his late unfiled FBARs and his strategy is successful, he stands to gain in two aspects: (1) he spends no effort, time or money on correcting his past FBAR noncompliance; and (2) if (and this is big “if”) the IRS never finds out about his past FBAR noncompliance, he will not pay any penalties. This whole strategy is based on the hope that the IRS will not find out about their FBAR noncompliance.

Disadvantages of Doing Nothing With Respect to Prior FBAR Noncompliance Even If the Strategy Is Successful

From legal perspective, this strategy of doing nothing can be classified as very risky. If unsuccessful, a noncompliant taxpayer who chooses to do nothing stands to lose a lot more than he could ever gain if his strategy works.

Let’s analyze the disadvantages of doing nothing based on two scenarios: the strategy is successful and the strategy is unsuccessful.

Even if the strategy is ultimately successful and the IRS does not find out about FBAR noncompliance, there is still a heavy psychological price to pay for this success, because the taxpayer will not find out about the success of his strategy until the FBAR statute of limitations expires. In other words, for six long years, the taxpayer will not have any peace of mind and will constantly worry about his potential FBAR penalty exposure. If the taxpayer does not close his foreign accounts, the waiting period could be extended even further.

Moreover, if FBAR noncompliance is combined with income noncompliance and failure to file other US international information returns, the statute of limitations on the tax returns might be open for an indefinite period of time (especially if the IRS can assert a fraud claim against the noncompliant taxpayer).

I have personally seen the psychological effects of such pressure on some of my clients. It was simply destroying their lives. Eventually, they could not live like this and came to me to do offshore voluntary disclosure to resolve their prior FBAR noncompliance.

Disadvantages of Doing Nothing With Respect to Prior FBAR Noncompliance Where the Strategy Fails

If the success of this strategy exhorts such a heavy price, its failure may potentially result in disastrous consequences. Let’s explore the main two reasons why the strategy of doing nothing is so disfavored among international tax lawyers.

First, as described above, the current international tax enforcement structure severely undermines the entire basis for the strategy – i.e. hope that the IRS will not find out about FBAR noncompliance is simply too risky in the contemporary world dominated by FATCA, CRS and a widely-spread web of bilateral and multilateral automatic information exchange treaties. It is still possible that the IRS will not find out about a US person’s foreign accounts, but it is becoming less and less likely.

Second, since the strategy of doing nothing implies a taxpayer’s conscious choice not to comply with the FBAR requirements, it may turn a relatively simple and non-willful situation into a complex and willful one. In other words, under these circumstances, if the IRS is able to find out about prior FBAR noncompliance, the IRS may pursue willful and, in extreme circumstances, even criminal FBAR penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Resolving FBAR Noncompliance Issues

If you never filed your required FBARs and other US tax forms, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our legal team is headed by one of the most experienced international tax lawyers in this area – Mr. Eugene Sherayzen. He has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to successfully resolve their prior FBAR noncompliance, and He can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2018 FBAR Civil Penalties | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Following the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, the FBAR civil penalties are adjusted every year by the IRS for inflation. In this brief article, I would like to describe the new 2018 FBAR Civil Penalties that may be assessed by the IRS with respect to FBAR noncompliance.

2018 FBAR Civil Penalties: Pre-2016 FBAR Penalty System

The FBAR penalty system was already complex prior to the FBAR penalty inflation adjustment. It consisted of three different levels of penalties with various levels of mitigation. The highest level of penalties consisted of criminal penalties. The most dreadful penalty was imposed for the willful failure to file FBAR or retain records of a foreign account while also violating certain other laws – up to $500,000 or 10 years in prison or both.

The next level consisted of civil penalties imposed for a willful failure to file an FBAR – up to $100,000 or 50% of the highest balance of an account, whichever is greater, per violation per year.

The third level of penalties were imposed for the non-willful failure to file an FBAR. The penalties were up to $10,000 per violation per year. It is also important to point out that the subsequent laws and IRS guidance imposed certain limitations on the application of the non-willful FBAR penalties.

Finally, there were also penalties imposed solely on businesses for negligent failure to file an FBAR. These penalties were up to $500 per violation; if, however, there was a pattern of negligence, the negligence penalties could increase ten times up to $50,000 per violation.

2018 FBAR Civil Penalties: Penalty Adjustment System

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 further complicated the already complex FBAR penalty system, including for 2018 FBAR civil penalties.

As a result of the Act, with respect to post-November 2, 2015 violations, the exact amount of penalties will depend on the timing of the IRS penalty assessment, not when the FBAR violation actually occurred.

For example, in 2017, the IRS announced that if the IRS penalty assessment was made after August 1, 2016 but prior to January 16, 2017, then the maximum non-willful FBAR penalty per violation would be $12,459 and the maximum willful FBAR penalty per violation would be the greater of $124,588 or 50% of the highest balance of the account.

Similarly, if the penalty was assessed after January 15, 2017, the maximum non-willful FBAR penalty would increase to $12,663 per violation and the maximum civil willful FBAR penalty would be the greater of $126,626 or 50% of the highest balance of the account.

Now, in 2018, post-January 15, 2017 FBAR penalties are adjusted higher.

2018 FBAR Civil Penalties: 2018 Inflation Adjustment

The new 2018 FBAR civil penalties for FBAR violations have increased as a result of inflation. If a penalty was assessed after January 15, 2017, the maximum 2018 FBAR civil penalties for a non-willful violation increased from $12,663 to $12,921. Similarly, the maximum 2018 FBAR civil penalties for a willful violation assessed after January 15, 2017 increased from $126,626 to $129,210.

It should be emphasized that the IRS currently interprets the term “violation” as a failure to report an account on an FBAR. In other words, these higher 2018 FBAR civil penalties can be assessed on a per-account basis.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with 2018 FBAR Civil Penalties

If you have not filed your FBAR and you want to do a voluntary disclosure; if you are being audited by the IRS with the possibility of the imposition of FBAR penalties; or FBAR penalties have already been assessed and you believe that they are too high, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help.

Sherayzen Law Office has helped hundreds of US taxpayers to deal with their FBAR penalties on all levels: offshore voluntary disclosure, FBAR Audit pre-assessment, post-audit FBAR penalty assessment and FBAR litigation in a federal court. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2017 FBAR Deadline | FinCEN Form 114 FBAR Lawyer & Attorney

FinCEN recently confirmed the 2017 FBAR deadline and the automatic extension option.

2017 FBAR Deadline: FBAR Background

FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, is commonly known as FBAR.  US taxpayers should use this form to report their financial interest in or signatory authority over foreign financial accounts. Failure to timely file the FBAR may result in the imposition of draconian FBAR penalties.

2017 FBAR Deadline: Traditional FBAR Deadline

Prior to 2016 FBAR, the taxpayers had to file their FBARs for each relevant calendar year by June 30 of the following year. No filings extensions were allowed. The last FBAR that followed this deadline was 2015 FBAR (its due date was June 30, 2016).

2017 FBAR Deadline: Changes to FBAR Deadline Starting 2016 FBAR

The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 (the “Act”) changed the FBAR deadline starting with 2016 FBAR.  Section 2006(b)(11) of the Act requires the FBARs to be filed by the due date of that year’s tax return (i.e. usually April 15), not June 30.

Furthermore, during the transition period, the IRS granted to US taxpayers an automatic extension of the FBAR filing deadline to October 15. The taxpayers do not need to make any specific requests in order for extension to be granted.

In other words, starting 2016 FBAR, the Act adjusted the FBAR due date to coincide with the federal income tax filing deadlines. Moreover, the new FBAR filing deadline will follow to the letter the federal income tax due date guidance. The federal income tax due date guidance states that, in situations where the tax return due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the IRS must delay the due date until the next business day.

2017 FBAR Deadline

Based on the new law, the 2017 FBAR deadline will be April 17, 2018 (same as 2017 income tax return due date). If a taxpayer does not file his 2017 FBAR by April 17, 2018, then the IRS will automatically grant an extension until October 15, 2018. Failure to file 2017 FBAR by October 15, 2018, may result in the imposition of FBAR civil and criminal penalties.

2018 FBAR Criminal Penalties | FBAR Lawyer & Attorney

2018 FBAR criminal penalties should be on the mind of any US taxpayer who willfully failed to file his FBARs or knowingly filed a false FBAR. In this essay, I would like to do an overview of the 2018 FBAR criminal penalties that these noncompliant US taxpayers may have to face.

2018 FBAR Criminal Penalties: Background Information

A lot of US taxpayers do not understand why the 2018 FBAR criminal penalties are so shockingly high. These taxpayers question why failing to file a form that has nothing do with income tax calculation should potentially result in a jail sentence.

The answer to this questions lies in the legislative history of FBAR. First of all, it is important to understand that FBAR is not a tax form. The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”) was born in 1970 out of the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”), in particular 31 U.S.C. §5314. This means that the initial primary purpose of the form was to fight financial crimes, money laundering and terrorism. In other words, FBAR was not created as a tool against tax evasion.

Hence, the FBAR penalties were structured from the very beginning for the purpose of punishing criminals engaged in financial crimes and/or terrorism. This is why the FBAR penalties are so severe and easily surpass the penalties of any tax form.

It was only 30 years later, after the enaction of The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (the “USA Patriot Act”), that the enforcement of FBAR was turned over to the IRS. The IRS almost immediately commenced using FBAR to fight the tax evasion schemes that utilized offshore accounts.

The Congress liked the IRS initiative and responded with the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (“2004 Jobs Act”). The 2004 Jobs Act further increased the FBAR penalties, including the creation of the non-willful penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.

2018 FBAR Criminal Penalties: Description

Now that we understand why the 2018 FBAR criminal penalties are so severe, let’s describe what they penalties actually look like. There are three different 2018 FBAR criminal penalties associated with different FBAR violations.

The first criminal penalty may be imposed under 26 U.S.C. 5322(a) and 31 C.F.R. § 103.59(b) for willful failure to file FBAR or retain records of a foreign account. The penalty is up to $250,000 or 5 years in prison or both.

When the willful failure to file FBAR is combined with a violation of other US laws or the failure to file FBAR is “part of a pattern of any illegal activity involving more than $100,000 in a 12-month period”, then the IRS has the option of imposing a criminal penalty under 26 U.S.C. 5322(b) and 31 C.F.R. § 103.59(c). In this case, the penalty jumps to incredible $500,000 or 10 years in prison or both.

Finally, if a person willingly and knowingly files a false, fictitious or fraudulent FBAR, he is subject to the penalty under 31 C.F.R. § 103.59(d). The penalty in this case may be $10,000 or 5 years or both.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Past FBAR Violations

If you were required to file an FBAR but you have not done it, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore your voluntary disclosure options. Our international tax law firm specializes in FBAR compliance and we have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws while reducing and, in some cases, eliminating their FBAR penalties.

We can help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!