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Form 114 US Person Definition | FBAR Tax Lawyer

FinCEN Form 114 US Person definition is a highly important component of FBAR and US international tax compliance.  In this essay, I will discuss in detail the FinCEN Form 114 US Person definition and highlight some common issues that arise with respect to this definition.

Form 114 US Person Definition: What is Form 114 and What is its Relation to FBAR

FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (used to be TD F 90-22.1) is commonly known as FBAR, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. This form is used by US persons to report to the IRS a financial interest in or signatory authority over foreign financial accounts.  This is one of the most important forms that US taxpayers need to file in order to comply with their US international tax law requirements. A failure to file an FBAR when required may result in an imposition of severe IRS penalties.

Form 114 US Person Definition: Only US Persons are Required to File FBARs

It is important to understand that only “US Persons”, as defined by the IRS for the FBAR compliance purposes, are required to file FBARs.  What is the legal basis for this and where does this term “US Person” come from?

BSA (Bank Secrecy Act) §5314(a) states that the Secretary of the Treasury shall require a “resident or citizen of the United States or a person, in, and doing business in, the United States, to keep records, file reports”.  This seems like the FBAR requirement may apply a hugely broad group of people (far beyond US residents and citizens), especially if one takes into account that the “United States” is defined to include all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the territories, and insular possessions of the United States and the Indian lands as defined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. 31 CFR §§1010.350(b) and 1010.100(hhh).  The territories and possessions of the United States include American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands (see BSA Electronic Filing Requirements for Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FinCEN Form 114), p. 5.).

Despite this initial impression, the actual definition that we use today is much smaller than what is mandated by §5314(a) and it is thanks to BSA §5314(b)BSA §5314(b) states that the IRS has the discretion to interpret what this provision actually means and who is exempt from the FBAR filing requirement.

Armed with this authority, on February 26, 2010, the IRS issued proposed regulations, which for the first time defined that only “US Persons” needed to file FBARs. This is why we discuss the definition of a US Person when we discuss who is required to file FBARs.

Form 114 US Person Definition: Who is a Person

Before we turn to the definition of a “US Person”, we need to discuss who is considered to be a “Person” for the Form 114 purposes. Under 31 CFR §1010.350(b), a “person” includes:  natural persons (US citizens and US residents) and entities, including but not limited to: corporations, partnerships, trusts, or limited liability companies formed under the laws of the United States.  This definition includes entities disregarded for tax purposes (as long as they are US persons).

Additionally, pension and welfare plans are also US entities that need to file FBARs. See Amendment to the Bank Secrecy Act Regulations—Reports of Foreign Financial Accounts, 76 Fed. Reg. 10, 234 (Feb. 24, 2011); IRM 4.26.16.2.1.3(3) (06-24-21).  Even though the regulations do not mention it, the Form 114 instructions expand the “person” definition to estates.  It is important to note that, according to page 6 of the FBAR electronic filing instructions, an executor of an estate has a fiduciary obligation to file FBAR on behalf of the estate and on behalf of the decedent in the year following the decedent’s death.

Form 114 US Person Definition: General Definition of a US Person

The definition of a US person includes the following categories of persons:

(1) US citizens;

(2) residents of the United States;

(3) an entity, such as a corporation, partnership and a limited liability company, 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.

Let’s analyze each of these categories in more detail.

Form 114 US Person Definition: US Citizens

All US citizens are subject to the FBAR filing requirement, even minor children.  The general definition of a US citizen is contained in 8 USC §1401.

Form 114 US Person Definition: US Residents

All US residents are subject to FBAR filing requirements.  Pursuant to 31 CFR §1010.350(b)(2), the definition of “US residents” follows the definition of a resident alien under §7701(b) with one modification – the definition of the “United States” still follows 1010.100(hhh) described above. Also, see IRM 4.26.16.2.1.2 (11-06-15).

There are three classes of US residents: (1) US permanent residents; (2) persons who satisfied the Substantial Presence Test; and (3) persons who elected to be treated as US residents.  Let’s discuss each of these classes of US residents in more detail.

1.  US Permanent Residents (the “Green Card Test”)

A person is considered a US person if at any time during the calendar year the person has been lawfully granted the privilege of residing permanently in the United States under the immigration laws and such status has not been revoked. 26 USC §§7701(b)(1)(A)(i) and 7701(b)(6).

One of the most common issues occurs when a person has been issued a green card and he has not yet physically entered the United States. In such cases, this person would not be considered as a resident alien until he actually physically enters the United States. 26 USC §7701(b)(2)(A)(ii).  Once he enters the country, however, he becomes a US permanent resident and continues to be one until the green card is revoked or considered abandoned either judicially or administratively. See 26 CFR §301.7701(b)-1(b)(2) and 26 CFR §301.7701(b)-1(b)(3).

2.  Substantial Presence Test

Even if a person is not a US permanent resident, he may still be considered a US Person if he meets the IRC §7701(b)(3) substantial presence test.  In reality, there are two substantial presence tests.

The first substantial presence test is met if a person is physically present in the United States for at least 183 days during the calendar year. 26 USC §7701(b)(3).  The second substantial presence test is met if two conditions are satisfied: (1) the person is present in the United States for at least 31 days during the calendar year; and (2) the sum of the days on which this person was present in the United States during the current and the two preceding calendar years (multiplied by the fractions found in §7701(b)(3)(A)(ii)) equals to or exceeds 183 days. 26 USC 7701(b)(3)(A).

Let’s focus on the mechanics of the second calculation.  The way to determine whether the 183-day test is met is to add: (a) all days present in the United States during the current calendar year (i.e. the year for which you are trying to determine whether the Substantial Presence Test is met) + (b) one-third of the days spent in the United States in the year immediately preceding the current year + (c) one-sixth of the days spent in the United States in the second year preceding the current calendar year. See 26 USC §7701(b)(3).

Note that the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) provides a number of important exceptions to the Substantial Presence Test.  In this article, I am just providing the general rule.

3.  Election to be Treated as a US Resident Alien

A person who makes the first-year election to be treated as a US resident alien pursuant to §7701(b)(4) is a US Person for FBAR purposes.   Note, however, that this rule applies only to elections made under this provision.  A nonresident alien spouse of a US person who makes an election under the IRC §§6013(g) and 6013(h) to be treated as a resident alien will not be considered as a US person for the FBAR compliance purposes.  This is an important divergence between the income tax and FBAR rules.

Form 114 US Person Definition: US Entities, Trusts & Estates

Entities (corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, et cetera), trusts and estates created, organized or formed in the United States or under the laws of the United States are generally considered to be US Persons for FBAR purposes.

A foreign subsidiary of a US parent will not have any FBAR obligations as long as it is not formed, created or organized under the laws of the United States. However, the US parent company may be required to include the foreign accounts of its foreign subsidiary on its FBAR. 31 CFR §1010.350(e)(2)(ii).

Moreover, a foreign entity organized in and under the laws of a foreign country will not be subject to the FBAR requirements even if it elects to be treated as a US entity for US tax purposes. See Amendment to the Bank Secrecy Act Regulations—Reports of Foreign Financial Accounts, 76 Fed. Reg. 10, 234-238 (Feb. 24, 2011).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your FBAR Compliance

If you need questions concerning your FBAR compliance or a voluntary disclosure concerning your prior FBAR noncompliance, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help!  Our firm specializes in FBAR compliance and offshore voluntary disclosures to remedy prior FBAR noncompliance.

We have helped hundreds of clients around the world and we can help you! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2020 FBAR Criminal Penalties | FBAR International Tax Lawyers

2020 FBAR criminal penalties is a potential threat to any US taxpayer who willfully failed to file his FBARs or knowingly filed a false FBAR. In this essay, I would like to review the 2020 FBAR criminal penalties that these noncompliant US taxpayers may have to face.

2020 FBAR Criminal Penalties: Background Information

A lot of US taxpayers do not understand why the 2020 FBAR criminal penalties are so shockingly severe. 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 initially created to combat tax evasion.

Rather, FBAR criminal 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 allegedly to fight terrorism. Instead, 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 existing penalties and created an new non-willful penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.

2020 FBAR Criminal Penalties: Description

Now that we understand why the 2020 FBAR criminal penalties are so severe, let’s describe what these penalties actually may be. There are three different 2020 FBAR criminal penalties associated with different FBAR violations.

First, a 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.

Second, 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 may be penalized 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, contact Sherayzen Law Office 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 resolve their past FBAR noncompliance while reducing and, in some cases, even eliminating their FBAR penalties.

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

October 31 2020 FBAR Deadline | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

US taxpayers can still timely file their 2019 FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) by the new October 31 2020 FBAR deadline. This FBAR deadline extension is highly unusual and requires some explanation.

October 31 2020 FBAR Deadline: What is FBAR?

The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”) is officially known as FinCen Form 114. This form must be filed by US persons with an ownership interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts if the aggregate value of such accounts exceeds $10,000 at any point during a calendar year. This is a very important US international information return; a failure to timely and correctly file an FBAR may result in an imposition of draconian FBAR penalties. This is why it is so important to learn about FBAR deadlines.

October 31 2020 FBAR Deadline & FinCEN Mistake

The 2019 FBAR deadline extension became possible as a result of an incorrect message posted by FinCEN on its BSA (Bank Secrecy Act) website. On October 14, 2020, FinCEN posted a message that incorrectly stated that the 2019 FBAR deadline was extended to December 31, 2020 for all FBAR filers. Within twenty-four hours, FinCEN removed the message.

On October 16, 2020, FinCEN posted a corrected message that stated that the extension to December 31, 2020, was intended only for victims of recent natural disasters listed in FinCEN’s October 6, 2020 notice.

Since, however, there were filers who have missed the October 15 deadline due to the incorrect October 14 message, FinCEN decided to allow these filers to have an extra couple of weeks to file their 2019 FBARs. For this reason, FinCEN established a new October 31 2020 FBAR deadline for all FBAR filers (except those who were victims of natural disasters listed in the aforementioned October 6 list).

October 31 2020 FBAR Deadline & December 31 2020 FBAR Deadline

Thus, there are two separate FBAR filing deadline extensions still outstanding. The first one is the October 31 2020 FBAR deadline which applies to all FBAR filers except the ones who are also eligible for the second deadline extension.

The second deadline extension to December 31, 2020 applies only to victims of natural disasters listed in FinCEN’s October 6, 2020 notice.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with FBAR Compliance

Sherayzen Law Office is a leading US international tax law firm that specializes in US international tax law and FBAR compliance. We have filed thousands of FBARs for our clients. We have also helped US taxpayers from over 70 countries to deal with FBAR filing violations for prior years, including as part of a voluntary disclosure (such as Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures, Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures and Reasonable Cause disclosures). Our FBAR clients include individuals, corporations, partnerships, estates, trusts and disregarded entities.

We can help you! Contact Us Today To Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Happy New Year 2020 from Sherayzen Law Office!

Sherayzen Law Office wishes everyone a very happy and prosperous New Year 2020! We also wish you stay in full US tax compliance with US international tax laws while your tax burden decreases!

And, we are here to help our clients to turn these wishes into reality! In the year 2020, Sherayzen Law Office will continue to help its clients with all US international tax law issues, including compliance with FATCA, FBAR and all US international information returns such as Forms 3520, 5471, 8621, 8865 and others.

Moreover, Sherayzen Law Office will continue its leadership in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures, helping its clients to bring themselves into full compliance with US tax laws while lowering and, in some cases, even eliminating numerous IRS penalties. We will continue to do all types of offshore voluntary disclosures, including: Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”), Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (“SFOP”), Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures, Delinquent International Information Return Submission Procedures, Modified Traditional Voluntary Disclosure, Reasonable Cause Disclosures and others.

If you are audited by the IRS with respect to your compliance with FBAR, FATCA or any other international information return filing requirements during any point of the new year 2020, then you can advantage of Sherayzen Law Office’s services with respect to IRS audits. We have helped clients throughout the worldwide with IRS audits, including audits related to foreign corporations and offshore voluntary disclosures (e.g. SDOP IRS audit or SFOP IRS audit).

Furthermore, during the new year 2020, Sherayzen Law Office will continue to create new creative and ethical tax plans and implement the old ones in order to allow our clients to take full advantage of the benefits offered by the Internal Revenue Code.

At Sherayzen Law Office, we look at the new year 2020 as an exciting opportunity to continue to deliver top-quality US international tax services to our clients around the globe. Helping people and their businesses with their US international tax issues is our goal!

Contact us directly by phone or email to schedule your confidential consultation!

Happy New Year 2020 to you and your family!

The Norman Case: Willful FBAR Penalty Upheld | FBAR Lawyers Miami

On November 8, 2019, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) upheld the decision of the Court of Federal Claims to uphold the IRS assessment of a willful FBAR penalty in the amount of $803,530 with respect to Ms. Mindy Norman’s failure to file her 2007 FBAR. The Norman case deserves special attention because of its facts and circumstances and how the Court interpreted them to uphold the willful FBAR penalty.

The Norman Case: Facts of the Case

Ms. Norman is a school teacher. In 1999, she opened a bank account with UBS bank in Switzerland. It was a “numbered account” – i.e. income and asset statements referred to the account number only; Ms. Norman’s name and address did not appear anywhere on the account statements. Between 2001 and 2008, the highest balance of the account ranged between about $1.5 million and $2.5 million.

The Court described how Ms. Norman was actively engaged in managing and controlling her account. She had frequent contacts with her UBS banker in person and over the phone; she decided how to invest her funds and she signed a request with UBS to prohibit investment in US securities on her behalf (which could have triggered a disclosure of the existence of the account to the IRS). In 2002, she withdrew between $10,000 and $100,000 in cash from the account. In 2008 she closed the account when UBS informed her that it would cooperate with the IRS in identifying noncompliant US taxpayers who engaged in tax fraud; it should also be noted that the IRS presented into evidence UBS client contact records which stated that Ms. Norman exhibited “surprise and displeasure” when she was informed about the UBS decision.

Sometime in the year 2008, Ms. Norman signed her 2007 US tax return which, it appears, contained a Schedule B which stated (in Part III) that she had no foreign accounts. Moreover, she signed this return after her accountant sent her a questionnaire with a question concerning foreign accounts.

Also in 2008, Ms. Norman obtained a referral to an accountant. It appears that the accountant advised her to do a quiet disclosure, filing her amended returns and late FBARs. The quiet disclosure triggered the subsequent IRS audit.

The Court found that, during the audit interview, Ms. Norman made numerous false statements, including denying the knowledge of the existence of her foreign account prior to 2009. She also submitted a letter to the IRS re-affirming her lack of knowledge about the existence of this account.

Then, after retaining an attorney, Ms. Norman completely reversed herself in her second letter, stating that she did in fact know about the existence of the account. She further explained that her failure to timely file her FBARs occurred due to her belief that none of the funds in the account were hers and she was not a de-facto owner of the account.

The Norman Case: Penalty Imposition and the Appeals

It appears that the false statements and radical shifts in claims about what she knew about her account completely damaged her credibility with the IRS agent in charge of the audit. Hence, the IRS found that Ms. Norman willfully failed to file her FBAR and assessed a penalty of $803,530.

Ms. Norman paid the penalty in full and filed a complaint with the Court of Federal Claims requesting a refund. The Court of Federal Claims sustained the penalty; hence, Ms. Norman appealed to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court upheld the penalty imposition.

The Norman Case: Issues on the Appeal

Ms. Norman raised three issues on the appeal: (1) the Court of Federal Claims erred in finding that she willfully violated the FBAR requirement; (2) a 1987 Treasury regulation limits the FBAR willful penalty to $100,000; and (3) a penalty so high violates the 8th Amendment. The Court did not consider the 8th Amendment argument for procedural reasons.

The Norman Case: Recklessness as part of Willfulness

At the heart of the dispute over the imposition of the willful penalty was whether the IRS can use recklessness in its determination of willfulness. It is important to point out here that the IRS imposed the willful penalty even though it could not prove that Ms. Norman actually knew about the existence of FBAR. Rather, it relied on recklessness in its imposition of the willful FBAR penalty.

In the appeal, Ms. Norman argued that one can only violate the FBAR requirement if one has the actual knowledge of the existence of the form. She adopted a strict interpretation of willfulness as the one found in the Internal Revenue Manual (“IRM”): “willfulness is shown by the person’s knowledge of the reporting requirements and the person’s conscious choice not to comply with the requirements.”

The Court, however, did not agree with this interpretation. First of all, it pointed to the well-established law that the IRM is not binding in courts. The courts in several circuits have determined that recklessness should be considered as willfulness. Second, the IRM itself stated that actual knowledge of FBAR is not required for the imposition of a willful penalty. Rather, the IRM allowed for the possibility of the imposition of a willful penalty where the failure to learn about FBAR is combined with other factors, such as attempts to conceal the existence of the account and the amounts involved.

Then, the Court explained its reasoning for believing that Ms. Norman’s behavior was reckless: she opened the foreign account, actively managed it, withdrew money from it and failed to declare it on her signed 2007 tax return. The fact that Ms. Norman made contradictory and false statements to the IRS during the audit further damaged her credibility with respect to her non-willfulness claims.

The Norman Case: 1987 Treasury Regulation No Longer Valid

Ms. Norman also argued that a 1987 regulation limited the willful FBAR penalty to $100,000. The Court disagreed, because this regulation was rendered invalid by the language found in the 2004 amendment to 31 U.S.C. §5321(a)(5)(C).

The Norman Case: Most Important Lessons for Audited US Taxpayers with Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

The Norman case contains many important lessons for US taxpayers who have undisclosed foreign accounts and who are audited by the IRS. Let’s concentrate on the three most important ones.

First and foremost, do not lie to the IRS; lying to the IRS is almost certain to backfire. In the Norman case, the taxpayer had good facts on her side at the beginning, but her actions during the audit made them almost irrelevant. Ms. Norman’s false statements damaged her credibility not only with the IRS, but also with the courts. It made her appear as a person undeserving of sympathy; someone who deserved to be punished by the IRS.

Second, Ms. Norman fell prey to an incorrect advice from her accountant and did a quiet disclosure. Given how dangerous her situation was as a result of an impending disclosure of her foreign account by UBS, doing a quiet disclosure in 2008 was a mistake. Instead, a full open voluntary disclosure should have been done either through the traditional IRS voluntary disclosure option or a noisy disclosure (unfortunately, the 2009 OVDP was not yet an option in 2008).

Finally, the Norman case highlights the importance of having the appropriate professional counsel. During her quiet disclosure and the subsequent IRS audit Ms. Norman did not hire the right professional to assist her until it was too late – the damage to the case became irreversible. Instead of retaining the right international tax attorney, she chose to rely on an accountant. In the context of an offshore voluntary disclosure and especially an IRS audit involving offshore assets, relying on an accountant is almost always a mistake – only an experienced international tax attorney is right choice.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your US Tax Compliance and an IRS Audit Concerning Foreign Accounts and Foreign Income

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts and you wish to resolve your US tax noncompliance before the IRS finds you, you need to secure competent legal help. If you are already subject to an IRS audit, then you need to retain an international tax attorney as soon as you receive the initial audit letter. As stated above, Ms. Norman paid a very high price for a failure to do so timely; you should avoid making this mistake.

For this reason, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Our team of tax professionals headed by the highly experienced international tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to resolve their prior US tax noncompliance issues and successfully conclude IRS international tax audits. We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!