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2024 FBAR Civil Penalties | FBAR International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

This article is an update of prior articles on the FBAR Civil Penalties. Since the US Congress mandated the IRS to adjust FBAR civil penalties for inflation on an annual basis, this article discusses the year 2024 FBAR Civil Penalties.

2024 FBAR Civil Penalties: Overview of the FBAR Penalty System

FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (commonly known as “FBAR”), has always had a very complex, multi-layered system of penalties, which has grown even more complicated over the years. These penalties can be grouped into four categories: criminal, willful, non-willful and negligent.

Of course, the most dreaded penalties are FBAR criminal penalties. Not only is there a criminal fine of up to $500,000, but, in some cases, a person can be sentenced to 10 years in prison for FBAR violations (and these two criminal penalties can be imposed simultaneously). Since the focus of this article is on FBAR civil penalties.

The next category of penalties are FBAR civil penalties imposed for the willful failure to file an FBAR. These penalties are imposed per each violation – i.e. on each account per year, potentially going back six years (the FBAR statute of limitations is six years).

The third category of penalties are FBAR penalties imposed for a non-willful failure to file an FBAR or a filing of an incorrect FBAR. These penalties can be imposed on US persons who do not even know that FBAR exists.

Finally, with respect to business entities, a penalty can be imposed for a negligent failure to file an FBAR or a filing of an incorrect FBAR.

It is important to note that FBAR has its own reasonable cause exception that may be used to fight the assessment of any of the aforementioned civil penalties. Moreover, each of these penalty categories has numerous levels of penalty mitigation that a tax attorney may utilize to lower his client’s FBAR civil penalties.

2024 FBAR Civil Penalties: Penalties Prior to November 2 2015

Prior to November 2, 2015, FBAR penalties were not adjusted for inflation and stayed flat at the levels mandated by Congress. Let’s go over each category of penalties prior to inflation adjustment.

As of November 1, 2015, Willful FBAR penalties were up to $100,000 or 50% of the highest balance of an account, whichever is greater, per violation. Again, a violation meant a failure to correctly report an account in any year. Non-willful FBAR penalties were up to $10,000 per violation per year; per US Supreme Court’s decision last year, the penalty should have been imposed on a per form (not per account) basis. Finally, FBAR penalties for negligence 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.

2024 FBAR Civil Penalties: Inflation Adjustment

The situation changed dramatically in 2015. As a result of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (“2015 Inflation Adjustment Act”), Congress mandated federal agents to: (1) adjust the amounts of civil monetary penalties with an initial “catch-up” adjustment; and (2) make subsequent annual adjustments for inflation. The inflation adjustment applied only to civil penalties.

The “catch-up” adjustment meant a huge increase in penalties, because federal agencies were required to update all of these penalties from the time of their enactment (or the last year Congress adjusted the penalties) through November of 2015. This meant that, in 2015, the penalties jumped to account for all accumulated multi-year inflation. The catch-up adjustment was limited to two and a half times of the original penalty.

Fortunately, the Congress adjusted FBAR penalties in 2004 and the “catch-up” adjustment did not have to go back to the 1970s. It still meant a very large (about 25%) increase in FBAR civil penalties, but it was not as dramatic as some other federal penalties.

2024 FBAR Civil Penalties: Bifurcation of FBAR Penalty System

The biggest problem with the inflation adjustment, however, was the fact that it further complicated the already dense multi-layered FBAR system of civil penalties – FBAR penalties became dependent on the timing of a violation and IRS penalty assessment. In essence, the 2015 Inflation Adjustment Act split the FBAR penalty into two distinct parts.

The first part applies to FBAR violations that occurred on or before November 2, 2015. The old pre-2015 FBAR penalties described above applies to these violations irrespective of when the IRS actually assesses the penalties for these violations. The last FBAR violations definitely eligible for the old statutory penalties are those that were made concerning 2014 FBAR which was due on June 30, 2015. The statute of limitations for the 2014 FBAR ran out on June 30, 2021.

The second part applies to all FBAR violations that occurred after November 2, 2015. For all of these violations, the exact amount of penalties will depend on the timing of the IRS penalty assessment, not when the FBAR violation actually occurred. In other words, if an FBAR violation occurred on October 15, 2017 and the IRS assessed FBAR penalties June 17, 2021, the IRS would use the inflation-adjusted FBAR penalties as of the year 2021, not October 15, 2017.

2024 FBAR Civil Penalties: Penalties Assessed On or After January 25, 2024

Now that we understand the history of FBAR penalties, we can specifically discuss the 2024 FBAR Civil penalties. The first thing to understand is that we are talking about penalties assessed by the IRS on or after January 25, 2024; prior to that date, the 2023 FBAR civil penalties were still effective.

The 2024 Willful FBAR penalty imposed under 31 U.S.C. §5321(a)(5)(C)(i)(I) is $161,166 per violation. Per last year’s court decisions, the term “violation” in the context of willful FBAR penalties means on a “per account for each year” basis described above.

The 2024 Non-Willful FBAR penalty imposed under 31 U.S.C. §5321(a)(5)(B) is $16,117 per violation. The term “violation” in the context of non-willful FBAR penalties at this point has been settled to mean “per form” (rather than per-account) basis.

The 2024 Negligence FBAR penalty imposed under 31 U.S.C. §5321(a)(6)(A) is $1,394; if there is a pattern of negligence under 31 U.S.C. §5321(a)(6)(B), then the penalty goes up to $108,489.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your Prior FBAR Noncompliance

Sherayzen Law Office is a leader in US international tax law and FBAR compliance. We have successfully helped hundreds of clients from over eighty countries resolve their prior FBAR noncompliance, including through various voluntary disclosure programs (such as Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures, Delinquent FBAR Submission Procedures, et cetera). We can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Child’s FBAR Requirements | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

I often receive questions concerning a child’s FBAR requirements. Many taxpayers automatically assume that, if their children are below the age of majority, these children do not have to file FBARs. Unfortunately, this is not the case – a child’s FBAR requirements are every bit as extensive of those of his parents.

Child’s FBAR Requirements: FBAR Background Information

A US Person must file FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account, commonly known as “FBAR”, if he has a financial interest in or a signatory authority or any other authority over a foreign financial account and the highest value of this account (in the aggregate with any other foreign accounts of this US person) is in excess of $10,000. FBAR is filed separately from the tax return.

Failure to file FBAR can lead to very high penalties. In fact, FBAR has the most severe penalty system in comparison to any other forms related to foreign accounts; it includes even criminal penalties. Even when a person was not willful in his non-filing of FBAR, he may still be subject to FBAR non-willful civil penalties of up to $10,000 (as adjusted for inflation) per account per year.

Child’s FBAR Requirements: Age Does Not Matter

The gruesome consequences of a failure to file FBAR make the determination of who is required to file FBARs one of the most important tasks of an international tax lawyer. This is why understanding a child’s FBAR requirements is so important. Let’s clarify this issue right now.

The rule is that a US Person is subject to the FBAR filing requirement regardless of his age. In other words, even an infant must file an FBAR.

Hence, it is important for an international tax lawyer (and his clients) to always check whether minor children have any foreign accounts. A typical fact pattern in this context involves situations where grandparents set up foreign savings accounts for their US grandchildren.

It is especially important to keep this in mind during an offshore voluntary disclosure. Oftentimes, a voluntary disclosure is focused on parents; children’s accounts are often neglected.

Child’s FBAR Requirements: FBAR Filing

Generally, a child is responsible for filing his own FBAR. Again, this responsibility arises irrespective of the age of the child.

The IRS understands, however, that a child would normally be unable to file his own FBARs. In such cases, the responsibility for filing FBARs is placed on the legally responsible person (such as parents, guardians, et cetera). The legally responsible person will be allowed to sign and file FBARs on behalf of the child.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office With Respect to Your Child’s FBAR Requirements

If your child has foreign accounts, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional FBAR help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world with their FBAR obligations, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Colombian Bank Accounts | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney Miami

Even today many US owners of Colombian bank accounts remain completely unaware of the numerous US tax requirements that may apply to them. The purpose of this essay is to educate these owners about the requirement to report income generated by these accounts in the United States as well as the FBAR and FATCA obligations concerning the disclosure of ownership of Colombian bank accounts to the IRS.

Colombian Bank Accounts: Individuals Who Must Report Them

Before we discuss the aforementioned requirements in more detail, we need to determine who is required to comply with them. In other words, is every Colombian required to file FBAR in the United States? Or, does this obligation apply only to certain individuals?

The answer is very clear: only Colombians who fall within one of the categories of US tax residents must comply with these requirements. US tax residents include US citizens, US Permanent Residents, an individual who satisfies the Substantial Presence test and an individual who properly declares himself a US tax resident. There are important exceptions to this general rule, but, if you fall within any of these categories, you need to contact an international tax attorney as soon as possible to determine your US tax obligations concerning your ownership of Colombian bank accounts.

Colombian Bank Accounts: Income Reporting

All US tax residents are subject to the worldwide income reporting requirement. In other words, they must disclose on their US tax returns not only their US-source income, but also their foreign income. The latter includes all bank interest income, dividends, royalties, capital gains and any other income generated by Colombian bank accounts.

The worldwide income reporting requirement also requires the disclosure of PFIC distributions, PFIC sales, Subpart F income and GILTI income. These are complex requirements which are outside the scope of this article, but US owners of Colombian bank accounts need to be aware of the existence of these requirements.

Colombian Bank Accounts: FinCEN Form 114 (FBAR)

FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (commonly known as “FBAR”) mandates US tax residents to disclose their ownership interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over Colombian bank and financial accounts if the aggregate highest balance of these accounts exceeds $10,000. Every part of this sentence has a special significance and contains a trap for the unwary.

The most dangerous of these traps is the definition of an “account”. The FBAR definition of account is much broader than how this word is generally understood by taxpayers. For the purposes of FBAR compliance, this term includes checking accounts, savings accounts, fixed-deposit accounts, investments accounts, mutual funds, options/commodity futures accounts, life insurance policies with a cash surrender value, precious metals accounts, earth mineral accounts, et cetera. In fact, it is very likely that the IRS will find that an account exists whenever there is a custodial relationship between a foreign financial institution and a US person’s foreign asset.

FBAR has its own intricate penalty system which is widely known for its severity. The FBAR penalties range from incarceration to willful and even non-willful penalties which may easily exceed the value of the penalized accounts. In order to circumvent the potential 8th Amendment challenges and make the penalty imposition more flexible, the IRS has implemented a system of self-imposed limitations, but it is a completely voluntary system (i.e. the IRS can, and in fact already did several times, disregard these limitations).

Colombian Bank Accounts: FATCA Form 8938

While Form 8938 is a relative newcomer (since tax year 2011), it has occupied a special place among the US international tax requirements. In fact, one could argue that it is currently as important as FBAR for US taxpayers with Colombian bank accounts.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) gave birth to Form 8938, making it part of a taxpayer’s federal tax return. This means that a failure to file Form 8938 may render the entire federal tax return incomplete, and the IRS may be able to audit the return. Immediately, we can see the profound impact Form 8938 has on the Statute of Limitations for the entire tax return.

Given the fact that it is a direct descendant of FATCA, it is not surprising Form 8938’s primary focus is on foreign financial assets. Form 8938 requires a US taxpayer to disclose all Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”) as long as he satisfies the relevant filing threshold. The filing thresholds differ depending on the filing status and the place of residence (i.e. inside or outside of the United States) of the taxpayer.

SFFA includes an enormous variety of foreign financial assets, including foreign bank and financial accounts. In fact, with respect to bank and financial accounts, Form 8938 is very similar to FBAR, which often results in double-reporting of the same assets. It is important to emphasize that Form 8938 does not replace FBAR, both forms must still be filed. In other words, US taxpayers should report their Colombian bank accounts on FBAR and disclose them again on Form 8938.

Form 8938 has its own penalty system which contains some unique elements. In addition to its own $10,000 failure-to-file penalty, Form 8938 directly affects the accuracy-related income tax penalties and the ability of a taxpayer to use foreign tax credit.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the US Tax Reporting of Your Colombian Bank Accounts

US international tax compliance is extremely complex. It is very easy to get yourself into trouble, and much more difficult and expensive to get yourself out of this trouble. If you have Colombian bank accounts, contact the experienced international tax attorney and owner of Sherayzen Law Office, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen. Mr. Sherayzen has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their US international tax issues, and He can help You!

Contact Mr. Sherayzen Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!