FBAR Disclosure: Fighting the Small Accounts Myth

A Minneapolis attorney recently said to me that he has a client who has not filed the FBARs but that client has a number of small accounts and no large accounts; the attorney wanted my opinion on whether it is worth it for smaller clients to go through the trouble of disclosing the accounts to the IRS. My answer was an emphatic YES!

This is exactly the type of myths that I have to battle when I get calls from all around the world from potential clients with smaller accounts. The general impression among these clients is that the IRS will only enforce the FBAR requirement against the “big fish” and there is no need to trouble themselves with voluntary disclosure of the FBARs.

Unfortunately, this impression cannot be further from the truth. Tax experts around the country agree that the IRS enforcement of the FBAR requirements has risen to an unprecedented level. The risk of detection, especially once FATCA is fully implemented by the end of the year 2013, has been steadily growing since the 2008 UBS case, fed further by the information disclosed by the participants in the IRS voluntary disclosure programs. As a result, the number of the FBAR prosecutions by the IRS has also risen dramatically.

Given the draconian penalties associated with willful failure to file the FBAR and the high risk of detection, it is imperative for the small accountholders to go through the voluntary disclosure process (either through the 2012 OVDP or its alternatives) before the IRS finds them.

Moreover, for the smaller taxpayers who just found out about the FBAR and who may have a reasonable cause argument, there is an incentive to disclose the FBARs as soon as possible because, with an able attorney experienced in FBAR disclosures, they may be able to dramatically reduce and even eliminate the FBAR penalties.

However, the original non-willfulness can easily grow into willfulness where the taxpayers learn about the existence of the FBAR requirement, consciously disregard it and fail to file the FBARs. At that point, the original innocence of non-willful ignorance is gone, and the taxpayer is likely to face the imposition of much heavier penalties by the IRS.

It is worth noting, moreover, that in these willful cases, the imperative to do voluntary disclosure should be even higher precisely because the IRS is likely to impose unbearably high penalties otherwise. This is why the IRS created the 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program so that these taxpayers can bring themselves back into tax compliance without fear of criminal prosecution.

It should be clear to all non-compliant US taxpayers – voluntary disclosure of offshore accounts is almost always better than the IRS finding your non-disclosed account. In my practice, the practice of FBAR voluntary disclosure has always been more beneficial to my clients whether they were located in Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Tampa, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland or any other country.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with Delinquent FBARs

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts and have not filed your FBARs, contact Sherayzen Law Office for help. Our experienced FBAR tax firm will thoroughly analyze your case, assess your current FBAR liability, examine your voluntary disclosure options and implement a comprehensive voluntary disclosure strategy striving to achieve the best result for you.