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FBAR Financial Interest Definition | FBAR International Tax Lawyer & Attorney | FinCEN Form 114

In this article, I discuss one of the most important aspects of FBAR compliance – the FBAR financial interest definition.

FBAR Financial Interest: Legal Relevance and Context

FBAR is the acronym for the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114. A US person who has a financial interest in foreign bank and financial accounts must file FBARs to report these accounts as long as their aggregate value exceeds the FBAR filing threshold. The key issue here is the definition of “financial interest” for FBAR purposes.

FBAR Financial Interest: Classification of Financial Interest

As I just stated, the FBAR financial interest definition describes a situation when a US person has a “financial interest” in foreign account. It turns out that there are six possible situations when a US person may have a financial interest in a foreign account.

These situations can be divided into three categories: direct ownership, indirect ownership and constructive ownership. Let’s explore them in more detail.

FBAR Financial Interest: Direct Ownership

A US person has a financial interest in a foreign account if he is the owner of record or holder of legal title for this account. It does not matter whether he maintains the account for his own benefit or for the benefit of another person (US or foreign). As long as he is the owner of the account, he has a financial interest in the account and must file an FBAR to report it if the account’s highest value (together with all other foreign accounts of this person) exceeds $10,000.

FBAR Financial Interest: Indirect Ownership

There are four different scenarios which may result in having a reportable indirect FBAR financial interest in a foreign account:

1. Indirect Ownership Through a Corporation

A US person has a financial interest in a foreign account if the owner of record of holder of legal title is a corporation in which a US person owns directly or indirectly: (i) more than 50 percent of the total value of shares of stock; or (ii) more than 50 percent of the voting power of all shares of stock.

This means that, if a US corporation owns a foreign company which has a foreign account, then this US corporation has a financial interest in this account through its direct ownership of the foreign company. In other words, the US corporation will need to file FBAR for the foreign company’s foreign bank and financial accounts.

One of the most frequent sources of FBAR noncompliance, however, is with respect to indirect ownership of the foreign account by the owners of the US corporation. For example, if a Nevada corporation owns 100% of a French corporation and a US owner owns 51% of the US corporation, then, the US owner must disclose on his FBAR his financial interest in the French corporation’s foreign accounts. This financial interest is acquired through indirect 51% ownership of the French corporation.

2. Indirect Ownership Through a Partnership

This scenario is very similar to that of corporations. A US person has a financial interest in a foreign account if the owner of record or holder of legal title is a partnership in which the US person owns directly or indirectly: (i) an interest in more than 50 percent of the partnership’s profits (distributive share of partnership income taking into account any special allocation agreement); or (ii) an interest in more than 50 percent of the partnership capital.

3. Indirect Ownership Through a Trust

This is a more complex category which includes two scenarios. First, a US person has a financial interest in a foreign account if the owner of record or holder of legal title is a trust and this US person is the trust grantor who has an ownership interest in the trust under the 26 U.S.C. §§ 671-679.

Second, a US person has a financial interest in a foreign account if the owner of record or holder of legal title is a trust in which the US person has a greater than fifty percent (50%) beneficial interest in the assets or income of the trust for the calendar year. This second scenario is a true FBAR trap for US taxpayers, because while grantors may anticipate their FBAR requirements, beneficiaries are usually completely oblivious to this requirement.

This category of FBAR financial interest definition is even more complicated by the fact that it requires a very nuanced understanding of US property law and FBAR regulations. For example, how many taxpayers can answer this question: if a US person has a remainder interest in a trust that has a foreign financial account, should he disclose this account on his FBAR?

4. Indirect Ownership Through Any Other Entity

This a “catch-all” category of indirect FBAR financial interest definition. If a situation does not fall within any of the aforementioned categories, a US person still has a financial interest in a foreign account if the owner of record or holder of legal title is any other entity in which the US person owns directly or indirectly more than 50% of the voting power, more than 50% of the total value of equity interest or assets, or more than 50% of interest in profits.

FBAR Financial Interest: Constructive Ownership

This is a very dangerous category of FBAR financial interest definition, because, in the event of an unfavorable determination by the IRS, it may have highly unfavorable consequences, including the imposition of FBAR willful penalties and even FBAR criminal penalties. A US person has a financial interest in a foreign account if the owner of record or holder of legal title is a person who acts on behalf of the US person with respect to the account. Various classes of persons fall under this description: agents, nominees and even attorneys.

This category of FBAR financial interest definition targets situations where a US person is trying to hold his money under the name of a third party. It is not easy, however, to determine whether the foreign person is holding this money on behalf of the US person.

The key consideration here is the degree of control that the US person exercises over the account. If the agent can only access the account in accordance with the instructions from the US person, if there is an understanding that the agent holds the account on behalf of the US person and if the agent does not independently distribute funds for his own needs, then the IRS is likely to find that the US person has a financial interest in the account for FBAR purposes.

On the other hand, if the account owner uses the funds for his own purposes and makes gifts to third parties, the situation becomes increasingly unclear. In this case, one has to retain an international tax attorney to analyze all facts and circumstances, including the origin of funds.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for FBAR Help, Including the Determination of FBAR Financial Interest in a Foreign Account

FBAR is a very dangerous form. FBAR noncompliance penalties are truly draconian. They range from FBAR criminal penalties (of up to ten years in prison) to civil FBAR willful penalties (with 50% of the account or $100,000 (adjusted for inflation) whichever is higher) and even civil FBAR non-willful penalties of up to $10,000 (adjusted for inflation) per account per year. FBAR’s unusual Statute of Limitation of six years also means that the IRS has an unusually long period of time to assess these penalties.

This is why, if you have foreign bank and financial accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We are a highly-experienced international tax law firm that specialized in US international tax compliance and offshore voluntary disclosures (including for prior FBAR noncompliance). We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world, and We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FinCEN Form 114 and FBAR Are the Same Form | FBAR Tax Lawyers

In my practice, I often receive phone calls from prospective clients who treat FinCEN Form 114 and FBAR as two different forms. Of course, these are the same forms, but I have asked myself: why do so many taxpayers believe that FinCEN Form 114 and FBAR are two different forms?

The simplest answer, of course, would be that taxpayers are simply so unfamiliar with US international tax law that they do not know the form with which both titles, FinCEN Form 114 and FBAR, should be associated. There is definitely a lot of truth to this conclusion, but it does not tell the whole story.

Upon more profound exploration, I found that a significant amount of potential clients believed that either FBAR or FinCEN Form 114 was a tax form while the other form was something else. In other words, some of the taxpayers think that FinCEN Form 114 is a tax form while FBAR is not a tax form while other taxpayers believe that FBAR is a tax form while FinCEN Form 114 is something else.

After making this discovery, I realized that the very nature of FBAR is at the heart of the problem, because FBAR is not a tax form and has nothing to do with Title 26 (i.e. the Internal Revenue Code) of the United States Code. Rather, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114, commonly known as FBAR, was created by the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970. The Bank Secrecy Act forms part of Title 31 of the United States Code. In fact, prior to September 11, 2001, the IRS had almost nothing to do with FBAR.

It was only after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States when the Congress decided to turn over the enforcement of FBAR to the IRS. Initially, the official purpose was to facilitate the Treasury Department’s fight against terrorism. Within a year, though, it became clear that the IRS would use FBAR in its fight against offshore tax evasion and other noncompliance with US international tax laws.

Using the draconian FBAR penalty structure (at that time, the form was still called TD F 90-22.1) against noncompliant US taxpayers turned out to be a highly effective intimidation tool for the IRS – a tool which works very well even today. Once the Treasury Department mandated the e-filing of FBARs, the name of FBAR was changed from TD F 90-22.1 to FinCEN Form 114.

Thus, the confusion over the relationship between FinCEN Form 114 and FBAR stems from FBAR’s peculiar legal history. Most of US taxpayers do not know any of it; they are simply confused by the fact that the IRS is enforcing a form that has two names and which has nothing to do with the Internal Revenue Code.

Denver FBAR Lawyer | Foreign Accounts Tax Attorney

Finding a good Denver FBAR Lawyer is not easy, especially if you do not know what exactly Denver FBAR Lawyer means. In this essay, I will define what lawyers fit into the definition of a Denver FBAR Lawyer and why you should retain the services of my firm, Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd.

Denver FBAR Lawyer Definition: Legal FBAR Services Provided in Denver, Colorado

Some of the readers may be surprised to learn that the definition of a Denver FBAR Lawyer is not limited by the physical presence of the lawyer. Rather, a Denver FBAR Lawyer is any international tax lawyer who offers legal and tax services related to FBARs in Denver, Colorado. This means that your FBAR lawyer can reside in Minneapolis and still be considered as Denver FBAR Lawyer even if he has never been to Denver.

Why is that? The reason is simple: FBAR is federal law, not state law; i.e. the city of Denver and the State of Colorado have absolutely nothing to do with the implementation of FBAR. Since there is no local input, the physical residence of your lawyer gives you no advantage whatsoever when it comes to legal services related to FBARs.

Denver FBAR Lawyer Must Be an International Tax Lawyer

While the physical location of a your FBAR lawyer is irrelevant, his competence in FBARs and the US international tax law is an indispensable quality. It is important to understand that, in the great majority of cases, the FBAR issues are tightly intertwined with other international tax compliance requirements, and it is the interaction between the FBAR and other international tax issues that is relevant to the determination of a taxpayer’s legal position. This is why your Denver FBAR lawyer should be highly knowledgeable in other areas of international tax law in addition to FBARs.

Denver FBAR Lawyer: the Convenience of Communication

Perhaps, while the readers agree that the definition of a Denver FBAR lawyer should include any experienced international tax lawyer who provides FBAR-related services in Denver, they may still point to old belief of the ease of communication with a local lawyer. In essence, this myth holds that while an out-of-state FBAR lawyer may be more competent in international tax law, it is better to rely on a local FBAR lawyer because it would be easier to communicate with him.

This myth is simply incorrect, because it does not take into account the development modern communications technology and it incorrectly represents a client’s communication with their Denver FBAR lawyer.

The modern communications technology has virtually eliminated the entire advantage of retaining a local Denver FBAR Lawyer. Email, telephone, fax and Skype video conferences provide ample opportunities to communicate with your lawyer wherever he is and at any point of time. In fact, as an international tax lawyer, I have continuously relied on these means of communication to successfully represent all of my out-of-state clients, including Denver, Colorado. There has not been a single case where my geographical location was of any importance.

Furthermore, it is important to understand that, aside from the initial consultation (which can also be conducted on Skype or telephone), almost all of your communication with a local Denver FBAR lawyer will be through the same modern means of communication – email and telephone. This means that 98% of communication between you and your lawyer will be done in the same manner irrespective of whether he resides in Denver!

Sherayzen Law Office is a Top Choice for Your Denver FBAR Lawyer

Sherayzen Law Office occupies a leading position in the world on this subject with extensive knowledge and experience concerning all major relevant areas of international tax law including PFIC compliance, Subpart F rules, all types of US international reporting returns, US income tax returns (individual, partnership and corporate) for domestic and foreign persons, et cetera. Furthermore, this is one of the leading international tax law firms in the world with experience in all major IRS voluntary disclosure programs, including 2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI, 2012 OVDP and 2014 OVDP.

This is why, if you are looking for a Denver FBAR lawyer, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. today to schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FBAR PFIC Reporting | FBAR Tax Attorney

FBAR PFIC Reporting is an important issue for U.S. shareholders of passive foreign investment companies (“PFICs”). I will now briefly explore the FBAR PFIC Reporting requirement and when it applies to U.S. shareholders of a PFIC.

FBAR PFIC Reporting: FBAR Background

FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, commonly known as FBAR, originally came into existence as a result of the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act. FBAR is one of the main and arguably the most important international tax requirement in the IRS. The form must be filed by every U.S. tax resident who has foreign financial accounts the aggregate value of which exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. The aggregate value should be calculated based on all foreign bank and financial accounts in which this U.S. tax resident has financial interest or over which he has signatory or other authority.

Failure to file an FBAR may result in the imposition of draconian FBAR penalties, including criminal penalties in grave cases of willful noncompliance.

FBAR PFIC Reporting: PFIC Definition

PFIC (Passive Foreign Investment Company) is one of the most complex tax requirements of the U.S. tax system. In addition to the potentially tremendously burdensome tax compliance required for PFICs, PFICs may result in the imposition of a much higher income tax with PFIC interest on the PFIC tax.

The basic definition of a PFIC is any foreign corporation in which: “(1) 75 percent or more of the gross income of such corporation for the taxable year is passive income, or (2) the average percentage of assets (as determined in accordance with subsection (e)) held by such corporation during the taxable year which produce passive income or which are held for the production of passive income is at least 50 percent.” IRC Section 1297(a). While many types of companies may unexpectedly be classified as PFICs by the IRS, foreign mutual funds seem to be the most common trap for the unwary U.S. taxpayers.

If a U.S. taxpayer has PFICs, he/she is required to file a separate Form 8621 “Information Return by a Shareholder of a Passive Foreign Investment Company or Qualified Electing Fund” for each PFIC.

FBAR PFIC Reporting: Three Potential FBAR Requirements

There are three most common situations when an FBAR should be filed for a PFIC, assuming the statutory aggregate threshold of $10,000 is satisfied. First, FBAR PFIC reporting is required if a PFIC is held in a financial account; in this case, FBAR PFIC reporting will occur for the account itself (which, in India especially, may correspond to the folio number of a PFIC in any case). For example, if a U.S. person has an Assurance Vie account in France that contains PFICs, he would have to report the Assurance Vie account on the FBAR, including the value of the PFICs.

Second, FBAR PFIC reporting is required if a PFIC shareholder has signature authority over foreign financial accounts owned by a PFIC. In this case, FBAR PFIC reporting will occur for these foreign financial accounts in Section IV of the FBAR.

Finally, the third most common situation where FBAR PFIC reporting is required is a scenario where a U.S. person owns more than 50% of a PFIC and this PFIC has foreign financial accounts. In such case, the U.S. person is assumed to have a financial interest in the foreign financial accounts of this PFIC and he needs to disclose these accounts on his FBAR.

FBAR PFIC Reporting: Filing Form 8621 does NOT Satisfy the FBAR Filing Requirement

It is important to emphasize that filing form 8621 for a PFIC does not relieve the filer from his FBAR obligations. Even if Form 8621 is filed, the filer must also file the FBAR.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with FBAR PFIC Reporting

FBAR PFIC reporting can be extremely complex and it is very easy to make mistakes with respect to what needs to be disclosed and how. These mistakes, however, can be expensive to remedy and may result in imposition of various large penalties.

This is why, if you have PFICs that require FBAR and Form 8621 disclosure, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our team of experienced tax professionals will help you properly disclose your PFICs on your FBAR and report your PFIC income on your personal or business tax returns. If you have not complied with your FBAR PFIC reporting requirement in the past and wish to remedy this situation, Sherayzen Law Office will also help you with the voluntary disclosure of your FBARs and PFICs, including the preparation of all necessary tax forms and legal documents.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!