Joint Account FBAR Reporting | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

As an FBAR tax attorney, I constantly deal with the issues of joint account FBAR reporting. In most cases, the joint account FBAR reporting goes relatively smooth, but problems may surface from time to time. In this essay, I would like to address the general issues concerning joint account FBAR reporting.

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: FBAR Background

FBAR is the acronym for the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114. A US person has to file an FBAR if he has a financial interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts the aggregate value of which exceeds $10,000 at any point during the relevant calendar year.

It is important to emphasize that, with respect to joint accounts, each joint owner takes the entire value of the account in calculating whether he or she exceeded the $10,000 filing threshold.

A US person should file an FBAR separately from the tax return. Since 2016 FBAR, the Congress aligned the FBAR filing deadline with that of an income tax return (i.e. April 15). For example, the 2018 FBAR is due on April 15, 2019.

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: Joint Owners

If two or more persons jointly maintain or own a partial interest in a foreign bank or financial account, then each of these persons has a financial interest in that account. Hence, as long as they are US persons, each of these US persons has to report the account on his or her FBAR.

Moreover, each of the filers must also indicate the principal joint owner of the joint account, even if this owner is not a US person. I wish to repeat this important point: the joint owner must be disclosed on FBAR even if he is not a US person. Besides the name of the joint owner, the filer must report the joint owner’s address and tax identification number (US or foreign).

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: Report the Entire Value of the Account

Even though the same joint account may be reported at least twice, FinCEN requires the FBAR filer to disclose the entire value of each jointly-owned foreign account on his FBAR.

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: Exception for Spouses

In certain circumstances, spouses may file a joint FBAR. This means that the spouse of an FBAR filer may not be required to file a separate FBAR, but she can join her husband in filing one FBAR for both of them.

In order to qualify for this exception, the spouses must meet the following three conditions. First and most important, all of the financial accounts that the non-filing spouse has to report are jointly owned with the filing spouse. The filing spouse may have additional accounts, but the non-filing spouse should not have any other foreign bank and financial accounts. Beware, however, that if one spouse is an owner of a foreign account, but the other spouse only has a signatory authority over the same account, then separate FBARs must be filed by each spouse.

Second, the filing spouse reports the jointly owned accounts on a timely filed FBAR and a PIN is used to sign item 44.

Third, both spouses must complete and sign Form 114a, a Record of Authorization to Electronically File FBARs (maintained with the filers’ records).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Joint Account FBAR Reporting

If you have foreign bank and financial accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with US international tax compliance and FBAR reporting. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their FBAR filings, including joint FBAR filings, and 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.

Houston FBAR Lawyer | OVDP FATCA Tax Attorney

The main thesis of this essay is that the designation of a Houston FBAR Lawyer should be applied based on the geography of services of an FBAR lawyer rather the physical location of a lawyer.

Houston FBAR Lawyer Definition: Legal FBAR Services Provided in Houston, Texas

The old designation where a Houston FBAR Lawyer designation was limited only to lawyers who reside in Houston was incorrect from the very beginning for two reasons.

First, it was based basically on the premise that an out-of-state lawyer cannot effectively provide any legal services to a client who resides in Houston, Texas. Perhaps, to a certain degree, this premise could have been applicable to the time when there were no telephones, emails or other forms of modern communication. However, since the appearance of telephone and Internet-based communications, a modern lawyer can provide services efficiently and effectively at almost any point around the globe as long as he is licensed to do so. Even the face-to-face meetings can now be replaced with video conferences over the Internet (for example, video Skype conferences).

Second, some credence should be given to this old designation in situation where the subject matter is based on local Texas law or required appearance in a Texas court. In these situations, a local attorney indeed appears to have an advantage over an out-of-state attorney (although, even this advantage may be nullified if this is a one-time court appearance or the out-of-state attorney is actually licensed to practice in the State of Texas).

However, a Houston FBAR lawyer deals strictly with just federal subject-matter, because FBAR is a federal law and any US international tax lawyer can practice it irrespective of his physical location as long as this attorney is licensed to practice law in any of the 50 states or District of Columbia. This means that, as long as an international tax lawyer offers his legal FBAR services in Houston, he should be considered a Houston FBAR lawyer even if he resides in Minneapolis.

Houston FBAR Lawyer’s Knowledge of US International Tax Law is the Key Factor

While the physical location of a lawyer is not important in determining whether he is a Houston FBAR lawyer, it is necessary that this lawyer be an international tax lawyer experienced in FBAR issues.

This emphasis on competence in US international tax law is based on the fact that FBAR is just a part of a much bigger area of US international tax law. In fact, the FBAR and international tax law are so completely interrelated this interaction between FBAR and other international tax issues is crucial to determining a taxpayer’s legal position. This is why your Houston FBAR lawyer should have a profound understanding of both FBARs and all other relevant US international tax compliance requirements.

Sherayzen Law Office Should Be Your Houston FBAR Lawyer

Sherayzen Law Office is a highly experienced international tax law firm with profound knowledge of FBARs and all other relevant US international tax compliance requirements. Our team consists of highly-experienced international tax professionals headed by the founder of the firm, attorney Eugene Sherayzen. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers worldwide with their FBAR issues and we can help you!

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

IRS Increases Criminal Prosecutions for Willful Failure to File FBARs: U.S. v. Jacques Wajsfelner

In U.S. v. Jacques Wajsfelner, the IRS’s criminal prosecution of the defendant for willful failure to file FBARs was completed when the defendant, Mr. Jacques Wajsfelner, decided to plead guilty. Mr. Wajsfelner pled guilty to willful failure to file the FBAR in Manhattan federal court and he now faces civil penalties of $2.84 million and restitution of $419,940. Under advisory guidelines, he faces 30 months to 37 months in prison at sentencing scheduled for December 20, 2012.

Basic Facts

Mr. Wajsfelner, an 83-year old Holocaust survivor, fled the Nazis as a teenager and became a U.S. citizen, working in real estate and advertisement in New York and Boston. He admitted that he held an account in his own name at Credit Suisse in 1995. In 2006, his advisor helped him open an account in the name of Ample Lion Ltd. At the end of 2007, the account held almost $5.7 million. In 2008, as Credit Suisse started to wind down its U.S. cross-border banking business, Mr. Wajsfelner opened an account with Wegelin and transferred the money from Credit Suisse to the new account. In the later years, the value on this account went down to only $4 million.

In addition to moving money among two accounts, Mr. Wajsfelner also made a huge error of not telling the truth to the IRS about the account, Ample Lion Ltd. (A Hong Kong corporation), and his advisor (Beda Singenberger’s corporation Sinco Treuhand AG) during an interview conducted by the IRS after the investigation commenced. As part of his plea agreement, the IRS agreed not to prosecute him for these statements.

In the end, Mr. Wajsfelner plead guilty to knowing and willful failure to file the FBARs from 2006 through 2011 with the IRS.

Additional Considerations

It is possible that the misleading and untruthful statements to the IRS alone may have been the cause for Mr. Wajsfelner to plead guilty. However, there was another highly unfavorable fact – moving the money between the accounts would have been considered as circumstantial evidence of conspiracy to conceal the money from U.S. government. Also, Mr. Wajsfelner maintained very close contact with the account and directed various transactions to and from the accounts.

Another important consideration is to understand that this is a case of pure willful failure to file the FBARs; there was no associated pleading with respect to tax evasion. This is a very important because it shows that the IRS is willing to prosecute FBAR cases criminally even without tax evasion charges.

US v. Jacques Wajsfelner is Part of a Wave of Prosecutions

U.S. v. Jacques Wajsfelner is not an isolated case or limited only to specific facts of Mr. Wajsfelner.

In addition to Mr. Wajsfelner, the IRS also indicted his former Swiss adviser, Beda Singenberger, on a charge of conspiring to help more than 60 U.S. taxpayers hide $184 million from the Internal Revenue Service in offshore accounts. Wegelin, the 270-year-old Swiss bank, was also indicted February 2, 2012, on charges of helping U.S. taxpayers hide money from the IRS. Also, Credit Suisse said in July of 2011 that it was a target of a U.S. criminal probe. On July 21, 2011, seven of Credit Suisse’s bankers were indicted on charges of helping U.S. clients evade taxes through secret accounts.

In fact, since 2009, U.S. prosecutors have criminally charged about fifty U.S. taxpayers and more than twenty offshore bankers, lawyers and advisers.

FBAR Criminal Prosecutions Will Increase Due to Voluntary Disclosure Programs

It is critically important for non-compliant U.S. taxpayers to understand that, instead of subsiding, this wave of IRS criminal prosecutions regarding the FBARs will only increase.

The primary reason for this growth of FBAR prosecutions are the voluntary disclosure programs, like 2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI AND 2012 OVDP. For many years now, the IRS has been collecting detailed information from the participating taxpayers regarding their advisors, banks and other U.S. taxpayers. This mountain of information allows the IRS to identify high-risk banks, advisors as well as specific taxpayers who are likely to be non-compliant with U.S. tax rules. The end-product of this analysis are targeted investigation and, ultimately, criminal prosecutions of non-compliant U.S. taxpayers and their advisors.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help With FBARs

If you have undisclosed foreign financial accounts that should have been reported to the IRS, contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our experienced tax firm will analyze the facts of your case, identify you potential FBAR liability and propose a specific course of action to deal with your specific situation. Sherayzen Law Office will guide you though your entire voluntary disclosure, including the preparation of all of the necessary tax documents and rigorous IRS representation.