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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!

2018 FBAR Deadline in 2019 | FinCEN Form 114 International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

The 2018 FBAR deadline is one of the most important deadlines for US taxpayers in the calendar year 2019. Since FBAR is not filed with the federal income tax return, many taxpayers may miss this deadline. This is why Sherayzen Law Office is publishing this notice to US taxpayers.

2018 FBAR Deadline: Background Information

FBAR is an acronym for FinCEN Form 114, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. US Persons must file FBAR if they have a financial interest in or signatory or any other authority over foreign financial accounts if the highest aggregate value of these accounts is in excess of $10,000. FBARs are filed separately from federal tax returns.

2018 FBAR Deadline: Pre-2016 FBAR Deadline

For the years preceding 2016, the US government chose a very strange deadline for FBARs – June 30 of each year. For example, 2012 FBAR was due on June 30, 2013. No filing extensions were allowed.

There was another surprising rule for FBAR deadlines. Prior to the mandatory e-filing of FBARs, taxpayers had to mail their FBARs to the specialized center in Detroit, Michigan. Unlike the rest of the tax forms, FBARs did not follow the “mailbox rule”. In other words, the filing of an FBAR was recognized by the IRS not upon the mailing of this form, but upon its receipt. For example, if FBAR was mailed on June 30, but received on July 1, it was not timely filed.

Federal tax returns, on the other hand, do follow the mailbox rule. This means that the IRS will consider the mailing date, not the date of receipt, as the date of the filing of a tax return. I should point out that, in practice, the IRS often confuses the rule and incorrectly issues failure-to-file penalties based on the date of receipt. This is why it is important to have a proof of mailing for your federal tax return.

The last FBAR that followed the June 30 deadline was 2015 FBAR; its due date was June 30, 2016. Nevertheless, due to the six-year FBAR statute of limitations, it is important to remember this history for the purpose of offshore voluntary disclosures and IRS FBAR audits. It will continue to be relevant as late as June 30, 2022.

2018 FBAR Deadline: Changes to FBAR Deadline Starting 2016 FBAR

Of course, the strange FBAR filing rules greatly confused US taxpayers. First of all, it was difficult to learn about the existence of the form. Second, taxpayers found it very difficult to timely comply with its requirements due to its very strange filing rules.

The US Congress took action in 2015 to alleviate this problem. As it usually happens, it did so when it passed a law that, on its surface, had nothing to do with FBARs. 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 (which continues to this date), the IRS granted to US taxpayers an automatic extension of the FBAR filing deadline to October 15. Taxpayers do not need to make any specific requests in order for an extension to be granted.

Thus, starting with the 2016 FBAR, the Act adjusted the FBAR due date to coincide with the federal income tax filing deadlines. This is the case even if federal law requires a different filing date. For example, 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; the FBAR deadline will follow suit and also shift to the next business day.

2018 FBAR Deadline

Based on the current law, the 2018 FBAR deadline will be April 15, 2019. In other words, your 2018 FBAR has to be e-filed by and including that date. Automatic extension to October 15, 2019, is available.

Italian Bank Accounts | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney New York New Jersey

US tax requirements concerning Italian bank accounts can be quite burdensome and complex. The chief three US reporting requirements applicable to Italian bank accounts are: worldwide income reporting, FBAR and FATCA Form 8938. Let’s discuss each of these requirements in more depth.

Italian Bank Accounts: US Tax Residents and US Persons

Before we delve into the discussion of these requirements, we need to identify who is required to comply with these requirements. This task is complicated by the fact that each of aforementioned three requirements has its own definition of a required filer.

Nevertheless, we can readily identify the categories of required filers shared by all three requirements. These categories correspond most closely, but not exactly to the concept of US tax residents. “US tax residency” is a broad term which includes US citizens, US permanent residents, residents who satisfy the Substantial Presence Test and individuals who declare themselves as US tax residents.

This definition of a US tax resident is fully applicable to the worldwide income reporting requirement and very closely corresponds to the concept of the Specified Person of Form 8938. FBAR’s concept of “US Persons”, however, does differ more significantly from the definition of a “US tax resident”, but only in more unusual circumstances. The most common differences arise with respect to the treaty “tie-breaker” provisions to escape US tax residency and persons who declare themselves tax residents of the United States.

Additionally, I wish to caution the readers that even the definition of US tax residents which I just stated has a number of important exceptions, such as visa exemptions (for example, an F-1 visa five-year exemption for foreign students) from the Substantial Presence Test.

In other words, the issue of who the required filer is, requires careful analysis of the facts and circumstances of an individual. This is definitely the job of your international tax attorney; it is just too dangerous to attempt to do it yourself.

Italian Bank Accounts: Worldwide Income Reporting

All US tax residents must report their worldwide income on their US tax returns. In other words, US tax residents must disclose both US-source and foreign-source income to the IRS. In the context of the Italian bank accounts, foreign-source income means all bank interest income, dividends, royalties, capital gains and any other income generated by these accounts.

Italian Bank Accounts: FBAR Reporting

The official name of the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”) is FinCEN Form 114. FBAR requires all US Persons to disclose their ownership interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over Italian bank and financial accounts if the aggregate highest balance of these accounts exceeds $10,000.

I wish to emphasize again that, while the term “US persons” is very close to “US tax residents”, it is not the same. The term “US tax residents” is slightly broader than “US persons”. I encourage you to search our website – sherayzenlaw.com – for articles concerning the definition of a US Person.

One aspect of the FBAR requirement, however, deserves a special mention here – the definition of an “account”. The FBAR definition of an account is substantially broader than how this word is generally understood in our society. “Account” for FBAR purposes 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, whenever there is a custodial relationship between a foreign financial institution and a US person’s foreign asset, there is a very high probability that the IRS will find that an account exists for FBAR purposes.

Finally, no discussion of FBAR can be considered complete without mentioned the much-dreaded FBAR penalty system. It is complex and severe to an astonishing degree. The most feared penalties are criminal FBAR penalties with up to 10 years in jail (of course, these penalties come into effect only in the most egregious situations). The next layer of penalties are FBAR willful civil penalties which can easily exceed a person’s net worth. Finally, FBAR imposes penalties even on non-willful taxpayers.

All of the civil FBAR penalties have their own complex web of penalty mitigation layers, which depend on the facts and circumstances of one’s case. One of the most important factors is the size of the Italian bank accounts subject to FBAR penalties. Additionally, since 2015, the IRS has added another layer of limitations on the FBAR penalty imposition. These self-imposed limitations of course help, but one must keep in mind that they are voluntary IRS actions and may be disregarded under certain circumstances (in fact, there are already a few instances where this has occurred).

Italian Bank Accounts: FATCA Form 8938

FATCA Form 8938 has been in existence since 2011. Unlike FBAR, it is filed with a federal tax return and considered to be an integral part of the return. This means that a failure to file File 8938 may render the entire tax return incomplete and potentially subject to an IRS audit.

Form 8938 requires “Specified Persons” to disclose on their US tax returns all of their Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”) as long as these Persons meet the applicable filing threshold. The filing threshold depends on a Specified Person’s tax return filing status and his physical residency. For example, if he is single and resides in the United States, he needs to file Form 8938 as long as the aggregate value of his SFFA is more than $50,000 at the end of the year or more than $75,000 at any point during the year.

The IRS defines SFFA very broadly to include an enormous variety of financial instruments, including foreign bank accounts, foreign business ownership, foreign trust beneficiary interests, bond certificates, various types of swaps, et cetera. In some ways, FBAR and Form 8938 require the reporting of the same assets, but these two forms are completely independent from each other. This means that a taxpayer may have to do duplicate reporting on FBAR and Form 8938.

Specified Persons consist of two categories: Specified Individuals and Specified Domestic Entities. You can find a detailed explanation of both categories by searching our website sherayzenlaw.com.

Finally, Form 8938 has its own penalty system which has far-reaching consequences for income tax liability (including disallowance of foreign tax credit and imposition of higher accuracy-related income tax penalties). There is also a $10,000 failure-to-file penalty.

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

Worldwide income reporting, FBAR and Form 8938 do not constitute a complete list of US reporting requirements that may apply to Italian bank accounts. There may be many more.

This is why, if you have Italian bank accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office. We have a highly knowledgeable international tax compliance team headed by an experienced international tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their US international tax issues, including reporting Italian bank accounts, and We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Foreign Life Insurance Policies – FBAR Reporting

Foreign Life Insurance Policies are very popular around the world, especially in India, Germany and France (Assurance Vie accounts). Yet, very few U.S. taxpayers (especially H-1B holders and U.S. permanent residents) are aware of the fact that these policies may be subject to numerous and complex IRS tax reporting requirements in the United States. In this article, I would like to generally discuss the FBAR requirements applicable to foreign life insurance policies.

I will not be discussing here the requirements for a qualified foreign life insurance policy, because it is mostly irrelevant since the great majority of foreign life insurance policies would not be qualified policies.

Types of Foreign Life Insurance Policies

Before we start exploring which foreign life insurance policies (also known as Life Assurance Policies) are subject to the FBAR requirement, it is important to distinguish three general categories of foreign life insurance policies.

In the order of rising complexity, the first category of foreign life insurance policies consists of simple, straightforward life insurance policies with no cash surrender value, no income payments and no income accumulations. The taxpayer simply makes the required premium payments and he expects a fixed-amount payout at death.

The second category of foreign life insurance policies has a cash-surrender value, but no income. The taxpayer pays a premium and expects a certain payout when the policy is surrendered or matures. The cash surrender value grows over time mostly through premiums and bonuses which would be paid out when the policy is surrendered. There is also a potential death benefit.

Finally, the third category of foreign life insurance policies has a cash-surrender value with investments and/or income. There is a large variety of investment life insurance policies. The most common arrangement, though, is where the taxpayer pays a relatively large initial premium which is invested in foreign mutual funds; the growth in mutual funds will usually determine the cash-surrender value. Oftentimes, the cash-surrender value in these policies is tax-free if certain requirements are met (for example, Assurance Vie policies in France or certain life insurance policies in India).

In some cases (for example, in Malaysia), an investment foreign health insurance policy may be tied into a life insurance policy.

FBAR – FinCEN Form 114

FinCEN Form 114 – Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (commonly known as FBAR) is the most important US tax information return. FBAR must be filed by a US tax resident if the aggregate value of foreign financial accounts (in which this US person has financial interest and/or over which this US person has signatory authority) exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. The 2015 FBAR must be received by the IRS by June 30, 2016 without any extension possible; however, starting the reporting for the calendar year 2016 (i.e. 2016 FBAR) the FBARs are due on April 15 with an extension possible.

The importance of FBAR stems from the draconian FBAR penalties. Unlike many other information returns, FBAR imposes penalty not only on the willful non-filing, but also on the non-willful failure to file the FBAR. The willful FBAR penalties range from criminal penalties with up to 5 years in prison to up to $100,000 penalty per account per year. The FBAR statute of limitations is six years, which means that up to six years maybe subject to a penalty (though, usually it would be 2-4 years).

Foreign Life Insurance Policies and FBAR Reporting

Foreign life insurance policies must be reported on the FBAR if they have a cash-surrender value. Therefore, foreign life insurance policies that fall into categories two and three described above are always reportable. Investment foreign life insurance policies promoted by national governments (such as Assurance Vie accounts in France) are reportable even if they are considered to be held by a foreign trust (such as Superannuation Accounts in Australia).

The first category of foreign life insurance policies I listed above (i.e. life insurance policies without any cash-surrender value) are not likely to be reportable, but there are exceptions.

The determination of whether your foreign life insurance policies are reportable on the FBAR should be made by an international tax attorney; I strongly discourage any attempt by US taxpayers to make this determination without legal assistance.

Foreign Life Insurance Policies and Other Reporting Requirements

It is important to note that other US reporting requirements may apply to foreign life insurance policies. Examples include FATCA Form 8938, PFIC compliance, foreign trust reporting, et cetera.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Foreign Life Insurance Policies

If you have foreign life insurance policies, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for assistance as soon as possible. Foreign life insurance policies can be extremely complex and the US reporting requirements associated with them vary from country to country. Sherayzen Law Office has accumulated tremendous experience in dealing with foreign life insurance policies from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Europe and Asia. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FBAR Criminal Prosecution and Smaller Banks: The Case of Wegelin

On January 3, 2013, Wegelin & Co., the oldest Swiss private bank announced that it will close down following its guilty plea to criminal charges of conspiracy to help wealthy U.S. taxpayers evade taxes through secret financial accounts. The guilty plea and the closure of one of the most prestigious European banks that served its clients since the year 1741 constitute big victories for the U.S. authorities. It surely will inspire additional movement of non-compliant U.S. taxpayers into the 2012 OVDP (Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) as well as ensure more widespread compliance with the FBAR, Form 8938 and other numerous international tax forms required by the IRS.

However, in addition to its significance to U.S. tax compliance, the Wegelin case also has other interesting features that may point to future trends in the IRS international tax enforcement. In this article, I will outline these trends and explore their potential implications for U.S. tax enforcement.

Jurisdiction to Prosecute Foreign Banks: Minimal Contact Will Suffice

In order to criminally charge a foreign bank, U.S. tax authorities need to establish some connection between the United States and the foreign bank. It appears that after the Wegelin case, proving U.S. exposure will not a be a significant problem for the IRS.

The main reason for Wegelin’s bold defiant behavior (Wegelin specifically advertised itself as a safe, tax-free alternative to U.S. taxpayers who were fleeing UBS after criminal prosecution charges were filed against UBS in 2008) was its deep belief that it cannot be criminally prosecuted in the United States because U.S. tax authorities have no jurisdiction over it. Unlike UBS, Wegelin had virtually no physical presence in the United States, no operating divisions and no branch offices in the United States.

However, Wegelin miscalculated. The IRS discovered that Wegelin did have presence in the United States because it “directly accessed” the U.S. banking system through a correspondent account that it held at UBS AG (“UBS”) in Stamford, Connecticut. The Justice Department successfully argued that this one correspondent account was sufficient to give the United States government the jurisdiction to criminally charge Wegelin.

Hence, one of the biggest consequences of the Wegelin case is that it will not be difficult for the U.S. tax authorities to establish jurisdiction to criminally charge foreign banks even with very insignificant presence in the United States.

Size Matters: Increased Risk for Smaller Banks

The other important lesson of the Wegelin case is that it appears that the IRS is more likely to aggressively pursue smaller banks than the bigger banks the demise of which can cause systemic instability in the world economy.

The collapse of Wegelin stands in stark contrast to the survival of its bigger Swiss rival, UBS. UBS offered pretty much the same services to U.S. taxpayers as Wegelin involving vastly larger number of U.S. persons and amounts of money (at the very least, 20 billion dollars versus Wegelin’s 1.2 billion dollars). The IRS did file criminal charges against UBS, but UBS entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and charges were dropped eighteen months later.

It could be that some of the aggressiveness of the U.S. government came precisely from Wegelin’s defiant stance. In order to reinforce its recent victory in the UBS case, the IRS had to adopt a more assertive stand. However, it did not necessarily have to end in Wegelin’s demise.

Some commentators argued that Wegelin was already a shadow of its former self at the time of its closure, because it aggressively sold-off all of its non-US related assets. Therefore, it may be argued that it is premature to draw general conclusions from the Wegelin’s case about the risks facing small foreign banks who find themselves indicted by the U.S. government. On the other hand, the very fact that Wegelin decided that it would be better for the bank to sell off its assets rather than fight the IRS and the fact that the U.S. government was not concerned about this decision do point to a conclusion that the Wegelin case may be demonstrative of the general vulnerability of smaller banks in such situations.

Unresolved Issues: Client Information and Sold-Off Practice

One of the most important issues, however, is still unresolved in the Wegelin case and makes it worthwhile to observe to its end. The issue is: will the bank disclose the names of its U.S. clients to the IRS?

Typically, disclosure of the names of U.S. taxpayers constitutes a key request by the IRS in such major investigations. Therefore, it does not seem likely that the IRS will simply leave this issue without at least attempting to obtain the names of non-compliant U.S. taxpayers as part of the final deal.

The other unresolved issue is whether a strategy similar to Wegelin’s sale of its non-US accounts to the Austrian Bank Raiffeisen just before the indictment is going to challenged by the IRS if the sale does involve U.S. clients and maybe even if it does not (especially where the bank is left without any assets). It is not known if we are going to get an answer at this time, but it is likely that this issue will show up again in a future case.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Voluntary Disclosure of Foreign Financial Accounts

If you have undisclosed offshore accounts (whether in the hard-hit Switzerland or any other country) , you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore the voluntary disclosure options available in your case. Our experienced voluntary disclosure firm will thoroughly review your case, explore available options, propose a definite plan for moving forward, prepare all of the necessary legal documents and tax forms, and guide you though the entire case while rigorously representing your interests in your negotiations with the IRS.