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FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Determination of the FBAR maximum account value is a problem with which every FBAR filer has to deal. In this article, I would like to provide the main guidelines for the determination of the FBAR maximum account value.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Background Information

The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts or FBAR requires each filer to disclose his financial interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts to the IRS. As part of this disclosure, the filer must calculate and report the maximum account value for each of his foreign accounts on his FBAR.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Definition of Highest Value

FinCEN defines the maximum value of an account for FBAR purposes as “a reasonable approximation of the greatest value of currency or nonmonetary assets in the account during the calendar year.” In other words, the IRS does not expect you to always get the highest possible value. A reasonable approximation of this value will do if the exact highest value is not possible to determine.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Usual Problems

There are two main problems that each FBAR filer faces whenever he tries to identify the maximum account value for FBAR purposes. The first and most obvious problem is the determination of the highest account value. How does one determine the highest value for a bank account? What about a securities account where stocks fluctuate all the time? What about a precious metals account which has investments in different precious metals?

Second, FBAR requires that all amounts be stated in US dollars. Hence, an issue arises with respect to proper currency conversion – i.e. what is the proper currency exchange rate? Should the spot rates be used? Or December 31 exchange rates?

Let’s discuss each of these problems in more depth.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Methodology

Determination of maximum account value depends to a certain degree on the type of an account for which the filer is trying to determine this value. There is no question that, with respect to checking and savings bank accounts, the IRS wants you to use the full-year statements to determine the day on which the highest value was achieved for each of these accounts. This is a simple and effective method.

Determining the maximum value of a securities account is much harder, because securities fluctuate on a daily basis. For this reason, the IRS allows you to rely on periodic account statements to make this determination, especially end-of-year statements. This method is allowed only as long as the statements fairly approximate the maximum value during the calendar year.

Even this method, however, is often insufficient when one deals with mixed-currency accounts, mixed-investment accounts, mixed-metal accounts, et cetera. These situations should be handled on a case-by-case basis by your international tax attorney.

Let’s illustrate the complexity of the issues involved here by a relatively simple example. Generally, an end-of-year statement for an investment account is a good approximation of the maximum value of the account. If, however, there was a withdrawal of funds from the account following a major sale of investments, then the end-of-year statement cannot be relied upon. Instead, one should try a different method to approximate the highest value. One possibility is to use a reliable and known financial website for valuing the remaining assets on the date of the sale plus the proceeds from the sale of investments. The method, however, may fail if the highest value of investments was at the beginning of the year, not the date of sale.

FBAR Maximum Account Value Determination: Currency Conversion

Unlike the identification of the highest account value with its various complications, the currency conversation part of the FBAR maximum account value determination is fairly straightforward. All filers must use the end-of-year FBAR rates published by the Treasury Department. These rates are officially called “Treasury Financial Management Service rates”, but they are commonly called “FBAR rates” by US international tax lawyers. The FBAR rates are division rates, not the multiplication ones. This is standard in US international tax law.

Hence, for the currency conversion purposes, you need to identify the currency in which your account is nominated, find the appropriate FBAR conversion rate for the relevant year and divide your highest balance by the relevant FBAR rate. For your convenience, Sherayzen Law Office also publishes FBAR rates on its website.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your FBAR Preparation

If you are required to file FBARs, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to comply with their FBAR obligations, 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.

University Professor Sentenced to Prison with $100 Million FBAR Penalty

On February 10, 2017, the IRS scored yet another victory in its fight against secret offshore accounts with the imposition of a $100 Million FBAR Penalty. Mr. Dan Horsky, a 71-year old retired university professor (he used to teach at a business school), was a spectacularly successful investor and a very unsuccessful tax evader. After making a fortune, he decided to conceal his earnings through secret offshore accounts in Switzerland. Now, not only will this university professor pay an enormous $100 Million FBAR penalty, but he will also go to prison.

Facts of the Case: From University Professor to a $100 Million FBAR Penalty

Let’s first explore how did a simple professor ended up paying a $100 Million FBAR penalty.

According to court documents and statements made during the sentencing hearing, Mr. Horsky is a citizen of the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. For over 30 years, he worked as a professor of business administration at a university located in New York. Around 1995, this university professor invested in numerous start-up companies. All of them but one failed; however, the one that succeeded (“Company A”) was spectacularly profitable.

In 2000, Mr. Horsky consolidated all of his investments into a nominee account in the name of a shell entity, Horsky Holdings. The account was opened at a Swiss bank in Zurich in order to conceal his financial transactions and accounts from the IRS and the US Treasury Department (the “DOJ”).

In 2008, Mr. Horsky received approximately $80 million in proceeds from selling Company A’s stock. However, he filed a fraudulent 2008 tax return, under-reporting his income by more than $40 million and disclosing only approximately $7 million of his gain from the sale. Then, the Swiss Bank opened multiple accounts for the university professor to assist him in concealing his assets. The university professor decided to trick the IRS and opened one small account for which Horsky admitted that he was a US citizen and another much larger account for which he claimed he was an Israeli citizen and resident.

As a university professor who loved business, Mr. Horsky could not stay away from temptation of further investments. He re-invested some of his gains from selling Company A’s stock into Company B’s stocks. Again, the university professor was enormously successful – by 2015, his secret offshore holdings exceeded $220 million.

In 2012, after learning about the IRS efforts to fight offshore tax evasion, Mr. Horsky engaged in a new scheme. He arranged for an individual (“Person A”) to take nominal control over his accounts at the Swiss Bank because the bank was closing accounts controlled by US persons. Interestingly, the Swiss Bank went so far as to help Person A relinquish his US citizenship. In 2014, Person A filed a false Form 8854 (Initial Annual Expatriation Statement) with the IRS that failed to disclose his net worth on the date of expatriation, failed to disclose his ownership of foreign assets, and falsely certified under penalties of perjury that he was in compliance with his tax obligations for the five preceding tax years.

By 2015, however, the IRS already conducted an investigation (probably triggered by information received as a result of the Swiss Bank Program) and identified Mr. Horsky’s tax evasion scheme. The IRS special agents actually raided Mr. Horsky’s home and confronted him about his concealment of his foreign financial accounts.

The IRS estimated that, during this entire 15-year old tax evasion scheme, Mr. Horsky evaded more than $18 million in income and gift taxes.

Punishment: $100 Million FBAR Penalty, Imprisonment and Other Penalties

Mr. Horsky faced a large array of penalties for filing fraudulent federal income tax returns, failure to disclosure his beneficial interest in and control over his foreign financial accounts on FBARs through the year 2011, and filing of fraudulent 2012 and 2013 FBARs.

The court sentenced Mr. Horsky to seven months in prison, one year of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. As part of his plea agreement, Mr. Horsky also paid over $13,000,000 in taxes owed to the IRS and a $100,000,000 FBAR penalty.

Lessons to be Learned from this $100 Million FBAR Penalty Case

So, how did this become a $100 Million FBAR Penalty Case? What qualified this case for criminal prosecution?

First, the very sophisticated nature of the tax evasion scheme made it very easy for the IRS to pursue criminal penalties in this case. Mr. Horsky went from one tax evasion trick to another, believing that he could avoid IRS detection. Using a shell corporation to hide his identity was definitely a big factor here. However, other strategies (like the use of a nominee who gave up his US citizenship) employed by him also made it an easy target for criminal prosecution.

Second, the amounts involved. With over $200 million in assets, Mr. Horsky should have known that he would be a valuable target for the IRS criminal prosecution.

Third, income evasion was done here on a grand scale. Not only did Mr. Horsky conceal the income from his accounts, but he also tried to evade the taxation of his very large capital gains. Every time that there is a combination of FBAR violation with a large-scale income tax violation, the chances of a criminal prosecution increase exponentially.

Finally, the willfulness of Mr. Horsky’s entire behavior was particularly made evident with the filing of fraudulent tax returns. A partial disclosure is one of the most dangerous patterns of tax behavior, because it discloses the knowledge of a tax obligation on the part of the taxpayer and points to the willfulness of the violation with respect to the noncompliant part of the obligation.

In fact, looking at this case, one can say that Mr. Horsky’s $100 Million FBAR penalty was definitely not the worse outcome. It is probably thanks to the skillful work of his criminal tax attorneys that the worst was avoided.

There is one more lesson that needs to be learned from this case. It appears that Mr. Horsky had plenty of opportunities to enter into any of the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure programs to avoid his $100 Million FBAR penalty and a prison sentence. He could have entered the 2009 OVDP, 2011 OVDI, 2012 OVDP and probably even 2014 OVDP.

If he would have entered into any of these programs, Mr. Horsky could have avoided the $100 Million FBAR penalty, saved tens of millions of dollars in potential penalties and eliminated any serious chance of a criminal prosecution.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With the Voluntary Disclosure of Your Foreign Accounts

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts outside of the United States, you are in grave danger of IRS detection and the imposition of draconian FBAR penalties, including incarceration. This is why you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore your voluntary disclosure options.

Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that specializes in offshore voluntary disclosures. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers to avoid or reduce draconian FBAR penalties and bring their tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Remember to File Your 2015 FBARs | FBAR Tax Attorney

On June 17, 2016, the IRS again reminded U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts to file their 2015 FBARs by Thursday, June 30, 2016. U.S. taxpayers have to file 2015 FBARs if they had financial interest in or signatory authority (or other authority) over foreign accounts with values which, in the aggregate (i.e. all accounts added together), exceeded $10,000 at any time during the calendar year 2015. The taxpayers who satisfied the FBAR threshhold, should e-file their 2015 FBARs through the BSA E-Filing System website.

It is important to note that the number of FBAR filings has grown exponentially. According to FinCEN data, on average, there has been a seventeen percent increase per year during the last five years. In fact, in 2015, FinCEN received a record high 1,163,229 of 2014 FBARs. We can reasonably expect that the number of 2015 FBARs will beat last year’s record.

The growth in the number of FBARs is mainly caused by two factors. First, the greater awareness of the FBAR requirement is due to a series of IRS legal victories against foreign banks and offshore jurisdictions, starting with 2008 UBS case through a complete destruction of the Swiss bank secrecy in the Swiss Bank Program and even more recent criminal conviction of two Caymanian banks.

Second and probably the most important reason is the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) which requires foreign financial institutions to report foreign accounts owned by U.S. persons. Additionally, FATCA created a new filing requirement, IRS Form 8938. Unlike the FBAR, Form 8938 has to be filed with U.S. individual tax returns (the implementation of Form 8938 for business returns still has not occurred). This new requirement created a much greater awareness of the FBAR among the accountants who generally do not file FBARs for their clients due to the fact that FBARs carry criminal penalties.

Both of these factors will continue to play a great role in 2016 when the 2015 FBARs have to filed. Additionally, by June 30, a much greater of foreign banks will have delivered FATCA letters, further promoting FBAR awareness among U.S. persons who have to file 2015 FBARs.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for FBAR Help

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts for which delinquent FBARs have to be filed or you need help with determining what needs to be filed for 2015 FBAR, contact the experienced international tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office. Our talented team of tax professionals, headed by a highly-experienced FBAR tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, has helped hundreds of U.S. taxpayers around the world and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

FBAR Penalties

In this essay, I would like to discuss some of the penalties that may be imposed as a result of the failure to file the FBAR even though you were required to do so. In particular, I will focus on three general scenarios describing specific penalties commonly attributed to each of them. The first scenario is where you willfully failed to file the FBAR, or destroyed or otherwise failed to maintain proper records of account, and the IRS learned about it when it launched an investigation. This is the worst type of scenario which carries substantial penalties. The IRS may impose civil penalties of up to the greater of $100,000, or 50 percent of the value of the account at the time of the violation, as well as criminal penalties of up to $500,000, or 10 years of imprisonment, or both.

Another scenario is where you negligently and non-willfully failed to file the FBAR, and the IRS learned about it during an investigation. Unlike the first scenario, there are no criminal penalties for non-willful failure to file the FBAR; only civil penalties of up to $10,000 per each violation (unless there is a pattern of negligence which carries additional civil penalties of no more than $50,000 per any violation). In this situation, you are likely to fare much better, and you may even be able to obtain lower penalties by showing of reasonable cause for the failure to file.

The third scenario is where you non-willfully fail to file the FBAR, accidentally discover your mistake, and come to an attorney to file a delinquent FBAR before the IRS commences its investigation of your finances. This is the most favorable of all scenarios due to the fact that you may qualify for the benefits of a voluntary disclosure program, despite the fact that the position of the IRS regarding civil penalties for voluntarily filed but delinquent FBARs is uncertain following the October 15, 2009 voluntary disclosure deadline. The best strategy for addressing delinquent FBARs, however, varies depending on the facts and circumstances of the particular case.

A word of caution: this discussion focuses solely on the penalties associated with the failure to file the FBAR. This essay does not address the various strategies that may be employed in dealing with the delinquent FBAR filings in the post-October 15, 2009 world, including qualification for the voluntary disclosure program. In certain situations, there may also be other relevant significant tax issues outside of the FBAR realm – the most important of which is non-payment of taxes on undisclosed income by the U.S. taxpayers – which may significantly alter the amount of penalties, interest, and taxes due to the IRS.