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2019 FBAR Conversion Rates | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

The 2019 FBAR conversion rates are highly important in US international tax compliance. The 2019 FBAR and 2019 Form 8938 instructions both require that 2019 FBAR conversion rates be used to report the required highest balances of foreign financial assets on these forms (in the case of Form 8938, the 2019 FBAR conversion rates is the default choice, not an exclusive one). In other words, the 2019 FBAR conversion rates are used to translate foreign-currency highest balances into US dollars for the purposes of FBAR and Form 8938 compliance.

The U.S. Department of Treasury  already published the 2019 FBAR conversion rates online (they are called “Treasury’s Financial Management Service rates” or the “FMS rates”).

Since the 2019 FBAR conversion rates are highly important to US taxpayers, international tax lawyers and international tax accountants, Sherayzen Law Office provides the table below listing the official 2019 FBAR conversion rates (note that the readers still need to refer to the official website for any updates).

Country – Currency Foreign Currency to $1.00
AFGHANISTAN – AFGHANI77.6250
ALBANIA – LEK108.2100
ALGERIA – DINAR118.7800
ANGOLA – KWANZA475.0000
ANTIGUA – BARBUDA – E. CARIBBEAN DOLLAR2.7000
ARGENTINA – PESO59.8700
ARMENIA – DRAM475.0000
AUSTRALIA – DOLLAR1.4250
AUSTRIA – EURO0.8900
AZERBAIJAN – NEW MANAT1.7000
BAHAMAS – DOLLAR1.0000
BAHRAIN – DINAR0.3770
BANGLADESH – TAKA85.0000
BARBADOS – DOLLAR2.0200
BELARUS – NEW RUBLE2.1040
BELGIUM – EURO0.8900
BELIZE – DOLLAR2.0000
BENIN – CFA FRANC582.0000
BERMUDA – DOLLAR1.0000
BOLIVIA – BOLIVIANO6.8300
BOSNIA – MARKA1.7410
BOTSWANA – PULA10.5490
BRAZIL – REAL4.0200
BRUNEI – DOLLAR1.3450
BULGARIA – LEV1.7410
BURKINA FASO – CFA FRANC582.0000
BURMA-KYAT1,475.0000
BURUNDI – FRANC1,850.0000
CAMBODIA (KHMER) – RIEL4,051.0000
CAMEROON – CFA FRANC578.1200
CANADA – DOLLAR1.3000
CAPE VERDE – ESCUDO99.2910
CAYMAN ISLANDS – DOLLAR0.8200
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC – CFA FRANC578.1200
CHAD – CFA FRANC578.1200
CHILE – PESO751.4800
CHINA – RENMINBI6.9610
COLOMBIA – PESO3,278.7500
COMOROS – FRANC439.0600
CONGO – CFA FRANC578.1200
COSTA RICA – COLON569.6500
COTE D’IVOIRE – CFA FRANC582.0000
CROATIA – KUNA6.4900
CUBA – Chavito1.0000
CYPRUS – EURO0.8900
CZECH REPUBLIC – KORUNA22.1650
DEM. REP. OF CONGO – FRANC1,650.0000
DENMARK – KRONE6.6520
DJIBOUTI – FRANC177.0000
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – PESO52.6600
ECUADOR – DOLARES1.0000
EGYPT – POUND16.0000
EL SALVADOR – DOLARES1.0000
EQUATORIAL GUINEA – CFA FRANC578.1200
ERITREA – NAKFA15.0000
ESTONIA – EURO0.8900
ETHIOPIA – BIRR31.8000
EURO ZONE – EURO0.8900
FIJI – DOLLAR2.1420
FINLAND – EURO0.8900
FRANCE – EURO0.8900
GABON – CFA FRANC578.1200
GAMBIA – DALASI51.0000
GEORGIA – LARI2.8700
GERMANY – EURO0.8900
GHANA – CEDI5.6600
GREECE – EURO0.8900
GRENADA – EAST CARIBBEAN DOLLAR2.7000
GUATEMALA – QUENTZAL7.6900
GUINEA BISSAU – CFA FRANC582.0000
GUINEA – FRANC9,380.0000
GUYANA – DOLLAR215.0000
HAITI – GOURDE87.6550
HONDURAS – LEMPIRA25.0000
HONG KONG – DOLLAR7.7860
HUNGARY – FORINT294.2900
ICELAND – KRONA120.7600
INDIA – RUPEE71.0000
INDONESIA – RUPIAH13,895.0000
IRAN – RIAL42,000.0000
IRAQ – DINAR1,138.0000
IRELAND – EURO0.8900
ISRAEL – SHEKEL3.4540
ITALY – EURO0.8900
JAMAICA – DOLLAR136.0000
JAPAN – YEN108.5300
JERUSALEM – SHEKEL3.4540
JORDAN – DINAR0.7080
KAZAKHSTAN – TENGE381.1800
KENYA – SHILLING101.2500
KOREA – WON1,153.7000
KOSOVO – EURO0.8900
KUWAIT – DINAR0.3030
KYRGYZSTAN – SOM69.6000
LAOS – KIP8,865.0000
LATVIA – EURO0.8900
LEBANON – POUND1500.0000
LESOTHO – MALOTI14.0560
LIBERIA – DOLLAR186.9900
LIBYA – DINAR1.3960
LITHUANIA – EURO0.8900
LUXEMBOURG – EURO0.8900
MADAGASCAR – ARIARY3,627.2000
MALAWI – KWACHA760.0000
MALAYSIA – RINGGIT4.0890
MALDIVES – RUFIYAA15.4200
MALI – CFA FRANC582.0000
MALTA – EURO0.8900
MARSHALL ISLANDS – DOLLAR1.0000
MARTINIQUE – EURO0.8900
MAURITANIA – OUGUIYA37.0000
MAURITIUS – RUPEE36.2000
MEXICO – PESO18.8920
MICRONESIA – DOLLAR1.0000
MOLDOVA – LEU17.1000
MONGOLIA – TUGRIK2,733.5200
MONTENEGRO – EURO0.8900
MOROCCO – DIRHAM9.5970
MOZAMBIQUE – METICAL 60.8500
NAMIBIA – DOLLAR14.0560
NEPAL – RUPEE113.7500
NETHERLANDS – EURO0.8900
NETHERLANDS ANTILLES – GUILDER1.7800
NEW ZEALAND – DOLLAR1.4830
NICARAGUA – CORDOBA33.8000
NIGER – CFA FRANC582.0000
NIGERIA – NAIRA361.0000
NORWAY – KRONE8.7820
OMAN – RIAL0.3850
PAKISTAN – RUPEE154.8500
PANAMA – BALBOA1.0000
PANAMA – DOLARES1.0000
PAPUA NEW GUINEA – KINA3.3110
PARAGUAY – GUARANI6,442.3301
PERU – SOL3.3140
PHILIPPINES – PESO50.6400
POLAND – ZLOTY3.7890
PORTUGAL – EURO0.8900
QATAR – RIYAL3.6400
REP. OF N MACEDONIA – DINAR54.7600
REPUBLIC OF PALAU – DOLLAR1.0000
ROMANIA – NEW LEU4.2560
RUSSIA – RUBLE62.2730
RWANDA – FRANC925.0000
SAO TOME & PRINCIPE – NEW DOBRAS22.1220
SAUDI ARABIA – RIYAL3.7500
SENEGAL – CFA FRANC582.0000
SERBIA – DINAR104.9200
SEYCHELLES – RUPEE13.6200
SIERRA LEONE – LEONE9,639.5898
SINGAPORE – DOLLAR1.3450
SLOVAK REPUBLIC – EURO0.8900
SLOVENIA – EURO0.8900
SOLOMON ISLANDS – DOLLAR8.0650
SOMALI – SHILLING575.0000
SOUTH AFRICA – RAND14.0560
SOUTH SUDANESE – POUND160.0000
SPAIN – EURO0.8900
SRI LANKA – RUPEE181.3000
ST LUCIA – E CARIBBEAN DOLLAR2.7000
SUDAN – SUDANESE POUND45.0000
SURINAME – GUILDER7.5200
SWAZILAND – LANGENI14.0560
SWEDEN – KRONA9.3010
SWITZERLAND – FRANC0.9660
SYRIA – POUND435.0000
TAIWAN – DOLLAR29.9420
TAJIKISTAN – SOMONI9.6500
TANZANIA – SHILLING2,293.0000
THAILAND – BAHT29.7700
TIMOR – LESTE DILI1.0000
TOGO – CFA FRANC582.0000
TONGA – PA’ANGA2.2090
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO – DOLLAR6.6970
TUNISIA – DINAR2.7720
TURKEY – LIRA5.9420
TURKMENISTAN – NEW MANAT3.4910
UGANDA – SHILLING3,660.0000
UKRAINE – HRYVNIA23.6900
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – DIRHAM3.6730
UNITED KINGDOM – POUND STERLING0.7580
URUGUAY – PESO37.1300
UZBEKISTAN – SOM9,500.0000
VANUATU – VATU112.8000
VENEZUELA – BOLIVAR SOBERANO70,675.7400
VENEZUELA – FUERTE (OLD)248,832.0000
VIETNAM – DONG23,171.0000
WESTERN SAMOA – TALA2.5370
YEMEN – RIAL480.0000
ZAMBIA – NEW KWACHA14.0500
ZIMBABWE – RTGS16.2800

The Norman Case: Willful FBAR Penalty Upheld | FBAR Lawyers Miami

On November 8, 2019, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) upheld the decision of the Court of Federal Claims to uphold the IRS assessment of a willful FBAR penalty in the amount of $803,530 with respect to Ms. Mindy Norman’s failure to file her 2007 FBAR. The Norman case deserves special attention because of its facts and circumstances and how the Court interpreted them to uphold the willful FBAR penalty.

The Norman Case: Facts of the Case

Ms. Norman is a school teacher. In 1999, she opened a bank account with UBS bank in Switzerland. It was a “numbered account” – i.e. income and asset statements referred to the account number only; Ms. Norman’s name and address did not appear anywhere on the account statements. Between 2001 and 2008, the highest balance of the account ranged between about $1.5 million and $2.5 million.

The Court described how Ms. Norman was actively engaged in managing and controlling her account. She had frequent contacts with her UBS banker in person and over the phone; she decided how to invest her funds and she signed a request with UBS to prohibit investment in US securities on her behalf (which could have triggered a disclosure of the existence of the account to the IRS). In 2002, she withdrew between $10,000 and $100,000 in cash from the account. In 2008 she closed the account when UBS informed her that it would cooperate with the IRS in identifying noncompliant US taxpayers who engaged in tax fraud; it should also be noted that the IRS presented into evidence UBS client contact records which stated that Ms. Norman exhibited “surprise and displeasure” when she was informed about the UBS decision.

Sometime in the year 2008, Ms. Norman signed her 2007 US tax return which, it appears, contained a Schedule B which stated (in Part III) that she had no foreign accounts. Moreover, she signed this return after her accountant sent her a questionnaire with a question concerning foreign accounts.

Also in 2008, Ms. Norman obtained a referral to an accountant. It appears that the accountant advised her to do a quiet disclosure, filing her amended returns and late FBARs. The quiet disclosure triggered the subsequent IRS audit.

The Court found that, during the audit interview, Ms. Norman made numerous false statements, including denying the knowledge of the existence of her foreign account prior to 2009. She also submitted a letter to the IRS re-affirming her lack of knowledge about the existence of this account.

Then, after retaining an attorney, Ms. Norman completely reversed herself in her second letter, stating that she did in fact know about the existence of the account. She further explained that her failure to timely file her FBARs occurred due to her belief that none of the funds in the account were hers and she was not a de-facto owner of the account.

The Norman Case: Penalty Imposition and the Appeals

It appears that the false statements and radical shifts in claims about what she knew about her account completely damaged her credibility with the IRS agent in charge of the audit. Hence, the IRS found that Ms. Norman willfully failed to file her FBAR and assessed a penalty of $803,530.

Ms. Norman paid the penalty in full and filed a complaint with the Court of Federal Claims requesting a refund. The Court of Federal Claims sustained the penalty; hence, Ms. Norman appealed to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court upheld the penalty imposition.

The Norman Case: Issues on the Appeal

Ms. Norman raised three issues on the appeal: (1) the Court of Federal Claims erred in finding that she willfully violated the FBAR requirement; (2) a 1987 Treasury regulation limits the FBAR willful penalty to $100,000; and (3) a penalty so high violates the 8th Amendment. The Court did not consider the 8th Amendment argument for procedural reasons.

The Norman Case: Recklessness as part of Willfulness

At the heart of the dispute over the imposition of the willful penalty was whether the IRS can use recklessness in its determination of willfulness. It is important to point out here that the IRS imposed the willful penalty even though it could not prove that Ms. Norman actually knew about the existence of FBAR. Rather, it relied on recklessness in its imposition of the willful FBAR penalty.

In the appeal, Ms. Norman argued that one can only violate the FBAR requirement if one has the actual knowledge of the existence of the form. She adopted a strict interpretation of willfulness as the one found in the Internal Revenue Manual (“IRM”): “willfulness is shown by the person’s knowledge of the reporting requirements and the person’s conscious choice not to comply with the requirements.”

The Court, however, did not agree with this interpretation. First of all, it pointed to the well-established law that the IRM is not binding in courts. The courts in several circuits have determined that recklessness should be considered as willfulness. Second, the IRM itself stated that actual knowledge of FBAR is not required for the imposition of a willful penalty. Rather, the IRM allowed for the possibility of the imposition of a willful penalty where the failure to learn about FBAR is combined with other factors, such as attempts to conceal the existence of the account and the amounts involved.

Then, the Court explained its reasoning for believing that Ms. Norman’s behavior was reckless: she opened the foreign account, actively managed it, withdrew money from it and failed to declare it on her signed 2007 tax return. The fact that Ms. Norman made contradictory and false statements to the IRS during the audit further damaged her credibility with respect to her non-willfulness claims.

The Norman Case: 1987 Treasury Regulation No Longer Valid

Ms. Norman also argued that a 1987 regulation limited the willful FBAR penalty to $100,000. The Court disagreed, because this regulation was rendered invalid by the language found in the 2004 amendment to 31 U.S.C. §5321(a)(5)(C).

The Norman Case: Most Important Lessons for Audited US Taxpayers with Undisclosed Foreign Accounts

The Norman case contains many important lessons for US taxpayers who have undisclosed foreign accounts and who are audited by the IRS. Let’s concentrate on the three most important ones.

First and foremost, do not lie to the IRS; lying to the IRS is almost certain to backfire. In the Norman case, the taxpayer had good facts on her side at the beginning, but her actions during the audit made them almost irrelevant. Ms. Norman’s false statements damaged her credibility not only with the IRS, but also with the courts. It made her appear as a person undeserving of sympathy; someone who deserved to be punished by the IRS.

Second, Ms. Norman fell prey to an incorrect advice from her accountant and did a quiet disclosure. Given how dangerous her situation was as a result of an impending disclosure of her foreign account by UBS, doing a quiet disclosure in 2008 was a mistake. Instead, a full open voluntary disclosure should have been done either through the traditional IRS voluntary disclosure option or a noisy disclosure (unfortunately, the 2009 OVDP was not yet an option in 2008).

Finally, the Norman case highlights the importance of having the appropriate professional counsel. During her quiet disclosure and the subsequent IRS audit Ms. Norman did not hire the right professional to assist her until it was too late – the damage to the case became irreversible. Instead of retaining the right international tax attorney, she chose to rely on an accountant. In the context of an offshore voluntary disclosure and especially an IRS audit involving offshore assets, relying on an accountant is almost always a mistake – only an experienced international tax attorney is right choice.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your US Tax Compliance and an IRS Audit Concerning Foreign Accounts and Foreign Income

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts and you wish to resolve your US tax noncompliance before the IRS finds you, you need to secure competent legal help. If you are already subject to an IRS audit, then you need to retain an international tax attorney as soon as you receive the initial audit letter. As stated above, Ms. Norman paid a very high price for a failure to do so timely; you should avoid making this mistake.

For this reason, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Our team of tax professionals headed by the highly experienced international tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to resolve their prior US tax noncompliance issues and successfully conclude IRS international tax audits. We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

New FBAR Filing Verification Submission Process | FBAR Lawyer & Attorney

On November 19, 2019, the IRS announced changes to the current FBAR filing verification submission process. The change is technical, but not without importance.

New FBAR Filing Verification Submission Process: FBAR Background Information

FBAR is a common name for FinCEN Form 114 (formerly known as TD F 90-22.1), Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. US Persons must use this form to report their ownership of or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts as long as these accounts’ aggregate balance exceeds the FBAR filing threshold. Despite its official name, the IRS has administered the form since 2001, not FinCEN.

FBAR is one of the most important US international information returns. FBAR noncompliance may lead to the imposition of severe civil and criminal penalties. Hence, it is of absolute importance for US persons to timely and properly file this form.

New FBAR Filing Verification Submission Process: Rules Prior to November 19 2019

Prior to November 19, 2019, US persons who wanted to verify whether their FBARs were filed could obtain the relevant information for up to five FBARs by simply calling 1-866-270-0733 (the IRS FBAR Hotline) and selecting option 1. IRM 4.26.16.4.13(4). In this case, the IRS representatives would provide the verbal verification for free. The filers could make this request sixty days after the date of filing. Id.

If, however, a filer wished to request information concerning more than five forms or he wanted to obtain paper copies of filed FBARs, then he would need to do so in writing. For written verifications, there was a $5.00 fee for verifying five or fewer forms and a $1.00 fee for each additional form. Id. The IRS charged $0.15 per copy of the entire FBAR. Id. Written requests should have been accompanied by payment in accordance with IRM 4.26.16.4.13(4)(b).

New FBAR Filing Verification Submission Process: New November 19 2019 Rules

On November 19, 2019, the IRS issued a memorandum which contained interim guidance concerning the process by which the IRS would accept the requests for FBAR filing verifications. The memorandum introduced the following revisions to the FBAR filing verification process.

Effective as of the date of this memorandum, the IRS no longer accepts verbal verification requests; all requests must be submitted in writing. Hence, the existing fee structure in IRM 4.26.16.4.13(4)(b) now applies to all verification requests.

The IRS has stated that this procedural change is necessary to provide documentary evidence of all verification inquiries and IRS response to them. This new interim guidance will be incorporated into IRM 4.26.16 within the next two years from the date of issuance of the memorandum.

New FBAR Filing Verification Submission Process: Making a Proper Written Request

The written request for FBAR filing verification should include the filer’s name, Taxpayer Identification Number, and filing period(s). Tax practitioners requesting verifications for their clients must also make these requests in writing, and provide a copy of the Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative, authorizing them to receive the FBAR information. The same fee structure as described above (i.e. a $5.00 fee for verifying five or fewer forms, a $1.00 fee for each additional form, and copies for an additional fee of $0.15) will continue to apply. Checks or money orders should be made payable to the “United States Treasury”.

Written requests and payments for FBAR filing verifications and copies of filed FBARs should be mailed to:

IRS Detroit Federal Building
Compliance Review Team
Attn.: Verification
P.O. Box 32063
Detroit, MI 48232-0063

In response to written requests, the IRS will send a letter stating whether the record shows that an FBAR was filed and if so, the date filed. If a copy of a paper-filed FBAR was requested, a copy will be included with IRS letter.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with FBAR Compliance

The new FBAR filing verification process will be especially relevant in the context of offshore voluntary disclosures. Oftentimes, taxpayers do not have copies of their prior FBARs; and it is necessary to obtain these copies in order to properly calculate the penalty exposure as well as use them as evidence of non-willfulness (or find out if the IRS may use them as evidence of willfulness).

If you are required to file FBARs and you have not done so, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their FBAR compliance issues, and We Can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

November 21 2019 BSU Seminar in Minsk, Belarus | International Tax News

On November 21, 2019, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, an international tax attorney and founder of Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd., conducted a seminar at the Belarusian State University Law School (the “2019 BSU Seminar”) in Minsk, Belarus. Let’s explore the 2019 BSU Seminar in more detail.

2019 BSU Seminar

2019 BSU Seminar: Topic and Attendance

The topic of the seminar was “Unique Aspects of the US International Tax System”. The seminar was well-attended (more than 80 attendees) by the students of the Belarusian State University (“BSU”), BSU law school faculty and attorneys from the Minsk City Bar Association.

The seminar with the follow-up Q&A session lasted close to two and a half hours.

2019 BSU Seminar Part I: Mr. Sherayzen Biography As Illustration of a Successful Career of an International Tax Attorney

The first part of the seminar was devoted to the discussion of Mr. Sherayzen’s legal career. He commenced by describing his educational path: a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, History and Global Studies with Summa Cum Laude honors and a Juris Doctor degree in Law with Cum Laude honors from the University of Minnesota Law School. Then, Mr. Sherayzen discussed how he acquired the passion for US international tax law, founded Sherayzen Law Office at the end of the year 2005 and developed his career as a successful international tax attorney.

At that point, Mr. Sherayzen described his main specialities in US international tax law: (1) offshore voluntary disclosure of foreign assets and foreign income; (2) IRS international tax audits; (3) US tax compliance concerning foreign gifts and foreign inheritance; (4) US tax compliance concerning US information returns, including FBAR and FATCA compliance; and (5) US international tax planning.

2019 BSU Seminar Part II: Discussion of Eight Unique Characteristics of the US International Tax Law

The second pat of the seminar was devoted to the long discussion of eight main unique characteristics of US international tax law. Mr. Sherayzen commenced this part with the concept of “Voluntary Compliance” and its significance for a taxpayer’s personal liability for the accuracy of his IRS submissions. Then, the attorney discussed the enormous complexity and extremely invasive nature of US international tax law. Mr. Sherayzen also separately emphasized the potentially huge penalty exposure as the fourth characteristic of the US international tax law, specifically referring to FBAR penalties.

The attorney continued the discussion with the description of the worldwide reach of the US tax jurisdiction. Here, he used the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) as an example.

Then, Mr. Sherayzen described the obscurity that surrounds many US international tax provisions and explained how such obscurity presents problems and opportunities for US taxpayers. The attorney concluded the second part of the 2019 BSU seminar with the discussion of the flexibility of US international tax system and how the US tax system should be considered a source of endless opportunities to knowledgeable US international tax attorneys and their clients.

2019 BSU Seminar Part III: Basic Unique Principles of US International Tax System

The next part of the seminar focused on the basic principles of the US international tax system. Mr. Sherayzen organized this part from the perspective of how US taxpayers should declare their foreign assets and taxable income. The structure of this part was based on answering three questions: “who”, “what” and “when”.

The first question was: who should declare their foreign assets and pay taxes on their income? In this context, Mr. Sherayzen defined the concept of “US tax residency”. He further emphasized that non-resident aliens who are not US tax residents may still need to file non-resident US tax returns with the IRS.

The next question was: what income is subject to US taxation and what assets should be declared to the IRS? Here, Mr. Sherayzen describes the most fundamental principle of US international tax law that applies to US tax residents – the worldwide income taxation requirement. He also emphasized that US tax residents must declare on their US international information returns virtually all classes of their foreign assets with the exception of directly-owned real estate.

Then, as part of his discussion of US tax responsibilities of non-residents (for tax purposes), the attorney introduced the “source of income” rules used to characterize income as US-source income or foreign-source income. He provided the audience with the basic rules concerning sourcing of bank interest, dividends, earned income, rental income and royalties.

The final question was: when should the tax be paid on income? In this context, Mr. Sherayzen explained the concept of “realized income” and the general principle that income becomes taxable when it is realized for US tax purposes. He also described the anti-deferral regimes and the Section 250 full participation exemption as exceptions to the general principle of income recognition.

2019 BSU Seminar Part IV: International Information Returns and Conclusion

During the final part of the seminar, Mr. Sherayzen briefly discussed the most important US international information returns. He concluded his lecture by re-stating that US international tax provisions reflect the reality of US position in the world economy and other countries should understand this basic fact before they attempt to copy any US international tax provisions.

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 a 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 anFBAR 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 a 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!