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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FBAR Noncompliance & Taxpayer’s Options | FBAR Lawyer & Attorney

FBAR noncompliance is the worst nightmare for US taxpayers due to enormous FBAR penalties even for non-willful taxpayers. US Taxpayers who are not facing an IRS examination or a DOJ (US Department of Justice) lawsuit have three options with respect to their FBAR noncompliance: (1) do nothing with respect to correcting their prior FBAR noncompliance, close the accounts and hope that the IRS will never discover them; (2) do a quiet disclosure; and (3) come forward and voluntarily disclose their unfiled FBARs.

I already explored the highly-risky strategy of a quiet disclosure in another article. In this article, I will focus on option #1 – doing nothing about prior FBAR noncompliance. In the next article, I will discuss the option of Offshore Voluntary Disclosure as a way to deal with prior FBAR noncompliance.

This article does not constitute legal advice, but merely provides information for educational purposes.

Advantages of Doing Nothing With Respect to Prior FBAR Noncompliance

Doing nothing with respect to FBAR noncompliance is a position that some taxpayers prefer, because it requires no action, no immediate legal expenses and no immediate payment of IRS penalties.

In other words, if a taxpayer chooses to do nothing with respect to his late unfiled FBARs and his strategy is successful, he stands to gain in two aspects: (1) he spends no effort, time or money on correcting his past FBAR noncompliance; and (2) if (and this is big “if”) the IRS never finds out about his past FBAR noncompliance, he will not pay any penalties. This whole strategy is based on the hope that the IRS will not find out about their FBAR noncompliance.

Disadvantages of Doing Nothing With Respect to Prior FBAR Noncompliance Even If the Strategy Is Successful

From legal perspective, this strategy of doing nothing can be classified as very risky. If unsuccessful, a noncompliant taxpayer who chooses to do nothing stands to lose a lot more than he could ever gain if his strategy works.

Let’s analyze the disadvantages of doing nothing based on two scenarios: the strategy is successful and the strategy is unsuccessful.

Even if the strategy is ultimately successful and the IRS does not find out about FBAR noncompliance, there is still a heavy psychological price to pay for this success, because the taxpayer will not find out about the success of his strategy until the FBAR statute of limitations expires. In other words, for six long years, the taxpayer will not have any peace of mind and will constantly worry about his potential FBAR penalty exposure. If the taxpayer does not close his foreign accounts, the waiting period could be extended even further.

Moreover, if FBAR noncompliance is combined with income noncompliance and failure to file other US international information returns, the statute of limitations on the tax returns might be open for an indefinite period of time (especially if the IRS can assert a fraud claim against the noncompliant taxpayer).

I have personally seen the psychological effects of such pressure on some of my clients. It was simply destroying their lives. Eventually, they could not live like this and came to me to do offshore voluntary disclosure to resolve their prior FBAR noncompliance.

Disadvantages of Doing Nothing With Respect to Prior FBAR Noncompliance Where the Strategy Fails

If the success of this strategy exhorts such a heavy price, its failure may potentially result in disastrous consequences. Let’s explore the main two reasons why the strategy of doing nothing is so disfavored among international tax lawyers.

First, as described above, the current international tax enforcement structure severely undermines the entire basis for the strategy – i.e. hope that the IRS will not find out about FBAR noncompliance is simply too risky in the contemporary world dominated by FATCA, CRS and a widely-spread web of bilateral and multilateral automatic information exchange treaties. It is still possible that the IRS will not find out about a US person’s foreign accounts, but it is becoming less and less likely.

Second, since the strategy of doing nothing implies a taxpayer’s conscious choice not to comply with the FBAR requirements, it may turn a relatively simple and non-willful situation into a complex and willful one. In other words, under these circumstances, if the IRS is able to find out about prior FBAR noncompliance, the IRS may pursue willful and, in extreme circumstances, even criminal FBAR penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Resolving FBAR Noncompliance Issues

If you never filed your required FBARs and other US tax forms, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our legal team is headed by one of the most experienced international tax lawyers in this area – Mr. Eugene Sherayzen. He has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to successfully resolve their prior FBAR noncompliance, and He can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!