As an FBAR tax lawyer & attorney, I can see that one of the most common tax compliance mistakes made by US taxpayers is ignoring their disregarded entity FBAR obligations. These taxpayers believe that, since disregarded entities are ignored for tax purposes, these entities do not need to file any FBARs. In this article, I will explain why this view is completely false and how US taxpayers should comply with their disregarded entity FBAR obligations.
Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations: What Are Disregarded Business Entities?
Under US tax law, certain juridical persons are disregarded for tax purposes. In other words, an entity is not recognized for tax purposes as something separate from its owner; the owner and the entity are merged into one tax person for tax purposes.
A disregarded entity may have only one owner. If there is more than one owner, then the entity is treated as a partnership for US tax purposes (unless it elects to be treated as a corporation).
A disregarded entity does not file its own tax return. Rather its owner reports all of the entity’s income and expense items on the owner’s tax return.
It is important, however, that one does not confuse the tax and legal treatment of a disregarded entity. Despite being ignored for tax purposes, a disregarded entity continues to exist legally. In other words, for all legal purposes, it is a separate juridical person with its own legal rights and obligations.
Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations: Required FBAR Compliance
A US disregarded entity must file an FBAR if it has a financial interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts the highest aggregate value of which exceeds $10,000 at any point during the relevant calendar year.
FBAR is not filed with a US tax return. Hence, disregarded entities must file FBARs even though they do not file US tax returns. Taxpayers need to make sure to obtain an EIN number for their disregarded entities.
It is important to emphasize that all FBARs of disregarded entities are filed under the names of these entities, not their owners or managers. In other words, if a grantor trust files an FBAR, the trustee will sign FBAR which is officially filed in the name of the grantor trust.
Also note that I stated that a “US disregarded entity” must file an FBAR. A foreign disregarded entity does not need to file an FBAR (though, its US owner will have to do it under the FBAR rules).
Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations: FBAR is not a Tax Requirement
Why is it that a disregarded entity has to file FBARs if it is disregarded for tax purposes? The answer to this question requires us to look into the legislative origin of FBAR.
The key to understanding why a disregarded entity has to file FBARs is the fact that FBAR is not part of the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”). In other words, FBAR is not a tax form. FBAR is a creation of the Bank Secrecy Act and belongs to Title 31 (IRC is Title 26) of the United States Code.
As I stated above, a disregarded entity is ignored only for tax purposes, but it continues to exist for legal purposes. Hence, for FBAR purposes, the entity is not disregarded but continues to exist as a separate juridical person with its own legal compliance duties, including FBAR obligations.
Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations: Why IRS Enforces FBAR Compliance
There is one more issue we need to clarify: if FBAR is not part of the IRC, why is the IRS agency in charge of enforcing it? The answer to this question also lies in FBAR’s history (now, the readers can appreciate why I insist that an international tax attorney should know the legal history of different legal and tax requirements).
Prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the IRS was not in charge of enforcing FBAR compliance. Instead, for many years prior to 2001, FinCEN (the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) was in charge of FBAR.
Why? The answer is simple: the original purpose of FBAR was not to fight tax noncompliance; it was not created as a tax form. Rather, FBAR was a tool to fight financial crimes, such as money laundering and terrorist financing. This fell straight within the competence of FinCEN.
In 2001, however, the US Congress turned over the function of enforcing FBAR compliance to the IRS (technically, FinCEN delegated the enforcement of FBAR to the IRS). The IRS almost immediately shifted the focus of FBAR from financial crimes to international tax enforcement.
Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations: Frequent FBAR Violations
FBAR compliance is miserably low among disregarded entities. The main reason for so many FBAR violations is the fact that most taxpayers are completely unaware of the legal analysis of FBAR which I have set forth above. As I stated above, they incorrectly believe that FBAR is a tax form and, since disregarded entities are ignored for tax purposes, these entities do not or did not file FBARs. Unfortunately, even these non-willful situations may lead to the imposition of substantial FBAR penalties.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Disregarded Entity FBAR Obligations
In order to avoid these FBAR penalties and ensure proper tax compliance, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your disregarded entity FBAR obligations. Sherayzen Law Office has filed FBARs for every type of a disregarded entity. If your entity has not filed FBARs in the past, but it was required to do so, Sherayzen Law Office can also help you determine the best offshore voluntary disclosure option for your entity and do all of the work necessary to bring you and your entities into full compliance with US tax laws. We can help You!