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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 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 FBAR 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 the 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!

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.

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.

Sherayzen Law Office Successfully Completes October 2018 Tax Season

Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd., successfully ended yet another tax season. The October 2018 tax season presented formidable challenges not only due to the diversity of the issues involved, but also the sheer volume of deadlines that needed to be completed between September 16 and October 15, 2018.

Let’s analyze the October 2018 tax season in more detail.

October 2018 Tax Season: Diversity of Tax Forms

During this October 2018 tax season, the tax team of Sherayzen Law Office had to deal with highly diverse tax issues – as usual. Our team is very well-versed in foreign income reporting and US international information returns such as: FBAR and FATCA Form 8938, business tax forms (926, 5471, 8858 and 8865), foreign trust forms (3520 and 3520-A), foreign gifts & inheritance reporting (Form 3520 and other relevant forms), PFICs and others. All of these forms needed to be completed for the October 2018 tax season.

However, there was something very new this time – Section 965 Transition Tax. As a result of the 2017 tax reform, US owners of certain foreign corporations were forced to recognize as income the accumulated E&P of their foreign corporations at their ownership percentage. The Section 965 tax compliance added a significant burden to the October 2018 tax season.

October 2018 Tax Season: High Volume of Deadlines & High Diversity of Assets

Between September 16 and October 15, 2018, Sherayzen Law Office completed over 70 deadlines for its clients. As part of these deadlines, we filed about 50 FBARs and a similar number of Forms 8938, about two dozens of Forms 5471/5472 and a smaller number of Forms 8865, about a dozen of Forms 3520 and over 200 Forms 8621.

Numerous forms were filed to report foreign rental income as well as foreign dividend and interest income. The vast majority of the filed tax returns included Foreign Tax Credit calculations.

October 2018 Tax Season: Diversity of Countries

The reported assets belonged to a wide variety of countries. During the October 2018 Tax Season, Sherayzen Law Office reported assets from virtually all main areas of the world. The majority of assets were reported from the European (particularly: France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom) and Asian countries (especially, China, India and Thailand); a smaller number of assets reported for Canada and Latin America. The deadlines for most of our New Zealand and all of our Australian clients were completed prior to September 15.

Lebanon and Egypt stood out among the Middle Eastern clients.

Sherayzen Law Office is a Leader in US International Tax Compliance

Sherayzen Law Office is committed to helping our clients to properly comply with their US international tax requirements. Our highly knowledge and higher experienced tax team has successfully helped hundreds of clients around the world with their US tax compliance issues, including offshore voluntary disclosures of foreign assets and foreign income. Our successful October 2018 tax season is just another proof of our commitment to our clients!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!