There is a great deal of confusion about the reporting of foreign gold and silver storage accounts on the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). In this article, I would like to set forth the general legal framework for the analysis of the reporting requirements for the foreign gold and silver storage accounts. However, it should be remembered that this article is for educational purposes only and it does not provide any legal advice; whether your particular foreign gold and silver accounts should be reported on the FBAR is a legal question that should be analyzed by an international tax attorney within your particular fact setting.
FBAR’s official name is FinCEN Form 114 (formerly form TD F 90-22.1). Generally, the FBAR is used by US persons to report foreign bank and financial accounts whenever the aggregate balance on these accounts exceeds the threshold of $10,000. The FBAR applies to accounts which are directly, indirectly and constructively owned; it further applies to situations where a US person has signatory or other authority over a foreign account.
The above description contains numerous terms of art that have very specific meaning (even with respect to such common terms as “US person” and “accounts”). I only provide a very general definition of the FBAR here, but there is plenty of FBAR articles on sherayzenlaw.com that you can read to learn more about this requirement.
General Rule for Reporting of Foreign Gold and Silver Storage Accounts
In general, if you have a foreign gold and silver storage accounts, they are reportable on the FBAR as long as the threshold requirement is satisfied. However, as almost everything in international tax law, you have to look closely at the definition of terms. In this case, the critical issue is what situations fall within the definition of foreign gold and silver storage accounts.
What are Foreign Gold and Silver Storage Accounts?
It is important to understand that certain facts and details may play a great role in determining whether one has foreign gold and silver storage accounts – this is why it is so important to have an international tax attorney review the particular facts of your case.
Nevertheless, there are certain general legal concepts that provide helpful guidance to international tax attorneys in their FBAR analysis. The most important FBAR factors for determining whether a particular arrangement is defined as foreign gold and silver storage accounts are two interrelated concepts of “custodial relationship” and “control”.
Generally, where another person or entity has access and/or control of assets or funds on your behalf, the IRS is very likely to find that a custodial relationship exists and all such arrangements would be reportable on the FBAR as foreign gold and silver storage accounts. For example, if one buys gold and silver through BullionVault or Goldmoney (whether allocated or non-allocated), one creates foreign gold and silver storage accounts because BullionVault or Goldmoney would handle the transaction on your behalf and store the precious metals on your behalf (and, as mentioned above, even allocate your holdings to a particular gold or silver bar).
A word of caution: the IRS tends to interpret the definitions of “account” and “custodial relationship” very broadly and one must not indulge oneself with false thoughts of security because one thinks that he was able to circumvent a particular fact setting. Again, the existence of foreign gold and silver storage accounts is a legal question that should be reviewed by an experienced international tax lawyer.
Foreign Gold and Silver Storage Accounts: What about a Safe Deposit Box?
There is a situation that comes up often in my practice (particularly for clients with Australian, Hong Kong and Swiss accounts) with respect to FBAR reporting of precious metals – putting gold, silver and other precious metals in a foreign safe deposit box. There is a dangerous myth that safe deposit boxes are never reportable – this is incorrect.
In general, it is true that precious metals held in a safe deposit box are not reportable, but if and only if no account relationship exists. If there is an account relationship with respect to a safe deposit box, then it would be considered a reportable foreign gold and silver storage account for the FBAR purposes.
What does this mean? Let’s go back to the definition of a custodial relationship cited above – an account relationship exists whenever another person or entity has control of funds or assets on your behalf. If one applies this definition to a safe deposit box, then it is likely that the IRS will interpret any situation where an institution or person has access to a safe deposit box as an existence of an account. Moreover, the IRS is likely to find that foreign gold and silver storage accounts exist where an owner (direct or indirect) of the safe deposit box can instruct the institution to sell the gold from the safe deposit box.
Other Reporting Requirements May Apply to Foreign Gold and Silver Storage Accounts
It is important to mention that FBAR is just one of potential reporting requirements under US tax laws. Other reporting requirements (such as Form 8938, 8621, 5471, 8865 and so on) may apply depending on the nature of the foreign gold and silver storage accounts, form of ownership, whether a foreign entity is involved, and numerous other facts. You will need to contact an experienced international tax lawyer to determine your international tax reporting requirements under US tax laws.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Reporting of Foreign Gold and Silver Accounts
If you have unreported foreign gold and silver storage accounts, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Owner Eugene Sherayzen is an experienced international tax attorney who will thoroughly analyze your case, determine the extent of your current reporting requirements and potential non-compliance liability, analyze your voluntary disclosure options, and implement the preferred legal option (including preparation of all legal documents and tax forms).
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