Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting | Form 8938 Lawyers

Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 reporting has quickly turned into one of the most important tax reporting requirements despite being one of the newest tax forms that debuted barely four years ago in 2012 (for the tax year 2011). In this article, I will discuss when Form 8938 needs to be filed with respect to inherited assets. For the purposes of this article, I will only discuss Form 8938 with respect to the assets actually received, not the assets which are still in the estate. I will also avoid the discussion of Form 3520; it is important to note, though, that Form 3520 is likely to be one of the most relevant reporting requirements with respect to foreign inheritance.

Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting: Form 8938 Basics

IRS Form 8938 was created by the infamous Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and, generally, it requires individual U.S. taxpayers to report what are known as “specified foreign financial assets” if the value of those assets exceeds the applicable reporting threshold.

It is beyond the scope of this article to explore Form 8938 filing requirements in detail, but, in essence, IRS Form 8938 requires the reporting of three types of assets. The first category consists of financial accounts maintained at foreign financial institutions. This category closely follows the FBAR reporting requirements (with important exceptions, such as signatory authority accounts) but requires U.S. taxpayers to disclose more information with respect to these accounts.

The second category is the requirement to disclose the ownership of a whole new set of classes of assets grouped together under the vague definition of “other foreign financial assets”. Basically, other foreign financial assets include classes of assets which are held for investment but not held in an account maintained by a financial institution. Such assets include stocks or securities issued by anyone who is not a U.S. person, any interest in a foreign entity, and any financial instrument or contract that has an issuer or counterparty that is other than a U.S. person.

Finally, Form 8938 requires the taxpayer to report whether he disclosed any assets on Forms 5471, 8865, 8621, 3520 and 3520-A.

It should be remembered that Form 8938 has its own set of independent penalties associated with Form 8938 noncompliance. These penalties are imposed in addition to penalties associated with FBARs, Form 3520 and other U.S. information returns.

Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting: Foreign Financial Accounts

If you received foreign bank and financial accounts as part of your foreign inheritance, you will need to disclose these accounts on Forms 8938 if the relevant filing threshold requirement is satisfied. In a foreign inheritance context, an issue often arises if you are an executor of a foreign estate and have signatory authority over the estate’s financial accounts. Whether Form 8938 would need to be filed for the accounts in this situation is a fact-dependent question and needs to be explored by an international tax attorney (though, in the great majority of cases, an FBAR would need to be filed in this context as long as the relevant reporting threshold is satisfied).

Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting: Other Investment Instruments

If you received other investment instructions as part of your foreign inheritance, your international tax attorney should explore whether these instruments satisfy the second category of reportable Form 8938 assets. Examples of other foreign financial assets include: a note, bond, debenture, or other form of indebtedness issued by a foreign person; an interest rate swap, currency swap; basis swap; interest rate cap, interest rate floor, commodity swap; equity swap, equity index swap, credit default swap, or similar agreement with a foreign counterparty; an option or other derivative instrument with respect to any currency or commodity that is entered into with a foreign counterparty or issuer; and other assets held for investment.

Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting: Foreign Business Ownership

The detailed exploration of the reporting of an ownership interest in a foreign business is beyond the scope of this article. Therefore, I want to briefly mention that, if you inherited an ownership interest in a foreign corporation, partnership or a disregarded entity, this interest may need to be reported on Form 8938. However, it is possible that this interest may also have to be reported on Forms 5471, 8865, 8858 and other U.S. information reports related to business entities. In this case, it is possible that you will only need to report on Form 8938 that the information regarding an ownership interest in a foreign entity was reported on Form 5471, 8865 and/or 8621.

The final decision on how a foreign business ownership needs to be reported to the IRS should rest with your international tax lawyer.

Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting: Foreign Trust Beneficiary Interest

The detailed exploration of the reporting of a beneficiary interest in a foreign trust is beyond the scope of this article. For the purposes of this article, let me just provide this brief and over-simplified summary – if you inherited a beneficiary interest in a foreign trust, you should report it on Form 8938 unless it is already reported on Forms 3520 and/or 3520-A (if the latter is the case, you just need to check the box on Form 8938 for the appropriate form on which the beneficiary interest was reported). Again, the decision on how to report your foreign trust beneficiary interest should rest with your international tax lawyer.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Foreign Inheritance Form 8938 Reporting

The U.S. tax requirements related to reporting of your foreign inheritance may be highly complex and it is very easy to run into trouble. Contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Our legal team is highly experienced in foreign inheritance reporting, including Forms 8938, 3520 (all parts of Form 3520: foreign trusts, foreign gifts and foreign inheritance), 3520-A, 5471, 8621, 8865 and other relevant forms. We have also helped U.S. taxpayers around the globe with their offshore voluntary disclosures with respect to late reporting of their foreign inheritance.

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Do I need an Accountant or Attorney for Form 8938 Offshore Assets Disclosure?

A lot of taxpayers are still confused about whether they need an attorney or an accountant to file delinquent Forms 8938. As I explain below, Form 8938 is an essentially legal disclosure form and its voluntary disclosure should be handled by an experienced international tax attorney.

Form 8938 Requires Legal Disclosure

It is important to understand that Form 8938, more than any other form except the FBAR now Form 114 (formerly TD F 90-22.1), requires a legal disclosure of specified foreign assets. The form does not involve any accounting calculations of tax liability or even knowledge of US GAAP (something that other information tax returns, like Forms 5471 or 8865, may require). The taxpayer simply needs to disclose his ownership of specified offshore assets according to the instructions of Form 8938.

Failure to File Form 8938 Is a Legal Issue

Since Form 8938 is a legal disclosure form, the failure to file the form and the penalties associated with the form constitute a legal problem that should be handled by an international tax attorney, not an accountant.

This is even more the case because the strategy with respect to handling Form 8938 and the explanation of the reasonable cause require advocacy – a critical skill which is a part of an attorney’s basic training, which accountants are not trained in.

Clients need an advocate to deliver their position to the IRS in a clear manner. Clients need an advocate to be able to interpret the law, not simply assume that what the IRS agent is saying is the only true version of the law. Finally, clients need an advocate to defend their interests with skill and persuasion.

Tax attorneys are advocates, in addition to performing calculations. Despite the seeming confusion over the role of the two professions, an attorney’s entire approach is likely to be radically different from that of an accountant simply because attorneys are trained to think and act in a completely different manner.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help with Your Voluntary Disclosure of Specified Foreign Assets

If you have undisclosed offshore assets that should have been disclosed on Form 8938, contact Sherayzen Law Office. Our experienced international tax firm will thoroughly analyze your case, estimate your potential Form 8938 penalties, identify all non-compliance issues, and develop a comprehensive approach to your offshore voluntary disclosure.