“I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have foreign accounts” – this is the phrase that I often hear from various callers. Usually, these persons know very little about their US tax obligations and are concerned about their US tax compliance. Let’s analyze this phrase – “I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have foreign accounts” – and see if we can draw some general conclusions about the US tax obligations of such individuals.
“I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – L1 Visa
L1 visa is a a non-immigrant work visa which allows international companies that operate in the United States and abroad to transfer certain classes of employees from its foreign divisions to the US division for up to seven years. Some of clients eventually end up moving to H-1B visa before applying for US permanent residency.
“I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – US Tax Residency
If a person is working in the United States on L1 visa, a natural question arises about that person’s tax obligations in the United States; more specifically, whether such a person should file For m 1040-NR (as a non-resident) or Form 1040 (as a US tax resident). Since an L1 Visa holder is not a US citizen or a US permanent resident, the key issue here is whether this person satisfies the Substantial Presence Test.
If the Substantial Presence Test is not satisfied, then Form 1040-NR should be filed for US-source income only. However, if the Substantial Presence Test is satisfied, then this individual should file Form 1040 as a US tax resident.
“I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – Income Tax Consequences of US Tax Residency
If a person becomes a US tax resident under the Substantial Presence Test, he is required to report and pay US taxes on his worldwide income. This is the case even if a person is here just on L1 visa and he is not a US permanent resident. Also, a whole set of US laws comes into effect with respect to this person’s foreign income which may dramatically alter his tax situation.
For example, if an L1 individual satisfies the Substantial Presence Test, his foreign tax-exempt income may suddenly become taxable in the United States. This often occurs with respect to various “building” or “construction” accounts which are present in many countries (for example, Colombia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, et cetera). Moreover, new complexity will be added with PFIC treatment of certain investments in foreign mutual funds.
“I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – Foreign Accounts
The last part of the phrase – “I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – is related to the ownership of foreign accounts. If the L1 visa holder satisfies the Substantial Presence Test, he is required to report these foreign accounts to the IRS (and perhaps in more than one way) if the relevant balance thresholds are satisfied. The most important forms for reporting foreign accounts are FinCEN Form 114 (FBAR) and IRS Form 8938. Other forms may also be applicable.
Undoubtedly, FBAR occupies the central place in foreign account reporting. This is the case not only because of the lower reporting thresholds, but also due to the draconian penalties that the IRS may impose for FBAR noncompliance.
“I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – A Dangerous Phrase that Requires Legal Help
Even from the very general description above, it becomes clear that this phrase – “I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – indicates a precarious legal situation that needs a detailed examination by an experienced international tax lawyer. The penalties for noncompliance are extraordinarily high making a professional analysis of this person’s situation almost obligatory.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help With Reporting of Your Foreign Accounts and Filing Delinquent Tax Forms
If this phrase – “I am working in US on L1 Visa and I have Foreign Accounts” – applies to your situation, contact Sherayzen Law Office for legal help. Sherayzen Law Office is a highly-experienced international tax law firm that has helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their tax affairs into full compliance. We can help You!