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Joint Account FBAR Reporting | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

As an FBAR tax attorney, I constantly deal with the issues of joint account FBAR reporting. In most cases, the joint account FBAR reporting goes relatively smooth, but problems may surface from time to time. In this essay, I would like to address the general issues concerning joint account FBAR reporting.

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: FBAR Background

FBAR is the acronym for the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114. A US person has to file an FBAR if he has a financial interest in or signatory authority or any other authority over foreign bank and financial accounts the aggregate value of which exceeds $10,000 at any point during the relevant calendar year.

It is important to emphasize that, with respect to joint accounts, each joint owner takes the entire value of the account in calculating whether he or she exceeded the $10,000 filing threshold.

A US person should file an FBAR separately from the tax return. Since 2016 FBAR, the Congress aligned the FBAR filing deadline with that of an income tax return (i.e. April 15). For example, the 2018 FBAR is due on April 15, 2019.

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: Joint Owners

If two or more persons jointly maintain or own a partial interest in a foreign bank or financial account, then each of these persons has a financial interest in that account. Hence, as long as they are US persons, each of these US persons has to report the account on his or her FBAR.

Moreover, each of the filers must also indicate the principal joint owner of the joint account, even if this owner is not a US person. I wish to repeat this important point: the joint owner must be disclosed on FBAR even if he is not a US person. Besides the name of the joint owner, the filer must report the joint owner’s address and tax identification number (US or foreign).

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: Report the Entire Value of the Account

Even though the same joint account may be reported at least twice, FinCEN requires the FBAR filer to disclose the entire value of each jointly-owned foreign account on his FBAR.

Joint Account FBAR Reporting: Exception for Spouses

In certain circumstances, spouses may file a joint FBAR. This means that the spouse of an FBAR filer may not be required to file a separate FBAR, but she can join her husband in filing one FBAR for both of them.

In order to qualify for this exception, the spouses must meet the following three conditions. First and most important, all of the financial accounts that the non-filing spouse has to report are jointly owned with the filing spouse. The filing spouse may have additional accounts, but the non-filing spouse should not have any other foreign bank and financial accounts. Beware, however, that if one spouse is an owner of a foreign account, but the other spouse only has a signatory authority over the same account, then separate FBARs must be filed by each spouse.

Second, the filing spouse reports the jointly owned accounts on a timely filed FBAR and a PIN is used to sign item 44.

Third, both spouses must complete and sign Form 114a, a Record of Authorization to Electronically File FBARs (maintained with the filers’ records).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Joint Account FBAR Reporting

If you have foreign bank and financial accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with US international tax compliance and FBAR reporting. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their FBAR filings, including joint FBAR filings, and we can help you!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Indian Bank Accounts : Key US Tax Obligations | International Tax Lawyer

Due to ongoing implementation of FATCA as well as the tax reform in India, more and more Indian Americans and US tax residents of Indian nationality are learning that they are required to disclose to the IRS their Indian bank accounts. Yet, there are still many more US taxpayers left who are either completely unaware of this requirement or they are confused with respect to what is required to be disclosed and how. This essay intends to clarify who is required to report their Indian bank accounts to the IRS and explain the most common US international tax requirements applicable to Indian bank accounts.

Indian Bank Accounts: Who Needs to Report Them to the US Government?

All US tax residents with Indian bank accounts need to disclose them to IRS. Warning: “US tax resident” is not equivalent to the immigration concept of “US Permanent Resident”. The confusion over these two concepts is a frequent cause of US tax noncompliance, because many Indian immigrants who come to the United States on a work visa assume hat they are not US tax residents since they do not have the status of a US Permanent Resident. This assumption is completely false.

The definition of US tax residency includes US permanent residents, but it is much broader. In general, this term includes: US citizens, US Permanent Residents, any person who satisfied the Substantial Presence Test and any person who declared himself as a tax resident. There are exceptions to this rule, but you will need to consult with an international tax lawyer before making use of any of these exceptions.

Indian Bank Accounts: Indian Income Must Be Disclosed on US Tax Returns

All US tax residents must comply with the numerous US tax reporting requirements, including the worldwide income reporting requirement. All Indian-source income generated by the Indian bank accounts of US tax residents must be disclosed on their US tax returns.

The worldwide income reporting requirement applies to any kind of income: bank interest income, dividends, capital gains, et cetera. This income should be reported on US tax returns even if it was already disclosed on Indian tax returns or subject to Indian tax withholding. This income should be disclosed in the United States even if it never left India.

Indian Bank Accounts: FBAR

The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Form 114 (popularly known as “FBAR”) is one of the most important and dangerous reporting requirements that applies to Indian bank accounts. Generally, a US person is required to file FBAR if he has a financial interest in or signatory authority or an authority over foreign bank and financial accounts which, in the aggregate, exceed $10,000 at any point during a calendar year.

FBAR has an extremely severe penalty system, and US taxpayers should strive to do everything in their power to make sure that they comply with this requirement.

Indian Bank Accounts: FATCA Form 8938

US tax residents are also required to disclose their Indian bank accounts on Form 8938. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) led to the creation of Form 8938; US taxpayers should have filed their first Forms 8938 with their 2011 US tax returns.

Form 8938 requires US tax residents to report all of their Specified Foreign Financial Assets (“SFFA”) as long as the Form’s filing threshold is met. SFFA includes a very diverse set of financial instruments, including foreign bank and financials accounts, bonds, swaps, ownership interest in a foreign business, beneficiary interest in a foreign trust and many other types of financial assets. In other words, with the exception of signatory authority accounts, Form 8938 not only duplicates FBAR, but covers a much broader range of financial instruments that would not be required to be reported on FBAR.

It should be pointed out that, even when FBAR and Form 8938 cover the same assets, both forms must be filed despite the duplication of the disclosure.

While Form 8938 has a much higher filing threshold than FBAR, it may still be easily exceeded, especially by taxpayers who reside in the United States. For example, if a taxpayer resides in the United States and his tax return filing status is “single”, then he would only need to have $50,000 or higher at the end of the year or $75,000 or higher at any point during the year in order to trigger the Form 8938 filing requirement. A lot of US taxpayers with Indian bank accounts easily exceed this threshold, especially if they are helping their parents or buying properties in India.

Finally, it should be remembered that Form 8938 has its own penalty structure for failure to file the form. Furthermore, Form 8938 forms an integral part of a federal tax return; this means that a failure to file the form may extend the IRS Statute of Limitations for an IRS audit indefinitely for the entire return.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Reporting of Your Indian Bank Accounts in the United States

In this essay, I just listed the most common US tax reporting requirements that may apply to US owners of Indian bank accounts. There is a plethora of other requirements that may apply to these taxpayers.

This is why you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with your US tax compliance. We have worked extensively with our Indian clients with respect to reporting of their Indian bank accounts, including offshore voluntary disclosure for late filings.

The stakes in international tax compliance are high, and you need to be able to rely on the knowledge, experience and professionalism of Sherayzen Law Office in order to make sure that you protect yourself from draconian IRS tax penalties. We have successfully helped hundreds of US taxpayers to deal with their US international tax compliance, and We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2018 FBAR Criminal Penalties | FBAR Lawyer & Attorney

2018 FBAR criminal penalties should be on the mind of any US taxpayer who willfully failed to file his FBARs or knowingly filed a false FBAR. In this essay, I would like to do an overview of the 2018 FBAR criminal penalties that these noncompliant US taxpayers may have to face.

2018 FBAR Criminal Penalties: Background Information

A lot of US taxpayers do not understand why the 2018 FBAR criminal penalties are so shockingly high. These taxpayers question why failing to file a form that has nothing do with income tax calculation should potentially result in a jail sentence.

The answer to this questions lies in the legislative history of FBAR. First of all, it is important to understand that FBAR is not a tax form. The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”) was born in 1970 out of the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”), in particular 31 U.S.C. §5314. This means that the initial primary purpose of the form was to fight financial crimes, money laundering and terrorism. In other words, FBAR was not created as a tool against tax evasion.

Hence, the FBAR penalties were structured from the very beginning for the purpose of punishing criminals engaged in financial crimes and/or terrorism. This is why the FBAR penalties are so severe and easily surpass the penalties of any tax form.

It was only 30 years later, after the enaction of The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (the “USA Patriot Act”), that the enforcement of FBAR was turned over to the IRS. The IRS almost immediately commenced using FBAR to fight the tax evasion schemes that utilized offshore accounts.

The Congress liked the IRS initiative and responded with the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (“2004 Jobs Act”). The 2004 Jobs Act further increased the FBAR penalties, including the creation of the non-willful penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.

2018 FBAR Criminal Penalties: Description

Now that we understand why the 2018 FBAR criminal penalties are so severe, let’s describe what they penalties actually look like. There are three different 2018 FBAR criminal penalties associated with different FBAR violations.

The first criminal penalty may be imposed under 26 U.S.C. 5322(a) and 31 C.F.R. § 103.59(b) for willful failure to file FBAR or retain records of a foreign account. The penalty is up to $250,000 or 5 years in prison or both.

When the willful failure to file FBAR is combined with a violation of other US laws or the failure to file FBAR is “part of a pattern of any illegal activity involving more than $100,000 in a 12-month period”, then the IRS has the option of imposing a criminal penalty under 26 U.S.C. 5322(b) and 31 C.F.R. § 103.59(c). In this case, the penalty jumps to incredible $500,000 or 10 years in prison or both.

Finally, if a person willingly and knowingly files a false, fictitious or fraudulent FBAR, he is subject to the penalty under 31 C.F.R. § 103.59(d). The penalty in this case may be $10,000 or 5 years or both.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Past FBAR Violations

If you were required to file an FBAR but you have not done it, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible to explore your voluntary disclosure options. Our international tax law firm specializes in FBAR compliance and we have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world to bring their US tax affairs into full compliance with US tax laws while reducing and, in some cases, eliminating their FBAR penalties.

We can help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Manafort FBAR Violations Indictment | International Tax Lawyer & Attorney

On October 30, 2017, Mr. Paul Manafort was charged with FBAR violations among other charges. Manafort FBAR violations charges were filed as a result of an ongoing investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

While the investigation should have been searching for possible ties between Mr. Manafort and the Russian government, it found something completely different. Instead of finding any ties to the Russians, it found that Mr. Manafort was lobbying on behalf of the Ukrainian government (currently the archenemy of Russia and involved in a civil war with its eastern provinces) without registering as a foreign agent.

Moreover, it has led to the IRS Criminal Investigation with respect to Mr. Manafort’s FBAR noncompliance. Let’s explore this part of the investigation in more detail.

Manafort FBAR Violations Indictment: Alleged Facts

According to the indictment, Manafort failed to report his interest in over a dozen foreign entities, primarily in Cyprus, and used those entities to hide millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts from the U.S. government. Over $75 million allegedly flowed through the accounts, but only a portion of it was accessed. Manafort was accused of using over $18 million of proceeds on personal expenses.

The government further alleges that, during 2008-2014, Mr. Manafort falsely stated on his tax returns that he did not have an authority over any foreign bank accounts (I believe the reference here is to Part III of Schedule B, Form 1040).

Furthermore, the government claims that Mr. Manafort lied, in writing, to Mr. Manafort’s tax return preparer in order to conceal his authority over the undisclosed foreign accounts. It is obvious that this accusation is meant to preempt the reasonable cause reliance defense against FBAR penalties.

The indictment includes seven counts of willful FBAR violations under 31 U.S.C. section 5322. It is possible that Mr. Manafort may try to throw out some of the counts on the basis of the FBAR Statute of Limitations, but not all facts of the case are known at this point to estimate the success of this defense.

Manafort FBAR Violations Indictment: No Tax Evasion Charges

It is very strange, but the indictment does not contain a separate tax evasion charge, which requires the approval of the DOJ’s Tax Division. This omission is even more puzzling in light of the fact that the government alleges in its indictment that Mr. Manafort did not pay taxes on any income related to undisclosed foreign accounts. The government even specifically states that he purchased properties in Virginia and took out loans for the purpose of having access to untaxed income.

Manafort FBAR Violations Indictment: How Was $18 Million Calculated

The Manafort case is very good in one aspect: it allows us to see the government methodology for identifying potential willful FBAR violations. The main tool in this case was the government’s analysis of Mr. Manafort’s lifestyle.

The government alleged that, between 2008 and 2014, Mr. Manafort made domestic expenses of close to $18 million dollars which the government believes came from undisclosed foreign bank accounts and should be directly tied to Mr. Manafort FBAR violations. Most of this money was spent on improving real estate as well as purchases at antique shops, car dealerships and so on.

Manafort FBAR Violations Indictment: A Political Case With Important Lessons

It is important to remember that, at this point, these are merely government allegations and Mr. Manafort is presumed to be innocent until found otherwise by a court of law or a jury. While it is too early to state whether the government can prove its allegations and the case does have a very strong political background, it is still important to study the lessons of this case with respect to the government’s ability to pursue FBAR violations. The government’s methodology in this case is somewhat unusual, and all international tax lawyers should follow this case closely to see how the courts react to the government’s strategy.

New FBAR Deadline

There has been a lot of confusion surrounding the new FBAR deadline. Since the FBAR is one of the most important US international tax deadlines, it is important to clarify the change in the FBAR filing deadline.

What is “FBAR”?

FinCEN Form 114, commonly known as FBAR, is the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. This form is used by US taxpayers to report their financial interest in or signatory authority over foreign financial accounts. Failure to timely file the FBAR may result in draconian IRS penalties.

Traditional FBAR Deadline

Until the recent change in the law, an FBAR for each relevant calendar year was required to be filed by June 30 of the following year. For example, the 2014 FBAR was due on June 30, 2015. No filings extensions were allowed.

New FBAR Deadline Under Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015

The bulk of the “Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015″ has nothing to do with tax law. Yet, some of the most important changes in the IRS filing deadlines were tucked into this innocuously sounding law.

One of the most important changes concerned the new FBAR deadline. Starting the tax year 2016, FBARs will be due on April 15, not June 30. Moreover, a six-month extension will be available until October 15.

2015 and 2016 FBAR Deadlines

Let’s put it all together. The most important issue here is not to confuse 2016 filing deadline for the year 2015 and the filing deadline for the 2016 FBAR. The 2015 FBAR will still be filed under old rules and it will be due on June 30, 2016.

However, the 2016 FBAR will follow the new FBAR Deadline of April 15, 2017 with the possible extension to October 15, 2017.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help with 2015 and 2016 FBARs

If you have any questions regarding the new FBAR deadline, 2015 FBAR or past unfiled FBARs, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional legal and accounting help. Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, a Minneapolis FBAR lawyer, will review your case, identify your FBAR and other US tax compliance issues, determine the plan for further action and implement the proposed solution.