Reporting Canadian RRSPs and RRIFs in the United States: Form 8891

It comes as a surprise to most taxpayers the Canadian Registered Retirements Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) must be reported in the United States.  Yet, any U.S. citizen or resident who is a beneficiary of an RRSP or RRIF must complete Form 8891 and attach it to Form 1040. A U.S. citizen or resident who is an annuitant of an RRSP or RRIF must file the form for any year in which he receives a distribution from the RRSP or RRIF.

A separate Form 8891 should be completed and filed for each RRSP or RRIF. This requirement includes spouses who have RRSPs or RRIFs.

There are three types of financial information that U.S. citizens and residents must report to the IRS using Form 8891: (i) contributions to RRSPs and RRIFs; (ii) undistributed earnings in RRSPs and RRIFs; and (iii) distributions received from RRSPs and RRIFs. The taxpayers must comply with this reporting requirement even if their earnings from these retirement plans are not considered as taxable income in Canada. Remember, income accrued in the RRSP and RRIF is subject to U.S. taxation unless a treaty choice is made to the contrary (see below).

The chief reason for the existence of Form 8891 is the fact that, prior to year 2003, the IRS maintained that RRSPs and RRIFs are foreign trusts and the annuitants and beneficiaries of these plans must annually file Form 3520 with the IRS. See IRS Announcement 2003-25. IRS was authorized to impose heavy penalties for failure to file Form 3520. 26 U.S.C. §6677.

In 2003, however, the IRS adopted a new simplified reporting regime where U.S. citizens and resident aliens who hold interests in RRSPs and RRIFs only need to file the new Form 8891 in lieu of the burdensome Form 3520 required earlier. See IRS Announcement 2003-75. Furthermore, Form 8891 allows the filers to make the election under Article XVIII(7) of the U.S.-Canada income tax convention to defer U.S. income taxation of income accrued in the RRSP or RRIF. Id. The filers are still required to maintain supporting documentation relating to information required by Form 8891 (such as Canadian Forms T4RSP, T4RIF, or NR4, and periodic or annual statements issued by the custodian of the RRSP or RRIF). Id. Nevertheless, the new simplified reporting regime substantially reduces the reporting burden of taxpayers who hold interests in RRSPs and RRIFs.

A word of caution: taxpayers who need to file Form 8891 are likely to be subject to FBAR (Report on Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) reporting requirements. Generally, the FBAR is required to be filed by any U.S. person who has a financial interest in or signature authority or other authority over any financial account in a foreign country, if the aggregate value of these accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. Since RRSPs are considered to be financial accounts, it is important to verify whether a taxpayer needs to file an FBAR.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office NOW For International Tax Help

Note: This requirement may no longer be required; if you believe that you may be subject to Form 8891 requirements, contact Sherayzen Law Office for confirmation on this tax form. Our experienced international tax firm will guide you through the complex maze of international tax reporting requirements, including any voluntary disclosure issues.

Remember, it does not matter whether you are located in another state or outside of the United States – we can help!