FBAR Mistakes - IRS Procedures for Correcting FBAR Errors

FBAR Mistakes – IRS Procedures for Correcting FBAR Errors

FBAR Mistakes – IRS Procedures for Correcting FBAR Errors

The FBAR is enforced by the IRS, and FBAR Penalties can be severe.The FBAR (Foreign Bank and Financial Account Reporting Form). It is also referred to as FinCEN 114, and due to be filed each year by any U.S. Person who meets the threshold requirements for filing the form.

FBAR Mistakes

While the form in and of itself is not as difficult as some people would like to make you believe it is, there are some very specific rules regarding filing of the FBAR form.

If you make mistakes when filing the FBAR and are out of compliance for either not filing the form, or filing the form late (aka Untimely FBAR) — the penalties can be tough — although you may qualify for offshore tax amnesty.

FBAR Errors

Here is a list of some recent FBAR mistakes we see often:

Minor Children and FBAR Reporting

That’s right, that bank account that your mother-in-law opened for your newborn it Is not exempt from FBAR reporting.  Just because your child is a “minor” does not mean the child is exempt from filing the annual FBAR.

So little Timmy, who just took his first steps and is working on pushing out his first words could potentially get hit with an FBAR penalty for not filing the form.

Foreign Retirement Accounts

Foreign retirement accounts are required to be reported on the annual FBAR.  Therefore, even if you have not contributed to your UK retirement, Singaporean CPF, or Australian superannuation — it is still currently reportable on the annual FBAR.

*Unlike the United Kingdom and Australia in which the U.S. has a tax treaty treaty the U.S has not entered into a bilateral tax treaty with Singapore, which impacts the taxation of accrued but non-distributed growth within the CPF.

Foreign Life Insurance

It is pretty hard to believe that anyone would consider a life insurance policy that contains either a surrender value or cash value as an account — but as far as the annual FBAR is concerned, it is still reportable. 

Therefore, if you have a foreign life insurance policy with a surrender value or cash value — it is important that you included it on your FBAR.

*You may also have an immediate tax liability on the growth within the policy, and if you are paying foreign life insurance premiums may have a form 720/Excise tax requirement.

Slicing FBAR Values in Half

Let’s say for example you have joint ownership of a foreign bank account, which is valued at $700,000.  Even though you only have a 50% interest in the account (and that only $350,000 dollars of the account money belongs to you) that is not what the FBAR is asking.

Rather, the FBAR is asking you for the total value of the account — not just your highest value apportioned to your percentage of ownership.

Therefore, even if you were only a partial owner of a foreign account, when the FBAR asks for the highest maximum value, you are required to include the total value of the account.

Reporting Dormant or Closed Accounts

FBARs are similar to tax returns, in that when you file the FBAR in the current year, you are reporting the maximum balance for the prior-year.

Therefore, even if you close the account in 2019, you still have to file an FBAR in 2020 to report the maximum balance in 2019 — because the account was still open in 2019.

** If you have no other accounts for example, then 2020 (to report the 2019 maximum balance) would be a last year you would file, unless you open another account.

Late or Unfiled FBAR Fines and Penalties

If you have not filed your FBARs in the prior years that you were required to file – and/or you filed them late – you may be subject to fines and penalties. Things may get inifinitely worse if you file (or filed) a quiet disclosure.

You may use IRS offshore tax amnesty/voluntary disclosure to try to reduce, minimize, or eliminate these penalties.

Importance of Tax Amnesty 

If the IRS finds a Taxpayer before the Taxpayer has a chance to submit to Voluntary Disclosure/Tax Amnesty, the following may occur:

  1. The IRS gets wind of peters situation and issues in audit/examination notice. As a result, Taxpayer is disqualified from submitting to IRS tax amnesty/voluntary disclosure.
  2. The IRS launches a special agent investigation to dig deeper into Taxpayer’s finances.
  3. The IRS refers the matter to the Department of Justice for its own investigation.

Golding & Golding: About our International Tax Law Firm

Golding & Golding specializes exclusively in international tax, and specifically IRS offshore disclosure