Form 8300 (2018) – IRS Pitfalls of Reporting Foreign Cash Payments
Form 8300 (2018) – IRS Pitfalls of Reporting Foreign Cash Payments
IRS Form 8300: Many of our clients have their own businesses, and many of our clients receive payments in cash, and from clients who reside overseas. Common issues involving Form 8300 include:
- Is it legal to receive cash payments?
- What is IRS Form 8300?
- When do I file Form 8300?
- Can I be liable for cash structuring by our customers?
- What steps can I take to comply with Form 8300?
- What are the 15-day exceptions?
- What is the 12-month rule?
IRS Form 8300
There is nothing wrong with receiving payments in cash; in fact, there is no better feeling for most businesses then to receive a cash payment.
Why is cash preferred? Because cash is king – it always has been, and it always will be. There are no headaches with trying to process the credit cards, waiting for the check to clear…or trying to figure out what the heck “crypto-currency” is.
In fact, cash is such a preferred method of payment, that many businesses will give you a discount if you pay in cash.
With that said, there is one particular organization that is not very fond of cash payments – you guessed it, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Why does the IRS Care about Form 8300
Because the IRS doesn’t believe you. Rather, the IRS believes that any individual who receives a cash payment is not going to properly report that cash payment. With that said, there are probably many individuals who receive cash payments and don’t fully report it. The problem is, with the way the banking system is heading — there are more regulations and more requirements for banks and other financial institutions to report cash deposits and payments that are made.
This is amplified significantly when it involves foreign persons, foreign banks, foreign money, etc..
Thanks to the Internet, individuals within the United States are able to conduct business worldwide without the cost of having to travel to different countries. For example, instead of having to travel to Hong Kong to meet a potential client, a person can literally go online and speak with a client or potential client from the comfort of their office — as if the person is sitting in the same room, which is awesome.
Nevertheless, the IRS is very skewed when it comes to receiving money from overseas.
First, the IRS likes to categorize all money from outside of the United States as offshore. As we have mentioned many times on this website, offshore does not mean the Bahamas, the Caymans, Panama or any other tax haven. To the IRS, offshore means outside of the United States.
For example: Peter is from Japan. Peter still has bank accounts in Japan, because he lived in Japan for 40 years before coming to the United States. From the IRS’ perspective Peter has offshore accounts. From Peter’s perspective he has bank accounts in the country he lived for 40 years of which is still a citizen.
We have been running into the same problem with our clients who have their own clients outside of the United States and are finding themselves subject to a form 8300 audit. As a result, we thought we would try to be proactive and prepare this post to try to help some of our clients educate their own clients on ways to avoid this issue.
More than $10,000
This is the key number. As provided by the IRS, “The general rule is that you must file Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business, if your business receives more than $10,000 in cash from one buyer as a result of a single transaction or two or more related transactions.”
24-Hour Period – Be Cautious
While the general rule is that a series of transactions with related transactions that take place within 24 hours, there is a caveat. That Caveat is that the person receives multiple payments outside of that 24 hour period but the recipient knows that each transaction is related (a series of transactions) then that payment must be reported as well.
Example: David runs his own business. He receives to cash payments involving the same transaction over one week. The Total value exceeds $10,000. David knows that the money relates to the same transaction — David must report form 8300; it does not matter that the transactions are outside the 24-hour period.
Oftentimes, different countries operate banking laws, well… Differently. Therefore, it is not uncommon for example for foreign customers to think they can outwit the US system by engaging in payment spreading.
Here’s an example we see often: Scott is a purchaser/customer in Malaysia. He wants to purchase equipment from a U.S. Person for more than $20,000 dollars of equipment from a US company in a single transaction. Scott does not want to send a check. Rather, on five different days he has five different people go to five different financial institutions in Malaysia and each make a $4000 deposit.
From Scott’s perspective, the transactions cannot be held to be related, because they are different branches and is outside the 24-hour period.
Of course, there is one key fact that Scott did not take into consideration: all of the money is going into the same account, the same account number, at the same financial institution, from the same foreign country — stemming from the same transaction.
As such, it’s going to look very conspicuous if the US is this person does not file a form 8300 and tries to make the argument that he suddenly received five different $4000 payments from various branches throughout Malaysia into his account during the same week.
Like anything involving the Internal Revenue Service, there are always exceptions. But, with these exceptions it should be noted that they are very specific. Therefore, before you decide to rely upon one of these exceptions is important to speak with an international business/tax attorney to make sure you have a solid idea of what the exception is to make sure that you fall outside of the reporter’s.
Received Payments Abroad? Remember FBAR & FATCA
Depending on the facts and circumstances of your situation and your business you may be able to avoid reporting by receiving the cash transaction entirely outside of the United States. There are nuances to this rule, so it is important to be cautious if you’re going to rely upon.
With that said, it is also important to note that the business and/or the owner will have other reporting requirements in accordance with the Internal Revenue Service, FATCA and FinCEN.
The most important reporting requirements usually involve the following:
An FBAR statement is a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts form. It is electronically filed annually with the Department of the Treasury online. Before this year (2016) the form had to be filed no later than June 30th of the current tax year in order to report the accounts for the prior tax year (File in 2015 to report the 2014 Maximum Account Balances). The law is changing in 2016 which will be applicable in 2017, and will have an April, 2017 due date.
An FBAR is required to be filed when a person or business (explained below) has an annual aggregate total of foreign accounts that exceeds $10,000 on any day throughout the year. It does not matter if all that money is in one account or if a person had 11 accounts with $1000.00 in each account. Once your overseas foreign accounts exceed $10,000, it is now time to report all of the foreign accounts.
You are required to report the maximum balance throughout the year. If you do not have the maximum balance available, you can mark the box that notes the Max balance is unavailable — or alternatively you can use the best value you have, and then note that information on the FBAR.
IRS form 8938 is a form developed to ensure individuals with Specified Foreign Financial Assets get into compliance by disclosing their foreign assets and information to the IRS. The form is “average” when it comes to complexity of IRS forms. It generally only requires an individual to identify, list, and report assets and accounts (under certain scenarios) to the IRS.
Please keep in mind that certain items that may need to be reported on other forms such as a FBAR may not need to be included on form 8938. Likewise, certain items that you did not have to report on the FBAR, will need to be reported on form 8938.
FBAR & FATCA Penalties
The penalties for these failing to comply reporting rules are severe. And, the IRS believes you acted willfully or with reckless disregard trying to set up a payment scheme outside of the US in order to avoid reporting, but then do not report properly under the foreign account reporting rules – you could become subject to a 100% in a multiyear audit for the FBAR Alone.
In other words, be careful.
Form 8300 Penalties
As provided by the IRS: You may be subject to penalties if you fail to file a correct and complete Form 8300 on time and you cannot show that the failure was due to reasonable cause. You may also be subject to penalties if you fail to furnish timely a correct and complete statement to each person named in a required report.
A minimum penalty of $25,000 may be imposed if the failure is due to an intentional or willful disregard of the cash reporting requirements.
Penalties may also be imposed for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to fail to file a required report; for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to file a required report containing a material omission or misstatement of fact; or for structuring, or attempting to structure, transactions to avoid the reporting requirements.
These violations may also be subject to criminal prosecution which, upon conviction, may result in imprisonment of up to 5 years or fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations or both.
Out of Compliance – IRS Offshore Disclosure
If you or your business are already out of compliance, and the non-compliance involves foreign accounts, it is important to try to get back into compliance as quickly as possible. The Internal Revenue Service in US government as a whole has made offshore compliance a key enforcement priority.
One of the best and safest ways to get the compliance is through IRS offshore disclosure.
4 Types of IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs
There are typically four types of IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure programs, and they include:
- Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP)
- Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (SDOP)
- Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures (SFOP)
- Reasonable Cause (RC)
IRS Voluntary Disclosure of Offshore Accounts
Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Tax law is very complex. There are many aspects that go into any particular tax calculation, including the legal status, marital status, business status and residence status of the taxpayer.
When Do I Need to Use Voluntary Disclosure?
Voluntary Disclosure is for individuals, estates, and businesses who are out of compliance with the IRS and the Department of Treasury. What does that mean? It means that for one or more years, you were required to file a U.S. tax return, FBAR or other International Informational Return and you did not do so timely, then you are out of compliance.
Common Un-filed IRS International Tax Forms
Common un-filed international tax forms, include:
- 1040 (Tax Returns)
- Schedule B (Ownership or Signature Authority over Foreign Accounts)
- FBAR (FinCEN 114)
- FATCA (Form 8938)
- Form 3520 (Gift from Foreign Person)
- Form 5471 (Foreign Corporations)
- Form 8621 (Foreign Investments, aka PFIC)
- Form 8865 (Foreign Partnership)
If the IRS discovers that you are out of compliance, you may become subject to extensive fines and penalties – ranging from a warning letter all the way up to tax liens, tax levies, seizures, and criminal investigations. To combat this, you can take the proactive approach and submit to IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure.
Golding & Golding – Offshore Disclosure
At Golding & Golding, we limit our entire practice to offshore disclosure (IRS Voluntary Disclosure of Foreign and U.S. Assets). The term offshore disclosure is a bit of a misnomer, because the term “offshore” generally connotes visions of hiding money in secret places such as the Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Malta, or any other well-known tax haven jurisdiction – but that is not the case.
In fact, any money that is outside of the United States is considered to be offshore; the term offshore is not a bad word. In other words, merely because a person has money offshore (a.k.a. overseas or in a foreign country) does not mean that money is the result of ill-gotten gains or that the money is being “hidden.”
It just means it is not in the United States. Many of our clients have assets and bank accounts in their homeland countries and these are considered offshore assets and offshore bank accounts.
The Devil is in the Details…
If you do have money offshore, then it is very important to ensure that the money has been properly reported to the U.S. government. In addition, it is also very important to ensure that if you are earning any foreign income from that offshore money, that the earnings are being reported on your U.S. tax return.
It does not matter whether your money is in a country that does not tax a particular category of income (for example, many Asian countries do not tax passive income). It also does not matter if you are a dual citizen and/or if that money has already been taxed in the foreign country.
Rather, the default position is that if you are required to file a U.S. tax return and you meet the minimum threshold requirements for filing a U.S. tax return, then you have to include all of your foreign income. If you already paid foreign tax on the income, you may qualify for a Foreign Tax Credit. In addition, if the income is earned income – as opposed to passive income – and you meet either the Bona-Fide Resident Test or Physical-Presence Test, then you may qualify for an exclusion of that income; nevertheless, the money must be included on your tax return.
What if You Never Report the Money?
If you are in the unfortunate position of having foreign money or specified foreign assets that should have been reported to the U.S. government, but which you have not reported — then you are in a bit of a predicament, which you will need to resolve before it is too late.
As we have indicated numerous times on our website, there are very unscrupulous CPAs, Attorneys, Accountants, and Tax Representatives who would like nothing more than to get you to part with all of your money by scaring you into believing you are automatically going to be arrested, jailed, or deported because you have unreported money. While that is most likely not the case (depending on the facts and circumstances of your specific situation), you may be subject to extremely high fines and penalties.
Moreover, if you knowingly or willfully hid your foreign accounts, foreign money, and offshore assets overseas, then you may become subject to even higher fines and penalties…as well as a criminal investigation by the special agents of the IRS and/or DOJ (Department of Justice).
Getting into Compliance
There are five main methods people/businesses use to get into compliance. Four of these methods are perfectly legitimate as long as you meet the requirements for the particular mechanism of disclosure. The fifth alternative, which is called a Quiet Disclosure a.k.a. Silent Disclosure a.k.a. Soft Disclosure, is ill-advised as it is illegal and very well may result in criminal prosecution.
5 IRS Methods for Offshore Compliance
- Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures
- Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures
- Reasonable Cause
- Quiet Disclosure (Illegal)
We are going to provide a brief summary of each program below. We have also included links to the specific programs. If you are interested, we have also prepared very popular “FAQs from the Trenches” for FBAR, OVDP and Streamlined Disclosure reporting. Unlike the technical jargon of the IRS FAQs, our FAQs are based on the hundreds of different types of issues we have handled over the many years that we have been practicing international tax law and offshore disclosure in particular.
After reading this webpage, we hope you develop a basic understanding of each offshore disclosure alternative and how it may benefit you to get into compliance. We do not recommend attempting to disclose the information yourself as you may become subject to an IRS investigation insofar as you will have to answer questions directly to the IRS, which you can avoid with an attorney representative.
If you retain an attorney, then you will get the benefit of the attorney-client privilege which provides confidentiality between you and your representative. With a CPA, there is a relatively small privilege which does provide some comfort, but the privilege is nowhere near as strong as the confidentiality privilege you enjoy with an attorney.
Since you will be dealing with the Internal Revenue Service and they are not known to play nice or fair – it is in your best interest to obtain an experienced Offshore Disclosure Attorney.
OVDP is the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program — a program designed to facilitate taxpayer compliance with IRS, DOT, and DOJ International Tax Reporting and Compliance. It is generally reserved for individuals and businesses who were “Willful” (aka intentional) in their failure to comply with U.S. Government Laws and Regulations.
The Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program is open to any US taxpayer who has offshore and foreign accounts and has not reported the financial information to the Internal Revenue Service (restrictions apply). There are some basic program requirements, with the main one being that the person/business who is applying under this amnesty program is not currently under IRS examination.
The reason is simple: OVDP is a voluntary program and if you are only entering because you are already under IRS examination, then technically, you are not voluntarily entering the program – rather, you are doing so under duress.
Any account that would have to be included on either the FBAR or 8938 form as well as additional income generating assets such as rental properties are accounts that qualify under OVDP. It should be noted that the requirements are different for the modified streamlined program, in which the taxpayer penalties are limited to only assets that are actually listed on either an FBAR or 8938 form; thus the value of a rental property would not be calculated into the penalty amount in a streamlined application, but it would be applicable in an OVDP submission.
An OVDP submission involves the failure of a taxpayer(s) to report foreign and overseas accounts such as: Foreign Bank Accounts, Foreign Financial Accounts, Foreign Retirement Accounts, Foreign Trading Accounts, Foreign Insurance, and Foreign Income, including 8938s, FBAR, Schedule B, 5741, 3520, and more.
What is Included in the Full OVDP Submission?
The full OVDP application includes:
- Eight (8) years of Amended Tax Return filings;
- Eight (8) Years of FBAR (Foreign Bank and Account Reporting Statements);
- Penalty Computation Worksheet; and
- Various OVDP specific documents in support of the application.
Under this program, the Internal Revenue Service wants to know all of the income that was generated under these accounts that were not properly reported previously. The way the taxpayer accomplishes this is by amending tax returns for eight years.
Generally, if the taxpayer has not previously reported his accounts, then there are common forms which were probably excluded from the prior year’s tax returns and include 8938 Forms, Schedule B forms, 3520 Forms, 5471 Forms, 8621 Forms, as well as proof of filing of FBARs (Foreign Bank and Financial Account Reports).
The taxpayer is required to pay the outstanding tax liability for the eight years within the disclosure period – as well as payment of interest along with another 20% penalty on that amount (for nonpayment of tax). To give you an example, let’s pick one tax year during the compliance period. If the taxpayer owed $20,000 in taxes for year 2014, then they would also have to include in the check the amount of $4,000 to cover the 20% penalty, as well as estimated interest (which is generally averaged at about 3% per year). This must be done for each year during the compliance period.
Then there is the “FBAR/8938” Penalty. The Penalty is 27.5% (or 50% if any of the foreign accounts are held at an IRS “Bad Bank”) on the highest year’s “annual aggregate total” of unreported accounts (accounts which were previously reported are not calculated into the penalty amount).
For OVDP, the annual aggregate total is determined by adding the “maximum value” of each unreported account for each year, in each of the last 8 years. To determine what the maximum value is, the taxpayer will add up the highest balances of all of their accounts for each year. In other words, for each tax year within the compliance period, the application will locate the highest balance for each account for each year, and total up the values to determine the maximum value for each year.
Thereafter, the OVDP applicant selects the highest year’s value, and multiplies it by either 27.5%, or possibly 50% if any of the money was being held in what the IRS considers to be one of the “bad banks.” When a person is completing the penalty portion of the application, the two most important things are to breathe and remember that by entering the program, the applicant is seeking to avoid criminal prosecution!
2. Streamlined Domestic Offshore Disclosure
The Streamlined Domestic Offshore Disclosure Program is a highly cost-effective method of quickly getting you into IRS (Internal Revenue Service) or DOT (Department of Treasury) compliance.
What am I supposed to Report?
There are three main reporting aspects: (1) foreign account(s), (2) certain specified assets, and (3) foreign money. While the IRS or DOJ will most likely not be kicking in your door and arresting you on the spot for failing to report, there are significantly high penalties associated with failing to comply.
In fact, the US government has the right to penalize you upwards of $10,000 per unreported account, per year for a six-year period if you are non-willful. If you are determined to be willful, the penalties can reach 100% value of the foreign accounts, including many other fines and penalties… not the least being a criminal investigation.
Reporting Specified Foreign Assets – FATCA Form 8938
Not all foreign assets must be reported. With that said, a majority of assets do have to be reported on a form 8938. For example, if you have ownership of a foreign business interest or investment such as a limited liability share of a foreign corporation, it may not need to be reported on the FBAR but may need to be disclosed on an 8938.
The reason why you may get caught in the middle of whether it must be filed or not is due largely to the reporting thresholds of the 8938. For example, while the threshold requirements for the FBAR is when the foreign accounts exceed $10,000 in annual aggregate total – and is not impacted by marital status and country of residence – the same is not true of the 8938.
The threshold requirements for filing the 8938 will depend on whether you are married filing jointly or married filing separate/single, or whether you are considered a US resident or foreign resident.
Other Forms – Foreign Business
While the FBAR and Form 8938 are the two most common forms, please keep in mind that there are many other forms that may need to be filed based on your specific facts and circumstances. For example:
- If you are the Beneficiary of a foreign trust or receive a foreign gift, you may have to file Form 3520.
- If you are the Owner of a foreign trust, you will also have to file Form 3520-A.
- If you have certain Ownerships of a foreign corporation, you have to file Form 5471.
- And (regrettably) if you fall into the unfortunate category of owning foreign mutual funds or any other Passive Foreign Investment Companies then you will have to file Form 8621 and possibly be subject to significant tax liabilities in accordance with excess distributions.
Reporting Foreign Income
If you are considered a US tax resident (which normally means you are a US citizen, Legal Permanent Resident/Green-Card Holder or Foreign National subject to US tax under the substantial presence test), then you will be taxed on your worldwide Income.
It does not matter if you earned the money in a foreign country or if it is the type of income that is not taxed in the country of origin such as interest income in Asian countries. The fact of the matter is you are required to report this information on your US tax return and pay any differential in tax that might be due.
In other words, if you earn $100,000 USD in Japan and paid 25% tax ($25,000) in Japan, you would receive a $25,000 tax credit against your foreign earnings. Thus, if your US tax liability is less than $25,000, then you will receive a carryover to use in future years against foreign income (you do not get a refund and it cannot be used against US income). If you have to pay the exact same in the United States as you did in Japan, it would equal itself out. If you would owe more money in the United States than you paid in Japan on the earnings (a.k.a. you are in a higher tax bracket), then you have to pay the difference to the U.S. Government.
3. Streamlined Foreign Offshore Disclosure
What do you do if you reside outside of the United States and recently learned that you’re out of US tax compliance, have no idea what FATCA or FBAR means, and are under the misimpression that you are going to be arrested and hauled off to jail due to irresponsible blogging by inexperienced attorneys and accountants?
If you live overseas and qualify as a foreign resident (reside outside of the United States for at least 330 days in any one of the last three tax years or do not meet the Substantial Presence Test), you may be in for a pleasant surprise.
Even though you may be completely out of US tax and reporting compliance, you may qualify for a penalty waiver and ALL of your disclosure penalties would be waived. Thus, all you will have to do besides reporting and disclosing the information is pay any outstanding tax liability and interest, if any is due. (Your foreign tax credit may offset any US taxes and you may end up with zero penalty and zero tax liability.)
*Under the Streamlined Foreign, you also have to amend or file 3 years of tax returns (and 8938s if applicable) as well as 6 years of FBAR statements just as in the Streamlined Domestic program.
4. Reasonable Cause
Reasonable Cause is different than the above referenced programs. Reasonable Cause is not a “program.” Rather, it is an alternative to traditional Offshore Voluntary Disclosure, which should be considered on a case by case basis, taking the specific facts and circumstances into consideration.