Form 3520 (2019) – Foreign Gift & Inheritance Reporting Requirements

Form 3520 (2019) - Foreign Gift & Inheritance Reporting Requirements - Golding & Golding

Form 3520 (2019) – Foreign Gift & Inheritance Reporting Requirements – Golding & Golding

Form 3520: If you received a Foreign Gift, Inheritance or Trust Distribution from a foreign person, you may have IRS Form 3520  Reporting Requirements The form 3520 is used to Report the Receipt of a Gift from a Foreign Person when certain thresholds are met.

While the form is not the most complicated of IRS international tax forms…the penalties can be unnecessarily harsh — with the IRS issuing penalties upwards of 25% value of the gift, for each year you receive a gift.

Form 3520

For example, your foreign Grandma in Portugal sent you $150,000 to help pay for a downpayment on your new house. Or, your dad sent you $40,000 through his foreign business.

Alternatively, if you received a foreign trust distribution, you have to report the distribution amount, even if it is a relatively small amount (no minimum threshold reporting requirement).

On a sadder note, if you foreign uncle passed away and left you $300,000 that is also reportable, since a foreign inheritance is a type of foreign gift.

3 Main Categories of Transactions

  • Foreign Person
  • Foreign Business
  • Foreign Trust

Form 3520 Rules

Receiving a Gift or an Inheritance from a Foreign Person, Trust or Business may spark the requirement for an individual receiving the gift or inheritance to file form 3520 with the IRS for the year the gift or inheritance was received.

The failure to properly/timely file form 3520 may result in significant fines and penalties towards the individual who received the gift or inheritance.

The General Rule

The concept of tax vs. receiving foreign gifts or inheritances from a foreign person can be complex. The purpose of this article is to break down the basic requirements – it does not serve as a comprehensive analysis of whether you, in your particular situation is required to file the form.

We understand that there are certain circumstances in which you may be able to be exempt from filing, but that is not the purpose of this summary – it is simply to inform you of when you may have a requirement.

Foreign Gifts from Individuals

The most common scenario that we deal with at Golding & Golding, is when a person receives a foreign gift, in the form of money or equivalent, from a foreign person. Many countries have various different currency restrictions, which limits the amount of gift an individual can personally provide via transfer (read: China and Taiwan currency restrictions).

With that said, it does not really matter what means the foreign person used to transfer the money to the United States, but rather did that foreign person gift you his or her money.

Threshold Requirement – Gifts from a Foreign Person

Currently, if a person receives more than $100,000 from a foreign person in a single year, in either one transaction or a series of transactions then the person who received the gift or inheritance from the foreign person must file a form 3520. It does not matter how the money was transferred, but rather who owned the money that was transferred.

For Example: Scott’s mother in Taiwan transferred him $500,000 in a single year by having 10 of her friends each transfer $50,000 to Scott’s bank account in the United States. Yes, not one individual actually transferred more than $100,000, but the $500,000 originated from a single person who owned that $500,000 and therefore the recipient would report to get from the owner of the money.

Threshold Requirement – Trust Distribution

Unlike the receipt of a gift or inheritance from a foreign person, when a person receives a trust distribution from a foreign trust, they are required to complete Form 3520 irrespective of how much the person received from the foreign trust.

In other words, there is no minimum threshold requirement involving a receipt of money from a foreign trust, and therefore any receipt of money from a foreign trust must be reported on a Form 3520.

It should be noted, that unlike the other two categories, the reporting requirement for the receipt of a trust distribution from a foreign trust is much more detailed than the reporting requirement for the receipt of a gift from either an individual or business.

It may also necessitate the filing of a Form 3520-A.

Threshold Requirement – Gift From a Foreign Business

The threshold requirement for having to file a form 3520 for the receipt of a gift from a foreign business is much lower than the threshold requirement for receiving a gift from a foreign person. In 2016, the threshold requirement was $15,671 from either a foreign corporation, foreign partnership or other foreign entity.

Why Does the IRS Care?

There are many reasons why the IRS wants to keep track of gifts, inheritance or trust distributions received from a foreign person, business or trust – but one of the main catalysts is for the future determination of estate tax.

When a person meets the requirements of being a US person for estate tax purposes, their estate will be taxed at 40% for any amount that exceeds the gift and estate tax exemption. Currently, the exemption is set at $5.49 million, but that amount can change at any time (especially when a new party takes office).

What a person is considered a US person for estate tax purposes, their worldwide value is taken into consideration for estate tax purposes. In other words, while a person may be a Green-Card Holder with only $2 million in the United States, he may have $15 million abroad, and therefore his estate may be subject to several million dollars worth of estate tax at his time of passing.

As such, since that $15 million that he received abroad may be the result of a foreign person gifting him that money (or as a result of an inheritance), the IRS may have never learned about the money, unless the individual had reported the receipt of the gifts during the year he or she received gifts by way of having to file a form 3520 (noting, if a foreign person gifts money to a US person into their foreign account, it still must be reported on a form 3520). The mere fact that the foreign person gifted the money into a foreign account does not exempt the US person from having to file the form)


As provided by the IRS: Section 6677.   A penalty applies if Form 3520 is not timely filed or if the information is incomplete or incorrect (see below for an exception if there is reasonable cause).

Generally, the initial penalty is equal to the greater of $10,000 or the following (as applicable):

– 35% of the gross value of any property transferred to a foreign trust for failure by a U.S. transferor to report the creation of or transfer to a foreign trust.

– 35% of the gross value of the distributions received from a foreign trust for failure by a U.S. person to report receipt of the distribution.

– 5% of the gross value of the portion of the foreign trust’s assets treated as owned by a U.S. person under the grantor trust rules (sections 671 through 679) for failure by the U.S. person to report the U.S. owner information.

Such U.S. person is subject to an additional separate 5% penalty (or $10,000 if greater), if the foreign trust (a) fails to file a timely Form 3520-A or (b) does not furnish all of the information required by section 6048(b) or includes incorrect information. See section 6677(a) through (c) and the Instructions for Form 3520-A.

Additional penalties will be imposed if the noncompliance continues for more than 90 days after the IRS mails a notice of failure to comply with the required reporting. For more information, see section 6677.


In addition, if the gift was put into a foreign account or used to purchase Foreign Stocks, Securities, or Funds that exceeds the threshold requirements for reporting, the individual may also have to file an FBAR form, Form 8938, and/or Form 8621.

The failure to file these forms may result in significantly high fines and penalties that far outweigh what appears to be a mere failure to report.

What Can You Do?

Presuming the money was from legal sources, your best options are either the Traditional IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program, or one of the Streamlined Offshore Disclosure Programs.

We Specialize in Safely Disclosing Foreign Money

We have successfully handled a diverse range of IRS Voluntary Disclosure and International Tax Investigation/Examination cases involving FBAR, FATCA, and high-stakes matters for clients around the globe (In over 65 countries!)

Whether it is a simple or complex case, safely getting clients into compliance is our passion, and we take it very seriously.

Who Decides to Disclose Unreported Money?

What Types of Clients Do we Represent?

We represent Attorneys, CPAs, Doctors, Investors, Engineers, Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, Professors, Athletes, Actors, Entry-Level staff, Students, Former/Current IRS Agents and more.

You are not alone, and you are not the only one to find himself or herself in this situation.

4 Types of IRS Voluntary Disclosure Programs

There are typically four types of IRS Voluntary Disclosure programs, and they include:

Contact Us Today; Let us Help You.

International Tax Lawyers - Golding & Golding, A PLC

International Tax Lawyers - Golding & Golding, A PLC

Golding & Golding: Our International Tax Lawyers practice exclusively in the area of IRS Offshore & Voluntary Disclosure. We represent clients in 70 different countries. Managing Partner, Sean M. Golding, JD, LL.M., EA and his team have represented thousands of clients in all aspects of IRS offshore disclosure and compliance during his 20-year career as an Attorney. Mr. Golding's articles have been referenced in such publications as the Washington Post, Forbes, Nolo and various Law Journals nationwide.

Sean holds a Master's in Tax Law from one of the top Tax LL.M. programs in the country at the University of Denver, and has also earned the prestigious Enrolled Agent credential. Mr. Golding is also a Board Certified Tax Law Specialist Attorney (A designation earned by Less than 1% of Attorneys nationwide.)
International Tax Lawyers - Golding & Golding, A PLC