Streamlined FBAR – Offshore Accounts | IRS Streamlined FBAR
- 1 Streamlined FBAR
- 2 IRS Streamlined FBAR
- 3 What is an FBAR?
- 4 Important FBAR Definitions
- 5 What is an FBAR Penalty?
- 6 Civil FBAR Penalties
- 7 Criminal FBAR Penalties
- 8 Additional Questions we Receive about FBAR Penalties
- 9 Options Available U.S. Taxpayers & Undisclosed Foreign Financial Assets
- 10 How to Find Experienced & Reputable Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Counsel
- 11 Beware of Copycat Law Firms
- 12 How to Retain Experienced Counsel?
Streamlined FBAR – Offshore Accounts | IRS Streamlined FBAR
When somebody talks about IRS streamlining the FBAR penalty, they are talking about sidestepping the traditional OVDP program, and instead submitting directly to the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures (SFCP).
More specifically, they are referring to the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures. That is because the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (SDOP) requires the payment of a 5% penalty, on the highest year-end, annual aggregate total balance within the 6-years compliance period (discussed below).
IRS Streamlined FBAR
If a person qualifies as a foreign resident, then they would qualify under the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. Unlike the Streamline Domestic Offshore Procedures, the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures provides for an FBAR penalty waiver – so that the individual or estate can submit prior returns and FBARs – without any penalty.
What is an FBAR?
FBAR is the Report of Foreign bank and Financial Account form. It is one of the most common IRS international tax forms, because it has a relatively low threshold requirement, and is a very broad form, encompassing many different types of foreign accounts.
Important FBAR Definitions
Outside of the United States. No same-country exception for reporting.
Account includes much more than just “Bank Accounts.” See below for an expanded summary.
Means the filing of the FBAR form, online on the FinCEN website.
Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account Form.
TD stands for Treasury Department and is another way to identify the form.
FinCEN Form 114
FinCEN is a financial crimes enforcement network. FinCEN created the form initially back in the 1970s, but now the IRS enforces penalties.
The Bank Secrecy Act
What is an FBAR Penalty?
When a person fails to properly file an annual FBAR statement, and the IRS discovers or uncovers the non-filing, the U.S. Government has the right to penalize the individual for failing to properly file the FBAR.
Not all FBAR Penalties are the same. Sometimes, the IRS penalties for unfiled or late FBARs are bad, and sometimes, well…they’re not so bad. You may even receive a Warning Letter in Lieu of Penalty. It jut depends on the different facts and circumstances of your situation.
Civil FBAR Penalties
FBAR Penalties can be Civil FBAR Penalties or Criminal. They can then be broken down further, but the threshold question, is whether the IRS will get you for Civil (money) or Criminal (money, and worse).
Civil FBAR Penalties are limited to monetary penalties. A civil FBAR Penalty is a penalty that is focused on monetary fines or warning letters (waivers) — without any risk of criminal investigation or prosecution.
|U.S. Code citation||Civil Monetary Penalty Description||Current Maximum|
|31 U.S.C. 5321(a)(5)(B)(i)||Foreign Financial Agency Transaction – Non-Willful Violation of Transaction||$12,921|
|31 U.S.C. 5321(a)(5)(C)||Foreign Financial Agency Transaction – Willful Violation of Transaction||Greater of $129,210, or 50% of the amount per 31 U.S.C.5321(a)(5)(D)|
|31 U.S.C. 5321(a)(6)(A)||Negligent Violation by Financial Institution or Non-Financial Trade or Business||$1,118|
|31 U.S.C. 5321(a)(6)(B)||Pattern of Negligent Activity by Financial Institution or Non-Financial Trade or Business||$86,976|
Penalties for Civil FBAR can be Broken down into two (2) categories:
- Willful FBAR Penalties
- Non-Willful FBAR Penalties
Non-Willful FBAR Penalties
These FBAR Penalties are typically the least severe penalties. An FBAR non-willful penalty is a “lower-level” penalty for not filing the FBAR. The non-willful penalties can be high, BUT, typically they are not as high as willful penalties.
Willful FBAR Penalties and (Reduced) Willfulness
The Willful FBAR Penalty is typically more severe. An FBAR Willful Penalty is penalty for acting willful, willfully blind, or with reckless disregard in not filing the FBAR. We have provided detailed explanations and analyses in our free International Tax Law library about these different terms, and what they mean.
Criminal FBAR Penalties
Criminal FBAR Penalties may include monetary penalties and incarceration. This is when the IRS refers the matter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) or other 3 letter government faction for criminal investigation and possible prosecution. These are not very common, but unfortunately they are on the rise.
|U.S. Code citation||Criminal Violation & Description||Criminal Penalty|
|31 C.F.R. §103.59(b)||Willful – Failure to File FBAR or retain records of account||Up to $250,000 or 5 years or both|
|31 C.F.R. §103.59(c)||Willful – Failure to File FBAR or retain records of account while violating certain other laws||Up to $500,000 or 10 years or both|
|31 C.F.R. §103.59(c)||Knowingly and Willfully Filing False FBAR||$10,000 or 5 years or both|
|Civil and Criminal Penalties may be imposed together. 31 U.S.C. § 5321(d).||See Statutes||See Statutes|
A few important considerations:
- Most courts have held that the maximum annual FBAR willful penalty is not limited to $100,000.
- If the court believes you acted with Reckless Disregard, they can still penalize you full Willful FBAR Penalties.
- If the court believes you acted with Willful Blindness, they can still penalize you full Willful FBAR Penalties.
- Even in a non-willful setting, the court can issue $10,000 per account, per year penalty
Additional Questions we Receive about FBAR Penalties
Here are some more of the common questions we receive about FBAR Penalties.
FBAR Penalties 2018 & FBAR Penalties 2019
There has been increased enforcement, with three very important updates:
- Courts are holding that willful penalties are not limited to $100,000 per year.
- Courts are holding that non-willful penalties are not limited to $10,000 per year; and
- There has been an increase in willful penalties and criminal investigations.
What is the FBAR Late Filing Penalty?
Technically, there is no “late filing penalty.’ Rather, the IRS can penalize you for not filing the FBAR at the time it is due. In other words, it is not a “Late Filing Penalty,” because you cannot file the FBAR late, unless you submit using one of the programs. Each program has its own associated FBAR penalty structure or waiver.
How does FBAR Penalty Collection Work?
Generally, the IRS will issue the FBAR penalty or penalties against you. Then, the IRS will give you a certain amount of time to pay, before the IRS sues you, to reduce the FBAR penalty to a civil judgment.
Is there an Amended FBAR Penalty?
Technically, no. Rather, once the FBAR is not filed timely, the FBAR Penalty kicks in, and it is up to you to try to limit the penalties by using one of the approved amnesty or offshore disclosure methods.
Options Available U.S. Taxpayers & Undisclosed Foreign Financial Assets
There are 5 main versions of the program. In addition, there is an “illegal” version of Voluntary Disclosure as well, which is referred to as “Quiet Disclosure” or “Silent Disclosure.”
Here are the 5 Main Options:
(New) Updated Traditional IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program
When OVDP (Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) ended back in September 2018, the Internal Revenue Service was unclear as to whether a New “Offshore” Voluntary Disclosure Program would be introduced. Instead of a “new program,” the traditional voluntary disclosure program was expanded.
You can use the disclosure program to submit FBARs for your Foreign Bank Accounts, FATCA, PFIC, along with your Domestic Income
SFCP – IRS Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures
IRS Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures are a stand-alone “streamlined” version of the traditional OVDP. The “stand-alone” streamlined filing procedures were created in 2014 by the Internal Revenue Service.
The purpose of the procedures are to assist taxpayers who were noncompliant with offshore reporting requirements – but were also non-willful.
If the Taxpayer can certify under penalty of perjury of being non-willful, the IRS reduces the penalty structure, and even waives the penalty for applicants who qualify as foreign residents.
SDOP – IRS Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures
SDOP is the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, and it is the program designed for for U.S. persons residing in the United States (or do not meet the technical “Foreign Resident Test”)
SFOP – IRS Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures
SFOP is the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. These are the Procedures for U.S. persons residing outside the United States is referred to as the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures.
DIRP – Delinquency Procedures for Offshore & Foreign Accounts and Assets
If you do not have any unreported income resulting in having to amend your tax returns — and all you have is unreported foreign assets, accounts or investments with no unreported income, you may be in luck. In these instances, in which you do not otherwise need to file for traditional offshore disclosure or the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures — you may qualify for the Delinquency Procedures and avoid any penalties.
RC – Reasonable Cause for Offshore & Foreign Accounts and Assets
Reasonable Cause may be an option for some taxpayers. Specifically, if you were completely non-willful in your failure to disclosure, and were unaware that there was any reporting requirement, then the thought of paying any penalty may sound absurd.
Fixing Lesser Experienced Law Firm mistakes.
IRS Voluntary Disclosure is complex enough for experienced practitioners who focus exclusively in the area of law, never mind relative newcomers who are trying to handle more than just offshore voluntary disclosure as part of their everyday tax practice.
We know, because those cases usually end up on our door-step.
How to Find Experienced & Reputable Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Counsel
Nearly all the experienced Attorneys in this field will have 5 Main Attributes:
- Board Certified Tax Law Specialist
- Master’s of Tax Law (aka LL.M.)
- Dually Licensed as an Enrolled Agent or CPA
- Around 20-Years of Private Practice experience
- Extensive Litigation, Trial and related high-stakes experience.
Beware of Copycat Law Firms
Unlike other attorneys who call themselves specialists or experts in Voluntary Disclosure but are not “Board Certified,” handle 5-10 different areas of tax law, purchase multiple keyword specific domain names, and even practice outside of tax, we are absolutely dedicated to Offshore Voluntary Disclosure.
How to Retain Experienced Counsel?
Our clients have asked up to prepare an Offshore Disclosure Attorney Fee Summary Guide for you to help separate fact from fiction when selecting an attorney.
Contact Us Today; Let us Help You.
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.)