Articles Tagged with FBAR violations

When the 50 Percent Penalty Applies During Offshore Voluntary Disclosure
The Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) normally comes along with an “offshore penalty” equal to 27.5 percent of the highest aggregate account balance of the previously unreported foreign financial assets. However, the penalty is increased to 50 percent for taxpayers who have accounts at foreign financial institutions that are under investigation by the IRS or Department of Justice, or who are cooperating with the U.S. government regarding accounts held by U.S. persons. These foreign financial institutions have been referred to as “bad banks”, and the list of bad banks has continued to grow each year.

How the 50 Percent Penalty Works

Not only does a taxpayer face a 50 percent offshore penalty for any assets held at a bad bank, the taxpayer must pay the 50 percent penalty on all of their unreported foreign assets. For example, a taxpayer with a $10,000 account at a bad bank and $500,000 at a foreign bank that is not under investigation will be subject to the 50 percent penalty on the total of both accounts, despite the fact that the majority of their funds are held at a bank that is not under investigation.

How Does Living Overseas Impact Your FBAR and FATCA Obligations?
U.S. taxpayers who live overseas may still have a Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) and form 8938 filing report for their foreign financial accounts. In general, your FBAR obligations will not be impacted by the fact that you live overseas. If you are a U.S. person and your aggregate account balance of foreign accounts exceeded $10,000 during the year, you must file an FBAR, regardless of where you live.

Your Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) obligations using form 8938 require a bit more discussion. Whether you need to file a form 8938 could be impacted by country of residency because there are different threshold amounts depending on whether you live in the U.S. or abroad.

Form 8938 Thresholds for Taxpayers Living Abroad

What is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) sets reporting requirements for both foreign financial insinuations and U.S. taxpayers who hold specified foreign assets. If your foreign financial institution is in a country that has an agreement with the United States, then you will be asked whether or not you are a U.S. person for tax purposes. Answering “yes” to this question will trigger a requirement on behalf of the financial institution to report your account information to the IRS.

Individual Requirements Under FATCA

By requiring foreign financial institutions to report account information for U.S. taxpayers, the government and the IRS have made it easier to track tax evasion by individuals who are hiding money in foreign bank accounts. In addition, taxpayers must file their own report of their foreign accounts, which is done on form 8938.

What Expats Should Know About Their U.S. Tax Obligations
Expats may decide to leave the U.S. due to work, retirement, or other reasons. Tax reduction may also be a motivation for moving to a foreign country, but the United States uses citizenship-based taxation. Therefore, the taxpayer still has a continuing obligation to file and pay U.S. taxes (although they may be eligible for some exclusions, such as the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion).

Tax Mistakes Expats Should Avoid

First, expats need to continue to file and pay their taxes. Many other countries use territorial-based taxation, which only taxes income earned inside the country. The United States, on the other hand, taxes citizens on all worldwide income.

What is a “Financial Interest” in a Foreign Accounts for FBAR Purposes
Any United States person with a financial interest in or signature authority over a foreign financial account, where the aggregate value of all foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 at any point during the year, must file a Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR). These terms can be difficult to apply in some situations, and can lead to FBAR compliance issues for those that are unaware that they have a filing requirement.

“Financial Interest” in a Foreign Account

If you are the owner of record for a foreign account, you have a financial interest, even though the account is maintained for the benefit of another person. Spouses are not required to file separate FBARs if all the foreign accounts that the non-filing spouse is required to report are owned jointly with the filing spouse, and filing spouse files an FBAR for all of the accounts, along with an Authorization to Electronically File FBARs.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for FBAR Penalties?
The IRS has six years from the due date of the FBAR to assess the FBAR penalty. In addition, the IRS can assess a separate penalty for each unreported account for each tax year that an FBAR has not been filed, causing the total amount of penalties to add up quickly for some taxpayers.

The current civil FBAR penalties are $12,459 per violation for non-willful violations and the greater of $124,588 or 50 percent of the balance in the account at the time of the violation, for each willful violation. An individual with five foreign financial accounts who has not filed any required FBARs for the past six years could then face a penalty of over $373,000, and that is assuming that the violations are considered to be non-willful.

These penalties can be reduced in certain cases if the IRS believes that penalty mitigation is appropriate. Taxpayers will no previous history of criminal tax violations who cooperate with IRS examiners may receive reduced penalties. If you need assistance negotiating a reduced FBAR penalty, contact a tax attorney with FBAR experience.

How Does the IRS Collect FBAR Penalties?
The IRS imposes severe penalties on taxpayers who fail to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). Those who are required to file an FBAR and fail to do so can face the following penalties:

  • a civil penalty not to exceed $12,459 per violation for non-willful violations that are not due to reasonable cause
  • a penalty equal to the greater of $124,588 or 50 percent of the balance in the account at the time of the violation, for each willful violation

Swiss Banker Pleads Guilty to Defrauding the United States with Tax Scheme
A former employee of Credit Suisse bank has pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States. Susanne D. Rüegg Meier admitted to a tax scheme that allowed U.S. taxpayers to hide their assets in Swiss bank accounts. The plea agreement states that Credit Suisse went to great lengths to assist their clients in evading their U.S. tax obligations, including reporting their foreign income on their tax return and filing accurate FBARs.

Some components of the scheme include the following:

  • all mail related to the accounts were retained in Switzerland

California Resident Indicted for Hiding Foreign Accounts
A Beverly Hills resident has been indicted on several charges for failing to disclose foreign accounts and then allegedly lying to the IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) unit. The charges faced by Teymour Khoubian include the following:

  • corruptly endeavoring to impede the internal revenue laws
  • filing false tax returns