If you’re starting to collect your income tax-related documents to take to your tax return preparer, don’t forget those for any financial accounts you have outside the U.S. Any U.S. Citizen or resident with a total of over $10,000 in assets in all bank accounts outside the U.S. and its territories and possessions at any point throughout the previous year is required to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).
Most people maintain these accounts for completely legitimate purposes. However, the federal government needs to know about all accounts maintained in foreign banks and other institutions. This includes mutual funds as well as brokerage accounts. However, retirement accounts and plans might be exempt from FBAR filing requirements.
Who’s required to file an FBAR?
Those required to file an FBAR (Form 114) include U.S. citizens and residents and domestic legal entities, including companies, estates and trusts. FBAR filing requirements are part of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), which the government uses to track large transactions.
If you own a foreign account with someone else, the rules for who needs to report vary depending on who the co-owner is. There are different rules for non-related co-owners, spouses and children. Although FBARs are due on Tax Day (typically April 15 or possibly the next business day), they aren’t filed with your tax return or to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They need to be filed using the BSA E-Filing System that is operated by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
What amount(s) do you report?
People who file an FBAR need to report “the greatest value of currency or non-monetary assets in their accounts during the calendar year.” If the account isn’t in U.S. Dollars, you need to convert the amount from the foreign currency into U.S. Dollars using the exchange rate on the last day of the calendar year (as listed by the Treasury Bureau of the Fiscal Service). If you use another source, such as the exchange rate on your year-end statement, you need to provide the source.
If you’re required to file an FBAR and don’t do so, you can face tax complications, civil penalties and even criminal penalties. That’s why it’s crucial not to take any chances. If you’re not certain whether you need to file or just want to make sure it’s done correctly, it’s best to seek experienced guidance.