Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)
If you have a financial interest in or signature authority over a foreign financial account, including a bank account, brokerage account, mutual fund, trust, or other types of foreign financial account, exceeding certain thresholds, the Bank Secrecy Act may require you to report the account yearly to the Department of Treasury by electronically filing a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). See the ‘Who Must File an FBAR’ section below for additional criteria.
Who Must File an FBAR
United States persons are required to file an FBAR if:
- the United States person had a financial interest in or signature authority over at least one financial account located outside of the United States; and
- the aggregate value of all foreign financial accounts exceeded $10,000 at any time during the calendar year reported.
United States person includes U.S. citizens; U.S. residents; entities, including but not limited to, corporations, partnerships, or limited liability companies, created or organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States; and trusts or estates formed under the laws of the United States.
Exceptions to the Reporting Requirement
Exceptions to the FBAR reporting requirements can be found in the FBAR instructions. There are filing exceptions for the following United States persons or foreign financial accounts:
- Certain foreign financial accounts jointly owned by spouses
- United States persons included in a consolidated FBAR
- Correspondent/Nostro accounts
- Foreign financial accounts owned by a governmental entity
- Foreign financial accounts owned by an international financial institution
- Owners and beneficiaries of U.S. IRAs
- Participants in and beneficiaries of tax-qualified retirement plans
- Certain individuals with signature authority over, but no financial interest in, a foreign financial account
- Trust beneficiaries (but only if a U.S. person reports the account on an FBAR filed on behalf of the trust)
- Foreign financial accounts maintained on a United States military banking facility.
Review the FBAR instructions for more information on the reporting requirement and on the exceptions to the reporting requirement.
Reporting and Filing Information
A person who holds a foreign financial account may have a reporting obligation even when the account produces no taxable income. The reporting obligation is met by answering questions on a tax return about foreign accounts (for example, the questions about foreign accounts on Form 1040 Schedule B) and by filing an FBAR.
The FBAR is a calendar year report and must be filed on or before June 30 of the year following the calendar year being reported. Effective July 1, 2013, the FBAR must be filed electronically through FinCEN’s BSA E-Filing System. The FBAR is not filed with a federal tax return. When the IRS grants a filing extension for a taxpayer’s income tax return, it does not extend the time to file an FBAR. There is no provision for requesting an extension of time to file an FBAR.
Those required to file an FBAR who fail to properly file a complete and correct FBAR may be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 per violation for no willful violations that are not due to reasonable cause. For willful violations, the penalty may be the greater of $100,000 or 50 percent of the balance in the account at the time of the violation, for each violation. For guidance on circumstances including natural disasters that prevent timely filing of an FBAR, see FIN-2013-G002 (June 24, 2013).
Note: The recently enacted Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 changes the standard FBAR due date to April 15 beginning with the 2016 calendar year reports, which are due in 2017. The FBAR deadline for the calendar year 2015 reports remains June 30, 2016 (with no extensions allowed).
U.S. Taxpayers Holding Foreign Financial Assets May Also Need to File Form 8938
Taxpayers with specified foreign financial assets that exceed certain thresholds must report those assets to the IRS on Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets, which is filed with an income tax return. Those foreign financial assets could include foreign accounts reported on an FBAR. The Form 8938 filing requirement is in addition to the FBAR filing requirement. A chart providing a comparison of Form 8938 and FBAR requirements may be accessed on the IRS Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act Web page.
Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program
On January 9, 2012, the IRS reopened its Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program following continued interest from taxpayers and tax practitioners after the closure of the 2011 and 2009 programs. This program offers people with unreported taxable income from offshore financial accounts or other foreign assets an opportunity to fulfill their tax and information reporting obligations, including the FBAR. Although the program does not have a closing date, the IRS may end the program at any time.
Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures
On September 1, 2012, the IRS implemented new streamlined filing compliance procedures that were available only to non-resident U.S. taxpayers who failed to file required U.S. income tax returns. Taxpayer submissions were subject to different degrees of review based on the amount of tax due and the taxpayer’s response to a risk questionnaire.
On June 18, 2014, the IRS announced the expansion of these procedures. The expanded procedures are available to a wider population of U.S. taxpayers living outside the country and, for the first time, certain U.S. taxpayers residing in the United States; reference IR-2014-73. For eligible U.S. taxpayers residing outside the United States, all penalties will be waived. For eligible U.S. taxpayers residing in the United States, the only penalty will be a miscellaneous offshore penalty equal to five percent of the foreign financial assets that gave rise to the tax compliance issue. For more information, go to Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures.
Taxpayers who have not filed a required FBAR and are not under a civil examination or a criminal investigation by the IRS, and have not already been contacted by the IRS about a delinquent FBAR, should file any delinquent FBARs according to the FBAR instructions and include a statement explaining why the filing is late. All FBARs are required to be filed electronically through FinCEN’s BSA E-Filing System. Select a reason for filing late on the cover page of the electronic form or enter a customized explanation using the ‘Other’ option. If unable to file electronically you may contact FinCEN’s Regulatory Helpline at 800-949-2732 or 703-905-3975 (if calling from outside the United States) to determine acceptable alternatives to electronic filing.
The IRS will not impose a penalty for the failure to file the delinquent FBARs if income from the foreign financial accounts reported on the delinquent FBARs is properly reported and taxes are paid on your U.S. tax return, and you have not previously been contacted regarding an income tax examination or a request for delinquent returns for the years for which the delinquent FBARs are submitted.