The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is a United States law that requires United States persons, including individuals who live outside of the US, to report their financial accounts held outside of the United States to the Treasury Department. This is done by completing and attaching IRS Form 8938, Statement of Foreign Financial Assets, to the individual’s income tax return, and is generally required if the value of the foreign accounts exceeds $50,000 (this threshold is higher for US persons residing abroad). In addition, FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to report about their US clients to the IRS. Congress enacted FATCA in order to make it more difficult for US taxpayers to conceal assets held in offshore accounts and shell corporations and thus, recoup federal tax revenues on unreported foreign-source income. The penalties for not reporting the accounts are draconian.

Under FATCA, foreign financial institutions that refuse to share information with the IRS face penalties when doing business in the US. FATCA requires US banks to withhold 30% of certain payments to foreign banks that have refused to comply with the information-sharing program. That is a heavy price to pay for access to the world’s largest economy, and it has forced many reluctant countries to comply with the reporting requirement.

As a result, nearly 70 countries, including Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, and the Bahamas—all places where Americans have traditionally hid assets in the past—have agreed to share information from their banks.

Beginning in March 2015, more than 77,000 foreign banks, investment funds, and other financial institutions have agreed to supply the IRS with names, account numbers, and balances for accounts controlled by US taxpayers. Some foreign banks are refusing to accept US citizens as clients because they don’t want the paperwork headaches imposed by FATCA and the additional compliance costs. As a result, US persons living abroad may find their banking options curtailed.

Oh, and did we mention that the FATCA filings are in addition to the long-standing Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) that US persons must file with the U.S. Treasury when the aggregate value of foreign accounts exceeds $10,000 in a calendar year? This report must be e-filed using FinCEN Form 114 and is due by June 30 for the prior calendar year—no extensions are available. Heavy penalties apply if a FBAR isn’t filed when one is required.

If you have questions related to the individual FATCA or FBAR reporting requirements, please give this office a call.

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