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FBAR Extension: Automatic 6-Month Filing Relief for Expats

Are expat taxes giving you a headache? Well, here’s a dose of good news: if you missed the April FBAR deadline, Uncle Sam’s giving you a break. US expats get an automatic 6-month FBAR extension. No forms, no fees, no fuss. It’s like a get-out-of-jail-free card for your foreign bank accounts!

So, if you’re sweating over that missed deadline, take a deep breath. You’ve got until October to get your FBAR extension done. That’s plenty of time to gather your account info, crunch those numbers, and hit that “submit” button with confidence.

Key Takeaways:

  • Automatic Extension: US expats have an automatic six-month extension to file FBAR, moving the deadline to October 15.
  • Who Must File: U.S. persons with foreign accounts exceeding $10,000 at any point during the year must file an FBAR.
  • Filing Process: File FBARs electronically via the BSA E-Filing System, providing account details and maximum values.
  • Penalties: Non-compliance can lead to fines of up to $10,000 for non-willful violations and higher penalties or criminal charges for willful violations.
  • Aligned Deadlines: The FBAR deadline aligns with the federal tax return deadline, both due April 15, with an extension to October 15.

What Is the FBAR Extension?

The FBAR deadline can be a tricky thing. Trust me, I’ve been there. You’re scrambling to get your taxes done, and then you remember – shoot, the FBAR. Here’s the deal: the FBAR is an annual report, due every April 15 for the previous calendar year. But here’s the good news – there’s an automatic extension to October 15. You don’t even need to ask for it. It’s like a little gift from the IRS.

FBAR Deadline for Calendar Year

So let’s break this down. Say it’s 2023, and you’re reporting for the 2022 calendar year. Your FBAR would be due on April 15, 2023. But if you miss that deadline, no sweat. You’ve got until October 15, 2023 to get it in.

Automatic Extension for FBAR Filing

Now, this automatic extension is a lifesaver. I remember back in 2019 when they first announced it. Before that, there was no extension at all. You either filed by June 30, or you were out of luck. 

The FinCEN guidance on this is pretty clear. They say, “You’re allowed an automatic extension to October 15 if you fail to meet the FBAR annual due date of April 15. You don’t need to request an extension to file the FBAR.”

FBAR Deadline Aligned with Income Tax Filing

The other nice thing is that now the FBAR deadline aligns with the tax filing deadline. It used to be June 30, which made no sense. Now, it’s all streamlined. 

Your federal tax return and your FBAR, are both due on April 15, with that handy automatic extension to October 15 if you need it. Just remember, even with the extension, it’s still a good idea to file as soon as you can. The last thing you want is to forget and face potential penalties. And trust me, those FBAR penalties can be steep.

Who Needs to File an FBAR?

So who exactly needs to worry about this FBAR deadline? Well, it’s not just for the super-wealthy with offshore accounts. You might be surprised.

U.S. Persons with Foreign Financial Accounts

If you’re a U.S. person (which includes citizens, residents, and certain entities) and you have foreign financial accounts, pay attention. This could be a bank account, a securities account, or even certain insurance policies or annuity plans. If the total value of all your foreign accounts was over $10,000 at any point during the calendar year, you need to file an FBAR.

Signature Authority Over Foreign Accounts

Here’s where it gets tricky. Even if the account isn’t in your name, if you have signature authority over it, you might need to report it. This often trips people up. 

Let’s say your elderly parent added you to their foreign bank account, so you can help manage their finances. Even though it’s not your money, if you can control the disposition of the assets in that account, you have signature authority. That means you need to report it on your FBAR if it meets the threshold.

Aggregate Value Threshold for FBAR Filing

Speaking of the threshold, let’s talk numbers. The magic number is $10,000. If at any point during the year, the total value of all your foreign financial accounts combined was over $10,000, you need to file an FBAR. This is an aggregate value, meaning you add up the highest balances or values of each account for the year. 

Even if no single account ever had more than $10,000, if the total of all accounts combined crossed that threshold, you’ve got to report. It’s a lot to keep track of, I know. But it’s so important to get it right. 

The consequences of not filing, or filing incorrectly, can be severe. When in doubt, talk to a professional. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the IRS.

How to File an FBAR

So, you’ve determined that you need to file an FBAR. What now? How do you go about doing it?

Filing FBAR Electronically through FinCEN’s BSA E-Filing System

Gone are the days of paper forms and snail mail. These days, you have to file your FBAR electronically using the BSA E-Filing System provided by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). 

First, you’ll need to create an account on the BSA E-Filing System. It’s a pretty straightforward process, but make sure you have all your information handy. You’ll need things like your taxpayer identification number and the details of your foreign accounts.

Information Required on FBAR Form

Once you’re in the system, you’ll be filling out FinCEN Form 114. This is the official FBAR form. It’s going to ask for a lot of details about your foreign accounts. 

For each account, you’ll need to provide the name of the financial institution, the account number, and the maximum value of the account during the year. You’ll also need to indicate the type of account (bank, securities, etc.) and your level of ownership or control over the account. 

It can be a tedious process, especially if you have multiple accounts. But you must be accurate and thorough. Any mistakes or omissions could lead to serious consequences.

Penalties for Not Filing or Filing Late

And speaking of consequences, let’s talk about what happens if you don’t file your FBAR on time, or at all. The penalties can be severe. For non-willful violations (meaning you didn’t intentionally hide your accounts), the penalty can be up to $10,000 per violation. 

But if the IRS determines that your failure to file was willful, the penalty can be much higher. We’re talking up to the greater of $100,000 or 50% of the account balance, per violation. And that’s just the civil penalties. 

In extreme cases, criminal charges could be brought, which could mean fines of up to $500,000 and even prison time. The moral of the story? Don’t mess around with your FBAR. File it, and file it on time. If you’re unsure about anything, seek professional help. It’s not worth the risk of getting on the wrong side of the IRS.

FBAR Reporting Requirements

Now that we’ve covered the basics of who needs to file and how to do it, let’s dive a little deeper into what exactly needs to be reported on your FBAR.

Types of Accounts to Report on FBAR

The FBAR requires you to report a wide range of foreign financial accounts. This includes the obvious ones like bank accounts and securities accounts, but it can also include things you might not think of, like certain insurance policies, annuity plans, and even some retirement accounts. 

Essentially, if it’s a financial account and it’s foreign, it probably needs to be reported. This can include accounts held at a foreign branch of a U.S. bank, and accounts held at a foreign bank’s U.S. branch.

Maximum Account Value During the Year

For each account you report, you’ll need to provide the maximum value that the account held at any point during the year. This is the highest balance or value that the account reached, converted to U.S. dollars using the exchange rate on the last day of the calendar year. 

This is important because it’s this maximum value that determines whether you meet the reporting threshold. Even if your account only went over $10,000 for one day, you still need to report it.

Reporting Jointly Held Accounts

If you hold a foreign account jointly with someone else, things can get a bit more complicated. In general, each account holder needs to report the entire maximum value of the account on their FBAR. However, there are some exceptions. 

If you hold the account jointly with your spouse, and your spouse is also required to file an FBAR, you can file a single FBAR jointly. You’ll need to indicate that it’s a joint filing, and provide your spouse’s information as well. If you own a jointly held account with someone other than your spouse, you only need to report your share of the maximum value, unless you have a greater than 50% ownership interest. 

It’s a lot to keep track of, I know. But it’s so important to get it right. Incorrect or incomplete reporting can lead to serious penalties. When in doubt, consult with a tax professional who has experience with FBARs.

FBAR Penalties and Consequences

We’ve touched on this already, but let’s dive a bit deeper into the potential consequences of not filing your FBAR correctly or on time.

Civil Penalties for Non-Willful Violations

If the IRS determines that your failure to file was non-willful (meaning you didn’t intentionally hide your accounts), the penalties are still significant. You could face a fine of up to $10,000 per violation. 

Now, the IRS does have some discretion here. They may waive the penalty if you can show that your failure to file was due to reasonable cause. But don’t count on it. It’s always better to file and avoid the risk altogether.

Criminal Penalties for Willful Violations

If the IRS determines that your failure to file was willful (meaning you intentionally hid your accounts), the consequences are much more severe. We’re talking about criminal penalties. Willfully failing to file an FBAR can lead to a fine of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison. 

If your failure to file is part of a pattern of illegal activity, the fines and prison time can be even higher. This is serious stuff. The IRS doesn’t mess around when it comes to foreign financial accounts. They’ve made it a priority to crack down on offshore tax evasion, and the FBAR is one of their key tools in that fight.

Statute of Limitations for FBAR Penalties

It’s important to note that the IRS has a long time to come after you for FBAR violations. The statute of limitations for assessing FBAR penalties is generally six years from the due date of the FBAR. However, if you’ve never filed an FBAR at all for a particular year, there’s no statute of limitations. 

The IRS can come after you at any time. The takeaway here is simple: file your FBAR, and file it on time. The consequences of not doing so can haunt you for years to come. If you’re unsure about anything, seek professional help. It’s not worth the risk of getting it wrong.

Final Thoughts

The FBAR extension is a lifesaver for expats juggling multiple financial obligations across borders. It’s a much-needed breather amid tax season chaos.

But remember, an extension to file isn’t an extension to chill. You still need to report those foreign accounts accurately and on time. The IRS may be lenient with deadlines, but they don’t mess around with non-compliance.

So, mark your calendar, set those reminders, and make the most of this extra time. With the FBAR extension in your back pocket, you can approach your expat tax duties with a little less stress and a lot more peace of mind. For more information, contact Dimov Tax today!

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