Archive for the ‘FBAR’ Tag

Back to Basics Part XXXIV – Form 8938 – Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets

Originally published in the Cedar Street Times

March 4, 2016

For those of you living in the US (not just US citizens) with foreign bank accounts, foreign securities accounts, ownership interests in foreign corporations, partnerships, or other foreign potentially income generating assets, you may have a reporting requirement on Form 8938 – Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets.  Failure to report on this form carries with it significant penalties, so you want to be sure you are in compliance if you have assets of this type.

You may have heard about the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) which is currently filed on a Form FinCen 114 with the US Treasury Department (a few years ago the form was called a TD F-90-22.1) each year.  That form received a lot of press a few years ago as some of the large banks overseas cooperated with the US government to release the names of account holders living in the US, and is also tied to some of the amnesty programs you may have read about.  This often conjures up images of mutli-millionaires hiding money overseas to avoid paying US taxes.  Although this may be a component of it, I can assure you that it touches “normal” people as well that just happened to have foreign accounts, perhaps from living in a foreign country years ago, and still have the account, or maybe just living in the US for a few years and on a US work visa.

If you are reading this article, and thinking, “I have never heard of this before,” you likely have a relatively easy solution for the FBAR that will not result in huge monetary fines. This often consists of filing amended tax returns for the past three open tax years to report any income generated on these accounts, and filing FBARs for the past six years.  But you must do this before the IRS discovers it – so do not bury your head in the sand.

Whereas the FBAR can attribute its roots in the Bank Secrecy Act passed by Congress in 1970 and is filed separately from your tax returns with the US Treasury Department, the Form 8938 has only been around since 2011, and is filed as a form with your tax returns.  The Form 8938 has different reporting requirements as well.  Whereas the FBAR is focused on foreign bank and securities accounts whose aggregate value of all accounts exceeds $10,000 at any point during the year, the Form 8938 is broader and includes more foreign income generating assets, and is only required if the aggregate value at year end is over $50,000 or if the maximum value at any point during the year is over $75,000 for single and married filing separate filers or $100,000 at year end/$150,000 maximum value if married filing jointly.

Since the US taxes people residing in the US on worldwide income, (and so does California), the IRS wanted a way to ensure that the income from foreign accounts was being properly included on the US tax returns.  The FBAR does not do this, so the 8938 was created.

Parts I and II of the Form 8938 are a summary of the various types of specified foreign financial assets that you are reporting.  Part III is a cross-reference to the forms and line numbers in the tax return where any income generated by these assets is included.  Part IV is a cross-reference to foreign assets whose detail is not reported on the 8938 itself, but on other form specifically designed for those types of assets.  Parts V and VI are the specific details of each account listed in parts I and II, and include things like account numbers, addresses, amounts, foreign currency conversions, etc.

You can easily download the instructions to the Form 8938 online if you would like to learn more about the reporting requirements.  Even if you do not have a Form 8938 or FBAR filing requirement, you are still required to report on your US tax returns any foreign income earned by the accounts.  With many countries there are also tax treaties in place to prevent double taxation.

Please keep in mind, there are complex issues involved with these reportings, and depending on the assets, you may require the assistance of an accountant or attorney.

If you have questions about other schedules or forms in your tax returns, prior articles in our Back to Basics series on personal tax returns are republished on my website at www.tlongcpa.com/blog .

Travis H. Long, CPA, Inc. is located at 706-B Forest Avenue, PG, 93950 and focuses on trust, estate, individual, and business taxation. Travis can be reached at 831-333-1041. This article is for educational purposes.  Although believed to be accurate in most situations, it does not constitute professional advice or establish a client relationship.