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FBAR Penalties Survive Taxpayer’s Death – What You Must Know About IRS FBAR Penalty Negotiations

FBAR Penalties Survive Taxpayer’s Death – What You Must Know About IRS FBAR Penalty Negotiations

In recent years the IRS has made the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) penalty enforcement a top priority and this is alarming the taxpayers worldwide. Even in the course of every routine domestic IRS audit, IRS agents are looking for undisclosed foreign bank accounts.

Death Of A Taxpayer Does Not Terminate FBAR Penalties 

A Federal district court held that the IRS could recover unpaid financial penalties imposed on a taxpayer, who subsequently died, for willfully failing to timely file accurate FAR’s (formerly Forms TDF 90-22.1, now FinCEN Form 114) for years 2010 and 2011. U.S. v. Green, 2020 PTC 137 (S.D. Fla. 2020).  The court rejected arguments by the taxpayer’s children that the FBAR penalties abated upon the taxpayer’s death and stated that granting a windfall to estates of violators of the FBAR requirements because the violator suffered the paradoxical fortune and misfortune of passing away after the violation occurred and before the government filed suit against him for FBAR violations contradicts the remedial purpose of the FBAR filing requirements.

What You Must Know About IRS FBAR Penalty Negotiations:

  1. The penalties for noncompliance in FBAR enforcement are staggering.

FBAR penalties can be unfair as the penalties are based on the account size and not on how much tax you avoided. This is a stark contrast to other IRS penalties which are based on how much additional tax is owed.  Given this difference you will always have a bigger risk and more to lose when dealing with FBAR penalties.

  1. The two types of FBAR penalties.

The “get off gently FBAR penalty” – If the IRS feels that you made an innocent mistake and “not willfully” ignored to file your FBAR, your “get off gently penalty” will be $10,000 per overseas account per year not reported. To illustrate, if you have five foreign accounts that you failed to report on your FBAR in each of five years, the IRS can penalize you $250,000 regardless of whether you even have that amount sitting in your foreign accounts.

The “disastrous FBAR penalty” – If the IRS can show that you “intentionally” avoided filing your FBAR’s, your minimum “disastrous FBAR penalty” will be 50% of your account value.   Additionally, the IRS may also press for criminal charges and if convicted of a willful violation, this can also lead to jail time. The “disastrous FBAR penalty” can also be assessed multiple times thus wiping out your entire savings. 

  1. The taxpayer’s burden of proving “reasonable cause”

You are obligated to pay the penalty the IRS deems necessary. The IRS can assume the “disastrous FBAR penalty” and they are not required to prove willfulness. It will be the taxpayer that bears the heavy burden of proving that the taxpayer’s failure to comply was due to reasonable cause and not from “willful neglect”. 

  1. Your appeal option.

Having exhausted all administrative remedies within the IRS first, you can then appeal the proposed FBAR penalties to a Federal District Court but for that court to have jurisdiction you must pay the assessments in full and then sue the IRS in a district court for refund. Since coming up with the money may be impossible for most taxpayers, consider hiring an experienced tax attorney to make the most of the IRS appeals process and perhaps avoid the need for litigation.  Keep in mind that in the appeals process, you do not have to pay any FBAR penalty until the end. Second, you can be successful if IRS remedies itself thus making court filings unnecessary. And third, even if the administrative remedies do not yield you success, your tax attorney can attempt to negotiate with the IRS to lower your FBAR penalties without going for a trial. 

  1. The Voluntary Disclosure Route.

The streamlined filing compliance procedures are available to taxpayers certifying that their failure to report foreign financial assets and pay all tax due in respect of those assets did not result from willful conduct on their part. The streamlined procedures are designed to provide to taxpayers in such situations (1) a streamlined procedure for filing amended or delinquent returns and (2) terms for resolving their tax and penalty obligations.

Taxpayers will be required to certify that the failure to report all income, pay all tax, and submit all required information returns, including FBARs (FinCEN Form 114, previously Form TD F 90-22.1), was due to non-willful conduct.

If the IRS has initiated a civil examination of a taxpayer’s returns for any taxable year, regardless of whether the examination relates to undisclosed foreign financial assets, the taxpayer will not be eligible to use the streamlined procedures. Similarly, a taxpayer under criminal investigation by IRS Criminal Investigation is also ineligible to use the streamlined procedures.

Taxpayers eligible to use the streamlined procedures who have previously filed delinquent or amended returns in an attempt to address U.S. tax and information reporting obligations with respect to foreign financial assets (so-called “quiet disclosures”) may still use the streamlined procedures.

What Should You Do?

If you have never reported your foreign investments on your U.S. Tax Returns, you should seriously consider making a voluntary disclosure to the IRS. Once the IRS contacts you, you cannot get into this program and would be subject to the maximum penalties (civil and criminal) under the tax law. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Diego County (Carlsbad) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

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