A U.S. taxpayer who holds an interest in a foreign entity may not realize that he or she must comply with complex tax reporting requirements as a result of holding an interest in the foreign entity. First, a U.S. taxpayer who is a shareholder of a “controlled foreign corporation” (CFC), as defined in 26 U.S.C. § 957, must pay taxes on certain income of the CFC, such as foreign investment income.
A U.S. taxpayer who has a financial interest in a foreign entity may be required to file FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), if the foreign entity is the owner of record or holder of legal title of foreign accounts, such as bank accounts or stocks, and the aggregate value of the foreign accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. As of October 1, 2013 the FBAR form must be filed through the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (FinCEN’s) Bank Secrecy Act E-Filing System on or before June 30th of the year following the calendar year being reported. For example, to report foreign accounts held open in 2013, the taxpayer must file the FBAR by June 30, 2014.
Whether the U.S. taxpayer is deemed to have a financial interest in a foreign account and thus may be required to file an FBAR to report the entity’s foreign accounts depends in part on the type of entity involved and the taxpayer’s interest in the entity. The U.S. taxpayer is deemed to have a financial interest in a foreign financial account if the owner of record of legal title is a corporation for which the U.S. taxpayer owns directly or indirectly (i) more than 50% of the total value of shares of stock, or (ii) more than 50% of the voting power of all shares of stock. If the U.S. taxpayer has either (i) an interest in more than 50% of a partnership’s profits, or (ii) an interest in more than 50% of the partnership capital, then the U.S. person is deemed to have a financial interest in the foreign accounts held by the partnership. Finally, a U.S. taxpayer is deemed to have a financial interest in a foreign financial account if the owner of record of legal title is any other entity in which the U.S. taxpayer owns directly or indirectly more than 50% of the voting power, total value of equity interest or assets, or interest in profits. If the U.S. taxpayer falls into one of the above categories, he or she must report the foreign accounts on an FBAR if the aggregate balance exceeds $10,000 at any time during the year.
Certain U.S. taxpayers who own an interest in a foreign corporation may also be required to file Form 5471, Information Return of U.S. Persons with Respect to Certain Foreign Corporations. Form 5471 gives several categories of persons who must file this form. For example, a U.S. citizen or resident who acquires stocks in a foreign corporation and the stock interest is either (i) 10% or more of the total value of the foreign corporation’s stock, or (ii) 10% or more of the total combined voting power of all classes of stock with voting rights. Depending on the category in which the taxpayer falls, he or she may be required to attach additional schedules to the Form 5471. A taxpayer who may be involved in a foreign partnership must follow similar rules by filing a Form 8865.
In addition to filing the above forms form, the U.S. taxpayer must follow certain reporting requirements on his or her annual tax return. First, the U.S. taxpayer must include a completed Schedule B, Interest and Ordinary Dividends, with his or her annual tax return. On Schedule B, the taxpayer will complete Part III, Foreign Accounts and Trusts, which asks whether, at any time in the year, the taxpayer had a financial interest in or signatory authority over a foreign financial account. Schedule B also asks whether the taxpayer is required to file an FBAR, and if so, in which foreign country the financial account was located.
The U.S. Taxpayer may also be required to file Form 8938, Statement of Specific Foreign Financial Assets with his or her annual tax return. In the case of holding an interest in a foreign entity, the U.S. taxpayer may list as financial assets, for example, any stocks or securities issued by a foreign corporation and any partnership interest in a foreign partnership. Whether a taxpayer is required to file this form depends on where the taxpayer lives, the taxpayer’s filing status, and the value in the accounts. For example, unmarried taxpayers living in the United States must file Form 8938 if the total value of your specified foreign financial assets is more than $50,000 on the last day of the tax year or more than $75,000 at any time during the tax year.
Failure to comply with the above reporting requirements can result in steep penalties to the unwitting taxpayer. Failure to file an FBAR may result in civil penalties for negligence, pattern of negligence, non-willful, and willful violations. These penalties range from a high penalty for willful violations, equal to the greater of $100,000 or 50% of the balance in the account at the time of violation, to a low penalty of $500 for negligent violations.
The penalties for failing to file a Form 5471 or Form 8865 depend in part on the category of taxpayer, but may include a $10,000 penalty for each failure to file, plus an additional $10,000 per month if the Form 5471 is not filed within 90 days of the deadline. All taxpayers who fail to file a Form 5471 or Form 8865 also may be subject to criminal penalties and penalties for understating the financial assets.
For failing to report income received from a CFC and failing to file a correct Schedule B and Form 8938, the taxpayer could face a failure-to-file penalty of $10,000, criminal penalties, and if the failure to file results in underpayment of tax, an accuracy-related penalty equal to 40% of the underpayment of tax and a fraud penalty equal to 75% of the underpayment of tax.
U.S. taxpayers who may have a financial interest in a foreign entity would benefit from the experienced tax attorneys of the Law Office Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. representing you to avoid the pitfalls associated with failure to comply with the reporting requirements associated with owing an interest in a foreign entity.
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