U.S. tax authorities and foreign governments are on track to conclude dozens of agreements in coming months on the sharing of financial data about citizens, with deadlines nearing for implementation of a sweeping U.S. anti-tax evasion law – the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). More than 50 other countries are working with the IRS to sign Intergovernmental Agreements which need to be in place by the end of 2013. If a foreign bank or financial institution falls to comply with FATCA, it could be frozen out of U.S. capital markets. Thus, foreign firms have a big incentive to comply with the law in reporting U.S. account holders.
The Bank Secrecy Act requires that a Form TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), be filed if the aggregate balances of such foreign accounts exceed $10,000 at any time during the year. This form is used as part of the IRS’s enforcement initiative against abusive offshore transactions and attempts by U.S. persons to avoid taxes by hiding money offshore.
The penalties for FBAR noncompliance are stiffer than the civil tax penalties ordinarily imposed for delinquent taxes. The penalties for noncompliance which the government may impose include a fine of not more than $500,000 and imprisonment of not more than five years, for failure to file a report, supply information, and for filing a false or fraudulent report.
The IRS has established the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI) which allows taxpayers to come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and not have to bear the full amount of penalties normally imposed by IRS. Taxpayers who hire an experienced tax attorney in Offshore Account Voluntary Disclosures should result in avoiding any pitfalls and gaining the maximum benefits conferred by this program.