U.S. taxpayers with foreign financial accounts must file an FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) if the aggregate value of their accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. The FBAR must be filed by June 30 of the current year to report the taxpayer’s financial accounts for the prior year.
A U.S. taxpayer must report the account not only if the taxpayer has a financial interest in the account, but also if the taxpayer has signature authority over the account. The account must be reported even if it produces no income, and whether or not the taxpayer receives any distributions from the account.
Reporting is required by the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), not by the Internal Revenue Code. Taxpayers submit the proper form to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), not the IRS. The form is not submitted with a tax return. However, FinCEN has delegated FBAR enforcement authority to the IRS.
New Form 114
In the past, taxpayers reported their accounts on Form TD F 90-22.1. However, effective for 2014 and subsequent years, taxpayers must report their accounts on new FinCEN Form 114. The June 30 deadline is firm; there is no extension for filing the form late. However, persons who belatedly discover the need to file an FBAR for a previous year can file on Form 114.
In the past, too, taxpayers reported their accounts on a paper form, but Form 114 is only available online, through the BSA E-Filing System website. Paper Form TD F 90-22.1 has been discontinued. This BSA E-Filing System allows the taxpayer to designate the year being reported, so taxpayers may use the same form to file late reports for a prior year. In addition, persons can now authorize a tax professional, such as an attorney, CPA, or enrolled agent, to file on their behalf, by designating an agent on BSA Form 114a.
If two persons jointly maintain an account, each must file an FBAR. However, spouses now qualify for an exception, and can file only one FBAR, provided the nonfiling spouse only owns accounts jointly with the filing spouse. The couple can complete a Form 114a, to authorize one spouse to file for the other, because the electronic system only accepts one signature for an FBAR.
Signature authority is authority to control the disposition of assets held in a foreign financial account. A person with a power of attorney over a foreign account must file an FBAR, even if the person never exercises the power of attorney.
FinCEN has considered amending the rules regarding signature authority. In the meantime, because there is some uncertainty about the meaning of signature authority, FinCEN has deferred FBAR filing by certain individuals that only have signature authority over, but no financial interest in, foreign financial accounts of their employer or a closely related entity. FinCEN Notice 2011-1 first provided an extension for these persons. In Notice 2013-1, FinCEN extended the due date for these persons to file, to June 30, 2015, while FinCEN further considers changes to the rules.