FBAR Compliance: Requirements, Steps, Tips | Bennett Thrasher Skip to main content

In an increasingly globalized world, many individuals find themselves managing finances across borders.  While this can offer numerous opportunities for investment and financial growth, it also comes with certain regulatory responsibilities.  One such obligation is Foreign Bank Account Reporting (FBAR) (FinCEN Report 114 FBAR) designed to uphold financial transparency and security. Understanding and complying with FBAR and its requirements is essential for avoiding potential legal and financial penalties.

What is Foreign Bank Account Reporting (FBAR)?

FBAR is a reporting obligation established by the United States Department of the Treasury. Its principal aim is to uncover and deter tax evasion among U.S. individuals who possess financial assets overseas.  FBAR requires the disclosure of foreign financial accounts by individuals if the cumulative value surpasses a specified threshold within a given calendar year. FBAR submissions, filed separate from your US tax return, are made to FinCEN, the Financial Crimes and Enforcement Network within the U.S. Treasury Department. Non-compliance with FBAR regulations carries severe repercussions, including substantial fines and legal ramifications.

Understanding FBAR Requirements

In accordance with the Bank Secrecy Act, individuals must annually disclose designated foreign financial accounts, including bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and mutual funds, to the Treasury Department while also maintaining pertinent records of these accounts.  The reporting threshold is subject to annual adjustment, underscoring the importance of remaining current with FBAR regulations.

For each account subject to FBAR reporting, it is necessary to retain records containing the following information:

  • Account holder’s name,
  • Account number,
  • Foreign bank’s name and address,
  • Account type, and
  • Maximum value held during the year.

Although the law does not prescribe a specific document type for record-keeping, acceptable documents may include bank statements or a copy of the filed FBAR containing the requisite information. Generally, these records must be retained for five years from the FBAR’s due date.

Who Needs to File an FBAR?

The requirement to file an FBAR extends to various entities within the United States, such as citizens, residents, corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, trusts, and estates. This filing obligation applies when an individual or entity holds a financial interest in, or has signature authority over, one or more financial accounts situated outside the United States, provided that the of these foreign financial accounts surpassed $10,000 at any point during the relevant calendar year. Notably, the determination of whether an account qualifies as a foreign financial account for FBAR purposes is based on its outside the United States, irrespective of whether it generated taxable income.

But, may not need to report foreign financial accounts that are:

  • Correspondent/Nostro accounts,
  • Owned by a governmental entity,
  • Owned by an international financial institution,
  • Maintained on a U.S. military banking facility,
  • Held in an individual retirement account (IRA) of which you’re an owner or beneficiary,
  • Held in a retirement plan of which you’re a participant or beneficiary, or
  • Part of a trust of which you’re a beneficiary, if a U.S. person (trust, trustee of the trust, or agent of the trust) files an FBAR reporting these accounts.

You don’t need to file an FBAR for the calendar year if:

  • All your foreign financial accounts are reported on a consolidated FBAR, or
  • You jointly own all your foreign financial accounts with your spouse and You completed and signed FinCEN Form 114a authorizing your spouse to file on your behalf, and your spouse reports the jointly owned accounts on a timely-filed signed FBAR.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Filing Your FBAR

  1. Deadline and Extension: The FBAR is an annual report due by April 15 following the calendar year reported. An automatic extension until October 15 is granted if you miss the April 15 deadline. No formal extension request is necessary. For more details, refer to FinCEN’s website.
  2. Electronic Filing: File the FBAR electronically through FinCEN’s BSA E-Filing System. It’s not filed with your federal tax return.
  3. Paper Filing: If you prefer paper filing, contact FinCEN’s Resource Center to request an exemption from electronic filing. Details for reaching this center are provided in the “Contact Us” section below. If your request is approved, FinCEN will send you the paper FBAR form for completion and mailing to the IRS at the address indicated in the form’s instructions. Note that paper filings on TD F 90-22.1 (obsolete) or a printed FinCEN Form 114 (for e-filing only) are not accepted by the IRS.
  4. Authorized Representative: If you want someone else to file your FBAR on your behalf, use FinCEN Report 114a, Record of Authorization to Electronically File FBARs, to authorize them. You do not need to submit FinCEN Report 114a during FBAR filing; simply retain it for your records and provide it to FinCEN or the IRS if requested.

Strategic Tips for Effective FBAR Management

Here are some tips to help streamline the FBAR process and mitigate potential risks:

  • Stay Informed: Stay updated on changes to FBAR regulations and filing requirements to avoid penalties for non-compliance.
  • Organize Documentation: Keep detailed records of your foreign financial accounts and transactions to facilitate accurate reporting and documentation during the FBAR filing process.
  • Seek Professional Guidance: Consult with a qualified tax advisor or accountant experienced in international tax compliance to navigate complex requirements and ensure accurate reporting.
  • Review Regularly: Regularly review your foreign financial accounts to monitor changes in account balances, ownership, or other relevant information that may impact your FBAR report.
  • Plan Ahead: Plan your FBAR filings in advance to avoid last-minute rush and potential errors, allowing ample time for gathering information, completing forms, and submitting reports before the deadline.

Understanding and adhering to FBAR compliance play a pivotal role in effectively managing financial assets abroad, ensuring transparency, and complying with regulatory standards. By comprehending the FBAR threshold, submitting reports accurately and on time, and implementing efficient financial management practices, individuals can adeptly navigate the complexities of global finance. This not only safeguards their financial interests but also minimizes the potential for legal entanglements.

Bennett Thrasher extends expert support in matters concerning FBAR compliance and associated financial affairs. Their seasoned team offers invaluable guidance on FBAR requirements, facilitates precise filing procedures, and furnishes strategic insights to optimize international financial strategies. For assistance with FBAR submission and a spectrum of financial services, feel free to reach out to Bennett Thrasher via the contact information provided below:

For help deciphering your FBAR questions, contact James Parks, partner in Bennett Thrasher’s International Tax practice.

Bennett Thrasher LLP
Phone: (770) 396-2200

NB: The blog post above is intended for informational purposes only and cannot be relied upon by the reader as tax advice.  We would recommend that you discuss your personal situation with your tax advisor.