As part of the new highway appropriations bill, the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015, the deadline for filing Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, or FBAR, has been changed to April 15. The new deadline was moved up from June 30 to align with the filing date for individual tax returns, and carries stiff penalties for taxpayers.
Specifics of the new FBAR deadline
The provision of the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 now requires taxpayers to file an FBAR return if the value of assets in foreign bank and financial accounts exceeds the $10,000 threshold for the previous tax year. This new rule was designed to prevent tax inversions in offshore banking and financial accounts, which includes any area outside the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and U.S. territories.
However, the penalties of the new rule are strict, as any violation deemed "willful" will result in a fine equal to $100,000, or 50 percent of the balance in the offshore account for each infraction. Taxpayers are subject to additional, and more severe, financial penalties for violations deemed fraudulent, or willfully falsified information. These penalties may also include a prison sentence of up to five years, but the prison term is increased to up to ten years for obstruction of justice.
All investigations into delinquent FBAR taxpayers will be conducted by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the U.S. Treasury Department.
The new rule allows amnesty
One important perk of the new rule is that taxpayers have an automatic six-month filing extension with a statement of explanation for late returns. Aside for the extension though, taxpayers also have access to the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program. Since the IRS recently made acceptance into the OVDP more accessible, more taxpayers are encouraged to use it.
This OVDP is a special amnesty program that protects taxpayers from prosecution and absolves penalties for inaccurate information, willful or not. According to tax lawyer and Forbes contributor Robert Wood, upon acceptance into the program, the taxpayer is required to pay taxes with interest as well as a 20 percent penalty on the amount of taxes owed from a foreign account. The program is especially important now because the IRS has six years in the statute of limitations to track down delinquent taxpayers who failed to file their FBARs, or were late to file. However, it is important to note that the OVDP does not preclude the taxpayer from filing a tax return to report their assets in foreign accounts.
The new provision applies to businesses
Not only does the FBAR filing date change for individuals, but it is also applicable for partnerships, S Corporations and C Corporations. This is due to the Supreme Court ruling in Home Concrete v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 1836 (2012), which stated that any omission of income, net or gross, will trigger the six-year statute of limitations for the IRS to investigate the taxpayer's account history.