US Expats Getting It Right – FATCA and FBAR Explained

expat explaining fatca and fbar

Recently the FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) and FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) filing requirements have generated quite a bit of controversy, as they pertain to the recent IRS crackdown on financial assets in overseas accounts. FATCA in particular has caused some uproar since going into effect in March 2010, as foreign financial institutions now have to report on American clients’ accounts, causing some banks to turn away new US citizen clients or closing accounts currently held by US Citizens, to avoid the high cost of compliance.

One of the most important differences between FBAR and FATCA is that FATCA (also Form 8938) filing requirements tend to be more confusing than FBAR, as the former requires only financial account information, while under FATCA certain other specified foreign assets must be reported, in addition to financial accounts. Those financial assets may include things such as foreign stocks, partnership interests and pensions. The FATCA threshold is different for those residing in the US versus those living abroad, as expats report when total assets that are $200,000 or more at the end of the tax year or $300,000 at any time during the year. For a joint filer this threshold goes up to $400,000 at the end of the tax year, and $600,000 at any point during the year. This form is filed with your US Individual Tax Return, for which the filing deadline is June 15th (if you reside outside the US) or October 15th if you’ve filed an extension.

With FBAR (also referred to as Form 114 and Form 90-22.1), if you have $10,000 or more at any point during the year in foreign financial accounts then you are required to file this annual disclosure. This requirement not only affects American expats, but also US permanent residents (ie. green-card holders) if they meet the $10,000 threshold. This form is filed separately from the US Federal Tax Return, and the deadline is June 30th (a date which they adhere to very strictly, unlike the normal US expat tax return which allows one to file for an extension). It is a surprise to many US citizens to know that the FBAR requirement dates back to the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, though it’s enforcement is more recent with the new FATCA regulations.

What makes these filing requirements particularly confusing is that you may be required to file both, or one or the other. At Bright!Tax we have knowledgeable American CPAs to help you evaluate your filling requirements, and get your returns filed on time.

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