All citizens of the United States as well as U.S. resident aliens are required to report their worldwide income for U.S. federal income tax purposes. However, where foreign assets are involved, this is an area in which taxpayers, knowingly or unknowingly, may fail to comply with the law.
There are numerous information reporting requirements involving foreign assets that may assist the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in recognizing a failure to report foreign income; however, both taxpayers and tax preparers may not be fully compliant with filing these forms. Again, this may be more a matter of ignorance of the requirements than any intent to skirt the law.
Neither the reporting requirement imposed by the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) nor the Foreign Bank Account Reporting (FBAR) imposed by the older Bank Secrecy Act directly involves reporting income for tax purposes. Instead, each involves reporting the existence of financial assets or accounts located outside of the United States. Although in some cases the same accounts or assets may be reported on each information-reporting form, both forms may be required. Failure to file either form if required may result in significant penalties, in some cases amounting to the entire balance of the unreported account or more.
Since FATCA’s passage, there has been criticism of the FFI and NFFE provisions and how they relate to other countries, including whether FATCA’s requirements are inconsistent with existing U.S. treaty obligations and what happens when the requirements conflict with another country’s domestic (e.g., banking or privacy) laws. The Treasury Department and IRS have reached out to other countries and entered into bilateral intergovernmental agreements with 24 of them. In general, these provide that the other country’s FFIs will be deemed compliant with FATCA’s requirements if they comply with the agreement. FATCA’s requirements have also been criticized as overly burdensome and stakeholders have indicated they have insufficient time to prepare for them. The IRS has responded by extending various deadlines under FATCA—while the 2010 law enacting FATCA provides that, in general, its provisions “apply to payments made after December 31, 2012,” the IRS has on several occasions extended various deadlines, with many provisions scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2014.
Finally, legislation has been introduced in the 113th Congress that would repeal much of FATCA (S. 887); modify FATCA with the intent of “strengthening” it (H.R. 1554, H.R. 3666, S. 1533, and S. 268); or require that its effects on U.S. citizens living abroad be studied (H.R. 597).
… worldwide income is subject to taxation by the United States. Thus, U.S. citizens and U.S. residents generally are required to pay U.S. income tax on income from sources in foreign countries. Nonetheless, it has been reported that some taxpayers apparently believe that they can successfully avoid U.S. income tax by maintaining assets outside of the country. This “avoidance” is actually “evasion,” which is illegal. Until recently, it was very difficult for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to detect such evasion.
This report outlines the U.S. reporting requirements for foreign assets and accounts under FATCA along with the reporting requirements (FBAR) under the Bank Secrecy Act. It also addresses the requirements imposed on foreign financial institutions and the agreements the United States has with other countries to cooperate in information reporting. Additionally, recently proposed bills to modify FATCA either through repeal or amendment are discussed.