Answering Some FBAR-Related Questions

The FBAR–the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (Form 114)–is due on June 30th. If you have $10,000 aggregate in one or more foreign financial accounts you must file the FBAR. There are no extensions available. Here are three of the many questions regarding the FBAR in the mailbag:

1. “I live in Denmark; my wife is a Danish citizen (I am a US citizen). We have elected to file a joint US tax return. Does my wife need to file the FBAR?”

No. The FBAR is required of US citizens and permanent residents, but not for non-US citizen/permanent resident spouses of US citizens residing outside of the US. However, if you have a Form 8938 filing requirement your wife’s accounts would need to be included on that form (since you have elected to file a joint tax return).

2. “I became a permanent resident in November [2015]. My one foreign account, a bank account in Mexico, has not had $10,000 (equivalent) in it since I became a permanent resident. Do I need to file an FBAR?”

Maybe. The requirement is based on the calendar year, not the two months you were a permanent resident. So if your Mexican bank account had $10,000 in it at any time during 2015, file the FBAR.

3. “Why do we have to file both the FBAR and Form 8938? It’s the same information!”

Because we live in the bureaucratic world, and our Congress gave us duplicative laws. The FBAR is not a tax law; it’s part of the Bank Secrecy Act (Title 31 of the US Code). Form 8938 is a tax law (Title 26 of the US Code) and comes from FATCA. Until Congress changes the law we’re stuck complying with it.


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