Today, FinCEN moved to again clarify questions surrounding the due date for filing Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs).

The FBAR requirements (31 CFR 103.24) are part of the Banking Secrecy Act (BSA). Under the rules, each “US person” with an interest in, signature or other authority over, one or more bank, securities, or other financial accounts in any foreign country must file an FBAR if the aggregate value of such accounts at any point in a calendar year exceeds $10,000. A “US person” generally means a citizen or resident of the United States, or a person in and doing business in the United States – it is not limited to individual taxpayers and includes partnerships and corporations.

In other words, if the total of your interests in all of the foreign accounts in which you have an interest reaches $10,000 or more at any point in the calendar year, you may need to file an FBAR. That applies even if you’ve been faithfully reporting the income on your federal income tax return and even if you’ve never, ever repatriated a single dollar to the U.S. It also applies even if the account produces no taxable income. Some exceptions apply.

FBARs are typically filed at the same time as your tax return and they are filed electronically (you don’t file them with your tax return). Taxpayers on extension have until October 15 to file.

However, this year, on October 14, 2020, FinCEN posted an incorrect message on its Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) E-Filing website that stated that there was a new filing extension until December 31, 2020 for all filers of FBARS. That is not true. The FBAR deadline was supposed to have remained October 15, 2020, except for victims of recent natural disasters as noted in FinCEN’s October 6, 2020 notice (those victims still have until December 31, 2020, to file).

FinCEN removed the message within 24 hours. However, the message caused a lot of confusion.

Today, FinCEN apologized for the error and any confusion this has caused. They have also coordinated with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to address the concerns of filers who may have missed their filing deadline because of the error. As a result, filers who file their 2019 calendar year FBAR by October 31, 2020, will be deemed to have timely filed.

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Kelly Phillips Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer, and podcaster.

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