The Foregin Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was introduced in 2010 to curb and discourage tax evasion by American individuals and corporations. Under FATCA, U.S. individual taxpayers, including those living overseas or with dual citizenship, will be required to report all of their financial accounts and assets to the IRS. U.S. taxpayers will also be required to report any substancial ownership interest in foreign entities.
Countries with FATCA Agreements
Americans living overseas in countries with which the U.S. has a FATCA agreement will be affected by the new tax laws. Any U.S. citizen that is required to pay taxes in the U.S. will have their financial activities reported to the IRS by the foreign financial institution (FFI) with which the activity is conducted. Many additional countries and jurisdictions are expected to sign FATCA agreements in 2014.
The following countries and jurisdictions presently have an intergovernmental agreement with the IRS under FATCA:
� Cayman Islands
� Costa Rica
� United Kingdom
� The Netherlands
� The Isle of Man
The FFIs in these countries are required to report all financial activities of their American clients if they cross a certain threshold amount determined by the IRS. If a taxpayer is found to be under-reporting or not reporting income and assets to the IRS for whatever reason, the taxpayer will be charged with tax evasion. With FATCA, the IRS will have access to the correct information directly from FFIs.
Damaging Effects of FATCA on Americans Living Overseas
FATCA has made filing taxes more complex and difficult for Americans living overseas. They are now required to report foreign financial assets, and comply with the many new reporting and filing rules. In addition, any FFIs whose services they use, including local banks, stock brokers, hedge funds, trusts and insurance companies, are required to report information directly to the IRS. The reporting requirements and registration will soon be mandatory and is making many FFIs reluctant to deal with Americans.
The penalties for non-compliance under FATCA rules are heavy. If an FFI does not report information to the IRS, both U.S. financial institutions and other U.S. withholding agents will withhold 30% on certain payments to them.
Taxpayers that do not report their financial assets overseas may incur heavy penalties and/or imprisonment. In attempt to avoid future tax complications many Americans living abroad have renounced their U.S. citizenship. Americans and green card holders residing overseas are not happy with the changes, which will result in a great deal of paperwork, and the need to hire a tax preparer to deal with the new changes. They also fear the disadvantages they will face when dealing with FFIs.
Foreign Banks Reluctant to Cater to Americans
Many banks in countries where FATCA is implemented are closing the accounts of Americans because of the new reporting requirements. Many Americans working abroad are losing access to overseas retirement pension plans and life insurance. Although many Americans have renounced their U.S. citizenship in order to avoid discrimination and reporting problems, for many this is not an option.
Caught between the U.S. and FFIs, Americans working overseas will need to put up with the more complex of the reporting requirements. The only choice aside from renouncing U.S. citizenship is to comply with the new tax laws.
For taxpayers who have evaded taxes in the past and wish to get back into compliance, the IRS is running the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). This program can reduce penalties and the possibility of imprisonment. It is a great opportunity for taxpayers to get current with their taxes without facing harsh punishment for tax evasion.