On February 28, 2023, the Supreme Court decided Bittner v. United States—a rare Supreme Court foray into Financial Crimes Enforcement Network or FinCEN reporting of foreign bank and financial accounts under the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”).  The BSA is codified under Title 31 (Money and Finance) of the United States Code rather than Title 26 (the Internal Revenue Code) so the section references in this post are to Title 31.  At issue was how to calculate penalties for nonwillful violations of the BSA’s recordkeeping and reporting obligations for foreign transactions and accounts.  By a narrow 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court held that the penalty for a nonwillful violation of the reporting requirements shall be assessed on a per-form basis rather than a per-account basis, a result favorable for those taxpayers with nonwillful failures.



Continue Reading Supreme Court Limits Penalties for Nonwillful FBAR Failures in Bittner Decision

Last week, the Acting Director of IRS of Field Operations for the LB&I Foreign Payments Practice (“FPP”) announced that the IRS will launch a compliance campaign this summer focused on foreign financial institutions (“FFIs”) that are not satisfying their reporting obligations under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”).  Speaking at a tax controversy forum at NYU, Kimberly Schoenbacher indicated that the IRS will be sending notices to FFIs that failed to file Forms 8966 (FATCA Report) reporting assets held in accounts by U.S. persons.

Continue Reading IRS to Launch FATCA Compliance Campaign for FFIs

A question appears at the bottom of Schedule B (Interest and Dividend Income) of the Form 1040 (U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) that asks individual taxpayers if during the taxable year they had any interest in or signature or other authority over a bank, securities, or other financial account in a foreign country during the tax year.  Based upon a review of historical tax forms, the question first appeared on the 1976 Schedule B.  The historic Form 1040 instructions for 1976 and 1977 indicate that the FBAR was originally designated as Form 4683 for 1976 and subsequently revised and renumbered as the Form 90-22.1 in 1977.

Continue Reading Is a Circuit Split Brewing over FBAR Willfulness Penalties?

The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut has joined a growing debate among lower courts regarding the appropriate civil penalty applicable to willful FBAR violations through its ruling in United States v. Garrity.  The FBAR statute, regulations, instructions, and related guidance require that taxpayers annually report to the Treasury