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Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)

What is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)?

Passed as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act in 2010, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is intended to help the U.S. government fight tax evasion by U.S. persons who hold accounts and other financial assets offshore. It requires U.S. residents to report, depending on the value, their foreign financial accounts and foreign assets. Under the law, foreign financial institutions and certain other non-financial foreign entities are also required to report on the foreign assets held by their U.S. account holders or be subject to withholding on withholdable payments.  


What does FATCA mean for financial institutions?

Under FATCA, all financial institutions – U.S.-domestic and foreign – must classify account holders as either U.S. or non-U.S.-based, and foreign financial institutions (FFIs) are expected to identify U.S. account holders and disclose their balances, receipts and withdrawals to the IRS. FATCA requires that U.S. withholding agents withhold tax at the rate of 30 percent from all passive payments, such as interest and dividends, paid to a foreign recipient. It will have a significant effect on two classes of companies: U.S. financial institutions, and U.S. companies that make payments to foreign entities.


FATCA also requires certain foreign financial institutions to report directly to the IRS information about financial accounts held by U.S. taxpayers or by foreign entities in which U.S. taxpayers hold a substantial ownership interest. The reporting institutions include not only banks, but also other financial institutions, such as investment entities, brokers, and certain insurance companies. Some non-financial foreign entities will also have to report certain of their U.S. owners.


What does FATCA mean for individuals living in the U.S.?

Under FATCA, certain U.S. taxpayers holding financial assets outside the United States must report those assets to the IRS on Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets. This FATCA requirement is in addition to the long-standing requirement to report foreign financial accounts on FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) (formerly TD F 90-22.1).


FATCA requires certain U.S. taxpayers who hold foreign financial assets with an aggregate value of more than the reporting threshold (at least $50,000 on the last day of the tax year, or at least $75,000 at any point during the tax year) to report information about those assets on Form 8938, which must be attached to the taxpayer’s annual income tax return. The reporting threshold is higher for certain individuals, including married taxpayers filing a joint annual income tax return (at least $100,000 on the last day of the tax year, or at least $150,000 at any point during the tax year) and certain taxpayers living in a foreign country.


Which assets need to be reported on Form 8938 under FATCA?

All specified foreign financial assets, including foreign financial accounts and foreign non-account assets held for investment (as opposed to held for use in a trade or business), must be reported on Form 8938.


Foreign stock or securities held outside of a financial account must be reported if the value exceeds the threshold, while foreign stock or securities held inside of a financial account don’t have to be reported. Any interest in real estate held through a foreign entity, such as a corporation, partnership, trust or estate, if the total value of all your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you. 


Any sales contract with a foreign person to sell assets held for investment, such as precious metals, or gold certificates issued by a foreign person is a specified foreign financial asset investment asset that must be reported on Form 8938 if the total value of all your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you. An interest in a foreign pension or deferred compensation plan, or in a foreign estate, must be reported if the value of your interest exceeds the reporting threshold.


What are the FATCA rules for U.S. domestic entities?

Under final rules issued by the U.S. Treasury Department in February 2016, any “specified domestic entity” that has any interest in a “specified foreign financial asset” during the taxable year must attach Form 8938 to its tax return, staring with the 2016 tax year. These rules apply to closely held domestic U.S. corporations, domestic partnerships, and domestic trusts. A domestic corporation is deemed to be “closely held” by a specified individual if at least 80 percent of the total combined voting power of all classes of stock of the corporation entitled to vote, or at least 80 percent of the total value of the stock of the corporation, is owned, directly, indirectly, or constructively, by a specified individual on the last day of the corporation’s taxable year. The preamble to the Final Regulations specifies that this 80-percent threshold should exempt most publicly traded partnerships from being considered “specified domestic entities.”


Domestic corporations and partnerships are considered to have been “formed or availed of” for purposes of holding specified foreign financial assets if (1) the entity is “closely held” by a specified individual and (2) at least 50 percent of the entity’s gross income for the taxable year is passive income or at least 50 percent of the assets held by the entity for the taxable year are assets that produce or are held for the production of passive income. According to the final regulations, the percentage of passive assets held by a corporation or partnership for a taxable year is the weighted average percentage of passive assets (weighted by total assets and measured quarterly), and the value of assets of a corporation or partnership is the fair market value of the assets or the book value of the assets that is reflected on the corporation’s or partnership’s balance sheet (as determined under either a U.S. or an international financial accounting standard).


What are the penalties for non-compliance with FATCA reporting requirements?

If you must file Form 8938 and do not do so, you may be subject to penalties: a $10,000 failure to file penalty, an additional penalty of up to $50,000 for continued failure to file after IRS notification, and a 40 percent penalty on an understatement of tax attributable to non-disclosed assets.


The statute of limitations is extended to six years after you file your return if you omit from gross income more than $5,000 that is attributable to a specified foreign financial asset, without regard to the reporting threshold or any reporting exceptions. If you fail to file or properly report an asset on Form 8938, the statute of limitations for the tax year is extended to three years following the time you provide the required information. If the failure is due to reasonable cause, the statute of limitations is extended only with regard to the item or items related to such failure and not for the entire tax return.


However, if you show that any failure to disclose is due to reasonable cause and not due to willful neglect, no penalty will be imposed for failure to file Form 8938. Reasonable cause is determined on a case-by-case basis, considering all relevant facts and circumstances.

Enforcement Action Blog

Anatomy of a FATCA case

Jaclyn Jaeger | September 28, 2018

The Department of Justice recently secured its first ever criminal conviction under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. For compliance officers, in-house counsel, and internal audit, the case provides a rare look into the inner workings of a FATCA scheme and resulting undercover sting operation. 

Accounting & Auditing Update Blog

IRS winds down voluntary disclosure, ramps up investigations

Tammy Whitehouse | March 19, 2018

Just as the IRS bolsters its international enforcement capabilities and activities, it is also phasing out its voluntary disclosure program.

The Filing Cabinet Blog

Critics seek to slay FATCA through tax reform

Joe Mont | March 22, 2017

A coalition of business leaders is looking to repeal the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act as part of any tax reform initiative in Congress.

GRC Announcements Blog

Tipalti adds accounts payable tax compliance support for Argentina and Brazil suppliers

GRC Announcements | September 12, 2016

Tipalti, a global supplier of payments automation, has extended its accounts payable tax compliance capabilities to help companies collect and validate tax IDs from their suppliers in Argentina and Brazil. Businesses engaging with suppliers and partners in those countries can now ensure tax compliance by recording tax information for those payees.

The Filing Cabinet Blog

Podcast: Getting a Grip on Legal Entity Compliance

Joe Mont | December 1, 2014

Not only is identifying every party to a financial transaction complex, regulators are paying closer attention to the topic, known as legal entity management. In this week’s podcast, we talk to Ron Jordan, chief data officer for the Depository Trust and Clearing Corp., a post-trade financial services company, about improving the quality of such data and the steps that can alleviate a growing regulatory burden.

Accounting & Auditing Update Blog

OECD Completes FATCA-Like Regime With New Obligations

Tammy Whitehouse | October 30, 2014


The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development has finished the Common Reporting Standard to govern the exchange of tax information among more than 50 countries. While the United States is not a participant, says KPMG principal Michael Plowgian, subsidiaries or branches of U.S. entities will need to comply in the jurisdictions where authorities are signing onto the OECD plan.  More inside.


Top Minds 2018

Top Minds was devised by Publisher Donna Rice and Editor in Chief Dave LeFort as a way to spotlight the best and brightest in the ethics and compliance profession, while also highlighting an important new direction for Compliance Week itself—including in-depth interviews with the leaders of the compliance community.

White Paper

Identify Sexual Harassment Risk and Prove Willful Misconduct with Behavioral Data

Sponsored by True Office Learning | November 22, 2017

True Office Learning data shows that employees understand Workplace Harassment concepts better than any other compliance course…so then why do 52% of women say they have been sexually harassed in the workplace? Willful misconduct.


Taking a revealing look at Sarbanes-Oxley compliance

Sponsored by ACL | November 14, 2017

So many developments are happening in the world of accounting right now that it’s hard to keep up—but don’t fret. In this eBook, produced by Compliance Week in partnership with ACL, we get into the weeds of what some of the biggest changes are and what companies can expect.

White Paper

How to Build a Strong Gifts, Entertainment & Hospitality Program

Sponsored by MyComplianceOffice | November 14, 2017

Gifts, meals, entertainment, travel, and hospitality expenses (GMETH) are high-risk areas for bribery and corruption. In a number of major enforcement actions, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have focused on improper GMETH expenditures used to advance corrupt bribery schemes.

White Paper

Pulse Data Privacy aggregate report

Sponsored by True Office Learning | November 7, 2017

A check-the-box approach doesn’t ensure employees are equipped with the knowledge needed to make informed and compliant decisions about data protection, which is why True Office Learning recently released a new adaptive Pulse training course, Data Privacy: EU Edition. This course is designed to help organizations educate their employees on what the GDPR is, and how to identify breaches and red flag situations.

White Paper

Cyber Pulse Check aggregate report

Sponsored by True Office Learning | October 12, 2017

Pulse Check is available in both off-the-shelf and custom diagnostics to help you quickly measure your employee’s grasp on topics ranging from Culture of Compliance to Anti-Corruption to Cybersecurity. Download a Pulse Check aggregate report to see the rich insight this diagnostic can provide.

Grapevine Blog

W&T Offshore general counsel retires

Scuttlebutt | May 1, 2017

W&T Offshore announced the retirement of Thomas Getten as vice president, general counsel, and secretary. He is succeeded by Shahid Ghauri, who joined the company in March 2017.


Grapevine Blog

Air Products appoints general counsel

Scuttlebutt | May 1, 2017

Air Products, an industrial gases company, has appointed Sean Major as executive vice president and general counsel, effective May 1.

Grapevine Blog

Twist Bioscience appoints chief ethics and compliance officer

Scuttlebutt | May 1, 2017

Twist Bioscience, a company accelerating science and innovation through rapid, high-quality DNA synthesis, today announced the appointment of Mark Daniels to the newly created position of chief ethics and compliance officer.

Grapevine Blog

Kara Novaco Brockmeyer joins Debevoise

Scuttlebutt | May 1, 2017

Debevoise & Plimpton today announced that Kara Brockmeyer, former Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit, is joining the firm’s Washington, D.C. office as a partner.