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Aaron Snellenbarger* focuses his practice on the taxation and estate planning needs of high net worth individuals and families both within the United States and abroad. Read Aaron Snellenbarger's full bio.

On October 30, 2017, Paul Manafort Jr. was indicted for concealing his interests in several foreign bank accounts, as well as tax evasion and a host of other criminal charges.  The indictment reminds us how important it is to follow the strict guidelines of the reporting regime that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the US Department of the Treasury have established to disclose foreign bank accounts.

Pursuant to the Bank Secrecy Act, a US citizen or resident (a US Person) is required to disclose certain foreign bank and financial accounts which he or she has “a financial interest in or signature authority over” annually.  This obligation can be triggered by direct or indirect interests; a US Person is treated as having a financial interest in a foreign account through indirect ownership of more than 50 percent of the voting power or equity of a foreign entity, like a corporation or partnership.  The US Person is required to annually disclose the interest on FinCEN 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, which is commonly referred to as the FBAR.  The disclosure requirement is triggered when the aggregate value of the foreign account exceeds $10,000.  The form is filed with your federal income tax return.

The civil penalties for failing to timely disclose an interest in a foreign account can be severe, and in the case of willful violations, can reach up to 50 percent of the highest aggregate annual balance of the unreported foreign financial account each year.  The statute of limitations for FBAR violations is six years, and the willful penalty may be assessed for more than one year, creating extreme financial consequences for FBAR reporting failures.

Continue Reading Manafort Indictment Is a Good Reminder of FBAR Disclosure Requirements

On October 4, 2017, the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) announced that it would withdraw more than 200 regulations, including the proposed regulations under Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 2704. The announcement is part of President Trump’s initiative to lessen the regulatory burden on taxpayers due to excessive regulations. In a press statement, Treasury explained that the Code Section 2704 proposed regulations were being withdrawn because they:

…would have hurt family-owned and operated businesses by limiting valuation discounts. The regulations would have made it difficult and costly for a family to transfer their businesses to the next generation. Commenters warned that the valuation requirements of the proposed regulations were unclear and could not be meaningfully applied.

Numerous practitioners were critical of the proposed regulations because they disregarded restrictions for valuation purposes on the ability to liquidate family-controlled entities. Since the release of the proposed regulations in the summer of 2016, estate tax planning and valuation professionals have noted that the proposed regulations were vague, difficult to apply and resulted in inaccurately high estate valuations. Indeed, if finalized, the proposed regulations would have disallowed discounts for lack of control and marketability commonly used by families in wealth transfer planning.

Practice Point: With the withdraw of the proposed Code Section 2704 regulations, the use of liquidation restrictions to reduce the valuation of a closely-held family business continues to be an effective wealth transfer planning tool. For further context, we covered the initial rollout of the 2016 regulations proposed by Treasury and the withdrawal of the same.