The IRS and other U.S. agencies have long seen foreign bank accounts of U.S. persons as potential instruments for tax evasion and other violations of U.S. law. A significant tool for uncovering these violations is a requirement that persons 'subject to the jurisdiction of the United States' must annually report to the IRS any 'financial interest in, or signature or other authority over, a bank, securities or other financial account in a foreign country.' This annual report is made to the IRS on Form TD F 90-22.1 ('Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts'), often known as FBAR. Although the FBAR is filed with the IRS, subject to IRS rules, governmental uses of the reported information are not limited to tax enforcement.
The IRS revised its rules on FBARs for the calendar year 2008, significantly increasing the number of people required to file it and the number of foreign accounts required to be reported. Because penalties for failing to file complete and accurate FBARs can be heavy, these revisions have provoked widespread concern among lawyers, accountants, and their clients.
This paper, an except from the treatise, Boris I. Bittker & Lawrence Lokken,Federal Taxation of Income, Estates & Gifts, explains the current rules on FBARs.