Should you pay someone to file US FBAR report for you?
If you're a US citizen, or permanent resident (aka Green Card holder), you probably know that you can't escape the long arm of the IRS just by moving overseas. You are required by US law to file a yearly tax return, and must declare your foreign earned income, whether or not you'll ever return to the US. Mad, eh!
This requirement is a little crazy if you ask me, and due to the complexity of international tax law (and the potential of income in 2+ countries) the filing requirements can get quite complicated. I've mentioned before how I used to always use TurboTax to file taxes, but while living in Ireland, I availed of the services of Taxes For Expats, when filing my US return. I've decided to lean on the expertise of these tax pro's for that very reason. I can't get my head around all the regulations, and it's not worth making a mistake.
FBAR (FinCEN Report 114)
In addition to filing taxes, you may also have other US filing requirements, the FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) being one of them.
The FBAR must be filed by people who, at any point in the calendar year, had a combined value in their foreign financial accounts of greater than $10,000. Due to the sale of a car for cash, I hit that threshold at some point, so had to file.
Being the procrastinator that I am, I left it until today, June 28th, to file. June 30th is the deadline in 2016.
The reason I'm writing this blogpost though, is not to tell you how great I am at leaving things until the last minute, but to give you a very quick way to save some money when filing your own FBAR.
The tax service that I used, Taxes For Expats (which by the way I strongly recommend, and have had a great experience with), offers to file this form for it's customers, for a fee. Their fee for this service is currently $75. I'm guessing other tax providers charge a similar amount. When filing my taxes this year, I decided to decline this service option, and file the form myself. I had briefly looked at the form online a few months back, and decided, this is something I can do myself. And, was it...?
So should you file it yourself, or pay someone to do it for you?
To file the form yourself you just need to click through to the following url: http://bsaefiling.fincen.treas.gov/NoRegFBARFiler.html
From there, you'll need to provide a few basic pieces of personal info, name, address, SS#, etc. Then you'll go through and add your foreign banking details, including the highest value for your combined accounts for the year.
I timed myself doing this earlier this evening, and from start to finish, it came to a grand total of just under 9 (yes nine) minutes. I don't know about you, but it takes me a lot longer than 9 minutes to earn $75.
I'll let you decide for yourself whether or not you should pay for this service, but I'm guessing it'll take you almost as long to gather the relevant information (bank account numbers, etc) and send it to your tax guy, as it will to just submit the form yourself. If you'd really prefer not to handle it yourself , then maybe it's worth a shot asking your tax service provider to "throw in" this quick filing as part of your overall tax filing costs.
I hope this helps!
image credit :Flickr/aidanmorgan