The Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday it has updated its FATCA Foreign Financial Institution List to coincide with the rollout of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.
The IRS cautioned that if users have downloaded a list prior to 10:00 am Eastern Time, they should download the list again here. For future downloads, the IRS also cautioned users to note the date on the Web site that states when the list was last updated. The current update is as of June 24, 2014
FATCA was enacted as part of the HIRE Act of 2010 to target noncompliance by U.S. citizens of tax obligations using foreign accounts. Since that time, the Treasury noted that FATCA has gained broad support among the U.S.’s international partners, including many of the world’s largest financial centers, and is poised for a strong start. Tuesday, July 1, was the date when foreign financial institutions that have not taken steps to comply with the law’s requirements run the risk of tax withholding penalties of up to 30 percent on their U.S. source income (see FATCA Tax Withholding Deadline Takes Effect and Offshore Crackdown Kicks Off with 30% Tax Penalties for Banks).
“Over the past several years, FATCA has become the global standard in combatting international tax evasion and promoting transparency, and today this important initiative goes into effect,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Tax Affairs Robert B. Stack in a statement. “With FATCA agreements treated as in effect with nearly 100 jurisdictions and more than 80,000 financial institutions already registered to comply with the IRS, the international support for FATCA is without question. We will continue to work with our international partners in our efforts to crack down on international tax evasion and create a fairer and more transparent global tax system.”
The law has provoked controversy, however, and the IRS and Treasury Department have needed to soften and delay a number of the requirements, while the Treasury has worked to negotiate intergovernmental agreements with other countries to share information with their tax authorities.
Other countries have complained that the law could violate their banking privacy and secrecy protections. Instead of providing information directly to the U.S., under the agreements their nations have negotiated with the Treasury, the banks are instead providing the information to their own countries’ tax authorities, which in turn share it with the IRS. U.S. expatriates and dual citizens have also encountered difficulties with maintaining bank accounts abroad, and the law has been blamed for prompting a record number of renunciations of U.S. citizenship in recent years.
“Since its enactment in 2010, FATCA, which goes into effect today, has been long criticized for imposing massive burdens on financial institutions in areas such as recordkeeping and reporting,” said Thomas Long, senior tax analyst with the Tax & Accounting Business of Thomson Reuters. “The new requirements have essentially required many institutions to completely overhaul their systems, and the IRS has continued to release new forms and guidance up until the last minute, adding both complexity and time pressure to an already difficult situation.”
With FATCA, the IRS and Treasury Department are seeking to obtain information on accounts held by U.S. taxpayers in other countries. Governments have two options for complying with FATCA: they can either permit their FFIs to enter into agreements with the IRS to provide the required information or they can themselves enter into one of two alternative Model Intergovernmental Agreements, or IGAs, with the United States. If foreign financial institutions, or FFIs, do not agree to identify and report information on U.S. account holders, FATCA requires payors to withhold a portion of certain U.S. source payments made to those FFIs.
Under a Model 1 agreement, FFIs report the relevant information to their respective governments, which then relay that information to the IRS. In contrast, a Model 2 agreement contemplates that FFIs will provide relevant information to the IRS themselves, with government-to-government cooperation serving to facilitate reporting when necessary to overcome specific legal impediments.
“To ease the burdens of FATCA implementation and compliance, the U.S. has issued two model intergovernmental agreements to be implemented between the U.S. and other countries,” said Long. “These agreements represent an alternate means to implement FATCA that address difficulties with foreign laws that may prevent foreign financial institutions from complying with the terms of a FATCA agreement. As the final weeks of June drew to a close, a flurry of jurisdictions reached agreements with the U.S. to cooperate with the FATCA provisions, bringing the total to about 90 countries.”
Financial institutions in countries that have not signed intergovernmental agreements with the United States must register with the IRS and enter into a so-called “FFI Agreement” or be subject to 30 percent withholding on certain payments from the U.S.
“In general, U.S. taxpayers are taxed on a worldwide basis, meaning that they are fully taxable on their income from both within and outside of the U.S.,” said Long. “FATCA is intended to better allow the U.S. to keep track of U.S. taxpayers’ foreign accounts and collect taxes owed thereon, and also provide greater transparency in the banking industry worldwide. FATCA requires withholding agents to withhold 30 percent of certain payments to a foreign financial institution unless it has entered into an agreement with the IRS to, among other things, report certain information with respect to U.S. accounts. The withholding rules are essentially a mechanism to enforce new reporting requirements.”
Many foreign banks will not need to worry about strict enforcement for 2014 and 2015, as the IRS said it would ease enforcement for those FFIs that have demonstrated good faith efforts to comply with the law.
“In May, the IRS issued new guidance stating that, for the 2014 and 2015 calendar years, in enforcing FATCA provisions that were modified earlier in 2014, it would consider not only whether a person subject to those provisions actually complied with them but also whether the person made good made efforts to do so,” said Long. “This can be viewed as a concession of sorts that not only are the new FATCA requirements extremely complex, but they have been continuously modified so as to make compliance extremely difficult even for persons who make every effort to do so.”