The US Department of the Treasury has been forced to push back the filing deadline for all taxpayers' foreign bank account reports (FBARs) for the 2019 tax year, from 14 October to 31 October 2020, due to an administrative error.
FinCEN, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network unit of the Treasury Department that handles millions of FBAR reports on foreign bank accounts, posted a notice to its website saying that this year's deadline to e-file calendar year 2019 FBARs on the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) E-Filing System had been extended from Oct. 15, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020 (all FBARs must be e-filed). However, on Thursday that notice was no longer available on the FinCEN website and FinCEN had posted a notice clarifying that the extension is only available to victims of recent natural disasters (an extension that had been announced Oct. 6).
However, some taxpayers are likely to have read the incorrect posting before it was deleted, and concluded that they had another three months' grace. They will thus have missed the 15 October deadline that did, in fact, apply to them. Such taxpayers will have strong reasonable cause arguments to avoid penalties for late FBAR filings, noted US law firm Kostelanetz & Fink, which carefully took a copy of the erroneous FinCEN posting for future use.
On Friday, FinCEN apologised for Wednesday's mistaken posting and, because some filers may have missed the Oct. 15 deadline due to the notice, announced that it is extending the deadline for calendar year 2019 FBARs to Oct. 31, 2020.
"FinCEN ... has coordinated with the Internal Revenue Service to address the concerns of filers who may have missed their filing deadline due to the [incorrect] 14 October 2020 message', it said. 'Filers who file their 2019 calendar year FBAR by 31 October 2020 will be deemed to have timely filed," it said.
All US persons who possess an ownership interest, or signatory or other authority, over one or more foreign accounts with an aggregate balance exceeding $10,000 in a given year are required by law to file an FBAR. Failure to timely file an FBAR can result in civil penalties and, in willful cases, criminal prosecution.