Copyright 2012 by John T. Reed
If you had or have foreign financial accounts that, in the aggregate, had more than $10,000 in 2011, you must file an FBAR form (Form TD F 90-22.1) with the U.S. Treasury by June 30.
It must arrive by that date, not just be postmarked by that date. You can fedEx it to them or hand carry it to any IRS office. The addresses for mailing or Fedexing the form are in the instructions for the form at the link I provided above. Severe penalties. Yadda Yadda
You can get help, as I did, on making sure you do it correctly by calling 866-270-0733.
Generally on a joint account, you are the filer (page 1) and your spouse is the joint account owner (Part III page 3). Both of you have to sign it. If you have separate accounts, each of you is the filer and need to file separate forms.
I have three accounts in Canada: 1 U.S. dollar checking, 1 Canadian dollar checking, and 1 GIC Canadian dollar account that earns interest. Initially, I only reported about the latter because the other two are just used to convert U.S. dollars to Canadian dollars. But after further research, I suspected, and the lady at 866-270-0733 confirmed, that I have to list all three on the form.
You have to file this form annually as long as you have $10,000 or more in U.S. dollar value (no matter the currency in which it is held) in foreign financial accounts. Severe penalties if you screw it up. Of course the “penalty” for not having foreign bank accounts is far more severe if the U.S. gets hyperinflation. So get the accounts and don’t screw up the reporting.
You also have to mention this on your annual Form 1040 (Schedule B Part III Line 7).
If your accounts add up to certain larger amounts, e.g., $100,000 married filing jointly on the last day of the year or $150,000 on any day of the year (again in U.S. dollars not the foreign currency) you must also file Form 8938. The threshold amount varies according to your marital and other filing status. That is part of your regular 1040 form. Form 8938 is in addition to Form TD F 90-22.1, not instead of it.
Read the instructions for these forms and maybe a web page or two about them carefully. These forms approach things a little differently from regular IRS forms. Severe penalties and all that.
John T. Reed