June 27, 2011
Are you a US taxpayer? Do you have at least $10,000 in overseas accounts? It’s time to put those annual disclosure statements in the mail… and quickly. Let me explain.
Each year by June 30th, US taxpayers are obliged to report all foreign financial accounts in which they have either a beneficial interest or signature authority, so long as the aggregate value of all the accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. The form is known as the FBAR.
You must accurately disclose the highest value of each account during the previous calendar year on your FBAR… so make sure you go back through your bank and brokerage statements to check.
Let me give you a few examples:
Iggy Noramus is a US citizen who keeps all of his money in the United States. He happily watches the value of his dollars depreciate and completely ignores important warning signs like the Treasury Department confiscating pension funds to make up for their budget shortfalls. Iggy does not need to file the FBAR.
Guy Sharpe is also a US citizen who took action in 2010 to set up a foreign bank account in Hong Kong after reading an issue of Sovereign Man: Confidential. He only funded the account with $1,000, figuring that he just wanted to have an overseas account ready in an emergency. Guy doesn’t need to file the FBAR either.
Dee Pockets is a US citizen with four overseas accounts. One personal account in Switzerland has just over $1 million, one business account in Singapore has $5 million, one small account in Belize has just $50, and a Cayman brokerage has $250,000. Dee must file the FBAR and declare each of the four accounts.
Goldie Bugg is another US taxpayer who established an account in 2010 with GoldMoney; she opened the account with only $8,000 at the beginning of the year, but the market value of her gold peaked at $11,500 during 2010. Goldie must file an FBAR as well.
The gold ruling is new this year, and we first reported this back in March. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Division (FinCEN) made it quite clear that any gold held in the custody of another firm or individual constituted a foreign financial account and needs to be reported on the FBAR.
Frankly I’m starting to believe that this was part of a larger movement to recast gold as a ‘financial instrument,’ subjecting precious metals to regulation, control, and potential confiscation.
Given what we’re seeing now with so many brokerages cutting off their OTC gold contracts, this hypothesis is becoming more credible. I’ll have more on this working theory in another letter.
For now, make sure that you get your FBAR’s filed in time. The Treasury Department changed its language in the instructions this year, spelling out that they expect to receive the report by June 30th, which is this coming Thursday.
The form only takes a few minutes to fill out (assuming you have the information), and the instructions are self-explanatory. Consult your tax advisor with any questions.
If you don’t have a foreign bank account yet, you really ought to consider it for four key reasons:
1) A foreign bank account often makes it much easier to diversify out of the dollar. If you believe that, excluding some short-term rallies, the dollar’s long-term trend is lower, you can easily hold foreign currencies in a foreign account.
2) Foreign banks are often much stronger, not these quasi-zombie banks propped up with deceptive accounting rules and public funds we see in the west. Singapore, for example, has never had a banking failure, ever. I’ve even recommended one bank in SMC that keeps 100% of deposits in cash equivalents.
3) Banks overseas are typically much more innovative. In the west, banks think they’re being innovative when they get a Twitter account. In Asia, you can sign up for the next big IPO from an ATM. You can send a worldwide wire transfer from your mobile. You can denominate accounts in different currencies and precious metals.
4) Foreign banks are not controlled by your government. Get sideways with a bureaucrat in your home country and see what happens to your assets; there are dozens of agencies and courts out there, whether at the state, local, or federal level, that can freeze you out of your own money with a single phone call.
They can’t do that if your money is offshore. Capital controls, fear and intimidation tactics, frivolous lawsuits, etc. have limited impact on offshore accounts. It’s often possible to apply through the mail, and I’ve seen some banks with account minimums as low as $0.
If you have any savings at all, I strongly urge you to consider moving at least a portion of it overseas for the reasons I outlined above.