Do you know 10 most common mistakes expats make?

  • James Smith

    But what if I, a US citizen living outside the US, am married to a foreign national who has no IRS tax ID, no SSN, who has never filed any US taxes, and whose foreign bank accounts are in her name alone (i.e., not a “joint” account)? In that case, assuming I have no accounts in my name nor any joint accounts overseas, it would seem that I as a US citizen am under no obligation to fill out the FBAR or Form 8938, correct?

    Furthermore, if a US citizen has been living outside the us for many years (nearly 20 years, for example) and who each year has been faithful in reporting his income via 1040 and 2555, but not FBAR or 8938 because he did not know of their requirement until recently, what would transpire if he suddenly started filing them on foreign bank accounts he had financial interest in?

    Reading through some posts on this subject in online forums show tales of horror about how US citizen are trying to do the right thing when they learn of filing requirements, only to be hit with huge fines of $10,000 and more. Some US citizens are even revoking their US citizenship over the matter, to ensure they are not hit with fines. It’s quite frightening and sad too seeing that most US citizens living abroad want to do the right thing when it comes to their taxes.

    Thank you.

    • Greenback

      Hello James,

      Thanks for getting in touch, we hope you enjoying the website!

      With regards to your message, if you have no financial accounts (joint or otherwise) that total over 10k, then you do not need to file an FBAR. Please note though that the FBAR is based on the total in all accounts. As such, if you have three accounts with 4K in each, then you will be required to file an FBAR for those three accounts.

      As your wife has no US liability, there is no need for her to file an FBAR.

      As far as getting caught up on your FBAR’s (if you have never filed one before), you would have to file the last six years to be considered up to date. Fortunately, we have caught up hundreds of clients on their FBAR’s and have yet to see any penalties. We have found the Treasury to be very forgiving for those who honestly did not know they had a filing obligation (and have come forward voluntarily).

      I hope this helps! If you have any additional questions, or would like to discuss this further, you may also contact us directly at info(at)

      Tabitha Paddock
      Greenback Customer Champion

  • Hello US Tax,

    Thanks for getting in touch, we are glad you are enjoying the site!

    With regards to your message, in a worst case scenario such as that, unfortunately the penalties would be assessed on the 100K as that is the balance of the account.

    The good news is that we have yet to see those type of penalties surface for the everyday expat who simply did not know of their obligation to file.

    I hope this helps!

    Tabitha Paddock