FBAR for US Expats – A Beginner’s Guide

September 22, 2023 | | 3 minute read
Expat Tax Blog. Tax Tips for US Americans abroad.

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The FBAR for US expats holds significant importance as it is directly associated with your foreign-held bank accounts. The requirement to file depends on the amount of money you possess each calendar year. At MyExpatTaxes, we’ve crafted a comprehensive guide to help you grasp the essentials of the FBAR and navigate your responsibilities when filing taxes.

The Foreign Bank Account Report

Typically, when US expats move abroad, one of the first things they secure for themselves is a bank account. So, if you’re living abroad and have your own bank account, we term this as a ‘’foreign bank account’’ in this post.

Expat woman file FBAR and tax return together with MyExpatTaxes. Using her laptop to file FinCEN form 114.

The FBAR stands for Foreign Bank Account Report. It’s also known as FinCEN form 114 It is essentially a form that you as a US American abroad may be required to fill out. You’ll need to file it if you have a foreign bank account (or any other financial accounts) established overseas. This is especially so if you have a certain amount of money in these foreign accounts that exceeded a certain limit.

You won’t be taxed on your foreign bank account because of this specific form. Important to note is it’s actually not a tax calculation form at all. Instead, it’s purely informational for US authorities.


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How to Determine if You Need to File an FBAR

For Americans abroad with foreign bank accounts, a crucial task is to periodically review bank statements. Typically, families conduct this check weekly or monthly. We strongly advocate for regular monitoring because the balance in your bank account plays a pivotal role in determining whether you are required to file.

The minimum account threshold – or level – you as a US citizen abroad need to hold, to file for an FBAR is if you have over $10,000 combined from all your foreign bank accounts at any one time throughout the year. In order to determine you exceeded this threshold, you’ll need to periodically convert your foreign currency to US currency.

The FBAR threshold and rules are very specific. Even if you had a total of $10,010 for one day, this means you need to file this form. Yes, even with the extra $10 you had for one day, or even part of one day.

Which Accounts am I Not Required to Report?

Like many things in the US taxation world, there are always at least a few exemptions.

Some Americans abroad do not need to report an FBAR. This is due to the type of foreign financial account they own. Here are three examples of such accounts:

  • an account owned by the government
  • international financial institution
  • an account maintained by a US military account

How Filing Works

See pictures of how to file the FBAR on MyExpatTaxes!

Did you know that the FBAR for US expats is NOT managed by the IRS? It is instead operated by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). FinCEN is part of the US Department of Treasury.

In order to successfully file the FBAR, you must complete Form 114 (the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts).

The FBAR can be known as a daunting form. This is exactly why we want to make it easier for you. The best way is to sign up through our app and file it electronically. Overwhelmed? Our support team can assist you every step of the way.

Some of the input from your Foreign Bank Account Report will also need to be transferred over to our federal tax return. This type of FBAR support is already included in the MyExpatTaxes flat fee of 149€ per year for your federal tax return.

The FBAR Deadline

FBAR is due on April 15th every year to coincide with the tax date for Americans both inland and overseas. However, if you missed out on the filing date, Americans overseas have an automatic extension to file until October 15th.

But don’t think you can do nothing and file it along with your taxes at the same time. Nope! If you intend to file your FBAR and your tax return together – like you can with MyExpatTaxes – you WILL need to request a FREE extension for the October 15 deadline. Or simply file both by the June 15th due date and there’s no need for the extension.

Penalties of the FBAR for US expats

If you forgot or didn’t know about the FBAR, you may be liable to pay a fine. Unfortunately, it can be up to $10,000, per violation. If you tried to avoid filing and you get caught, fines can go up drastically. Think of $100,000 or 50% of the balance of your account during the time of the violation.

So, as you can imagine, as an American abroad, forgetting or avoiding a single document can be costly.

How would the IRS know you didn’t file an FBAR when required to do so?

When you sign up for a bank account as an American expat, you will need to sign additional forms because you are a US citizen. These forms specifically ask you for your social security number, and that you grant the IRS access in your account information.

This is how the US financial authorities are able to get information from your foreign bank account. They easily cross-reference your records to see if you didn’t file an FBAR when you had an obligation to do so.

A Solution to Missing Filing the FBAR

If you found out that you were supposed to file the FBAR but didn’t – there is a solution for you.

You can take advantage of the Streamlined Filing Procedure process, which can help you get back on track and become tax compliant with the IRS. This particular tax amnesty program helps Americans abroad make up for missed years of back taxes and prevent nasty penalties to accumulate. As long as you were innocently unaware of your filing requirements, of course.

We at MyExpatTaxes – with our award-winning expat tax software – help many expats every day with the FBAR and Streamlined Procedure. We do this for a reasonable price (about 749€). If you sign up through our app we can get started right away!

Written by Ellen M

September 22, 2023 | | 3 minute read

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