Posted: 2:33 am ET
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Extracted from CRS #R44616 – FATCA Reporting on U.S. Accounts: Recent Legal Developments via Secrecy News:
Enacted in 2010, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is intended to curb U.S. tax evasion occurring through the use of offshore accounts. Key among its provisions is the requirement that foreign financial institutions (FFIs), such as foreign banks and hedge funds, report information on their U.S. account holders to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). FFIs that fail to comply will have tax withheld at a rate of 30% on many payments made to them from U.S. sources, including interest and dividends.
Since FATCA’s passage, there has been international criticism of the FFI provisions, generally focused on whether the United States was correct to take FATCA’s unilateral approach. Questions have arisen about whether FATCA’s requirements are inconsistent with existing U.S. treaty obligations; how to handle potential conflict of law issues arising when an FFI is faced with complying with FATCA or its home country’s domestic (e.g., banking and privacy) laws; and whether the United States has intruded into other countries’ sovereignty.
Recognizing that these concerns could affect the success of FATCA, the United States has entered into bilateral intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) with numerous countries in order to implement the FFI requirements. Under some of these agreements, FFIs report information on their U.S. account holders to their home country, which then provides the information to the IRS. In general, for those FFIs that are not covered by such an agreement, FATCA requires that they report the information directly to the IRS.
As of August 1, 2016, there are 63 IGAs that are currently in force. Additionally, the United States treats certain countries as having an IGA in effect even though the country has not taken all the steps necessary to actually bring the agreement into force. In July 2016, the IRS made a significant announcement regarding these countries: they will stop being treated as having an IGA in effect in 2017 unless they comply with certain requirements by December 31, 2016. Among other things, the country must explain why the IGA is not yet in force and provide a step-by-step timeline for doing so. The Treasury Department and the IRS will then decide whether it is appropriate to continue to treat the country as having an IGA in effect.