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How well do you know your FATCA?

Without really meaning to, many American expatriates as well as tax industry experts, lawyers and others have become experts on the subject of FATCA over the past decade-plus that it's been around. 

So we thought it might be fun, for a change, to mark the occasion of FATCA's coming into force eleven years ago today, by compiling a list of eleven impossible-to-resist questions about it, in order to test just how well we've all been paying attention!
See below...

(Answers on page 2; scroll to the bottom of this page and click the word "Next" in the green box, to the lower right...)    

  1. Who were FATCA's two original co-sponsors in Congress? 

  2. Name at least three countries that have yet to sign FATCA IGAs (Inter-Governmental Agreements) (although they do have "agreements in substance," according to the U.S. Treasury's website)...

  3. Although FATCA is best known for being a reporting requirement affecting banks and other non-U.S. financial institutions, individual U.S. citizens and permanent residents are also expected to comply with FATCA, if their "foreign financial assets" exceed a specific reporting threshold. They do this by filing a specific IRS form with their U.S. income tax return.

    Which form is it:

     a.) Form 3520    b.) Form 8936    c.) Form 8938   d.)  1040-X

  4. What is the current FATCA threshold amount? 

  5. Who, in 2011, said, in connection with FATCA, and FBARs: "Put frankly, Canada is not a tax haven. People do not flock to Canada to avoid paying taxes" ...? 

  6. Who said: "More non-residents [Americans abroad] could likely identify FATCA than could likely name the vice-president of the United States"...?

          a.) John Richardson, Toronto-based tax lawyer   

          b.) David Treitel, founder of American Tax Returns Ltd.

          c.) IRS commissioner Charles P. Rettig   

          d.) recently-retired National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson 

  7. What potential penalty does anyone who is found to have failed to file the form mentioned above, in question 3 – who should have filed one – face?

  8. How many "foreign" (non-U.S.) financial institutions (FFIs) have been issued Global Intermediary Identification Numbers (GIINs), registering them as FATCA compliant?

  9. Approximately how many Americans have renounced their U.S. citizenships since FATCA came into force 11 years ago today...

          a.) Fewer than 10,000   

          b.) Between 10,000 and 25,000

          c.) Between 25,000 and 45,000   

          d.) More than 45,000  

  10. In August 2020, one of the original FATCA Model 1 signatory countries announced that it had agreed to a reciprocal IGA agreement with the U.S., which it said  would enter into force on Jan. 1, 2021. Which of the following countries was it:

          a.) Sweden

        b.) Denmark

        c.) Singapore   

        d.) Israel 

  11. Are foreign retirement accounts exempt from FATCA reporting?  

Answers to the AXFNJ's eleven FATCA quiz questions

  1. New York Senator Charles Rangel (then House Ways and Means Committee chairman) and Montana Senator Max Baucus (then Senate Finance Committee chairman) 

  2. China, Haita, Peru, Parguay and Niguraga, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. The status of Russia and Monaco, among others, is unclear

  3.  Form 8938 ("Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets"

  4. The short answer is that the threshold is significantly lower for U.S. resident taxpayers than for those who live abroad; taxpayers who file jointly with their spouse, whether in the U.S. or abroad, also benefit from a higher threshold.

    Someone who lives in the U.S. and who is single or filing separately from their spouse, for example, must submit a Form 8938 if they have more than US$50,000 "of specified foreign financial assets at the end of the year."

    If they are single or filing separately from their spouse and living abroad, however, they would only need to file if they had more than US$200,000 of specified foreign financial assets at the end of the year.

    For those who file jointly with their spouse, these thresholds double.

    Someone is considered to live abroad if they are one of the following: A U.S. citizen who has been a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year; or a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident who is present in a foreign country or countries at least 330 full days during any period of 12 consecutive months that ends in the tax year being reported. (The last part of the second definition means that taxpayers cannot use the higher threshold in the year they move abroad unless they moved on Jan. 1 of the year in question.)

  5. Then-Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty  (in a letter, sent to several major U.S. publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, sought to protest at the way the U.S. was ramping up its information reporting obligations, which some Canadian banks and financial institutions had warned Canadian government officials would have potentially "profound" implications for their businesses)

  6. IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig (in a 2016 paper, “Why the Ongoing Problem with FBAR Compliance?”,  written before he became IRS commissioner in 2018)

  7. According to the IRS, failure to file a Form 8938 when one is required can result in a fixed US$10,000 penalty (and the statute of limitations for the IRS to audit the entire return will never expire, we're told). However, as this publication and others have reported, thus far just one person has been found guilty of "conspiring to defraud the United States by failing to comply" with FATCA, in the more than seven years the law has been in force. The case was decided in September, 2018.

  8. As of March 18, 2021 (today), 379,919 FFIs have GIINs

  9.  Answer: c. – "Between 25,000 and 45,000" (38,233, based on U.S. Treasury data published quarterly in the Federal Register)

  10.  Singapore. (To see the announcement, click here; to see the Superseding Model 1 Agreement, click here. (Note: There are FATCA experts who say that in spite of this apparent change, the U.S. is not in fact actually providing Singapore with the U.S. bank account data of U.S.-resident Singaporeans that Singapore banks are obliged, under the agreement, to provide the U.S. with.) 

  11.  Foreign (non-U.S.) retirement accounts are not exempt from the need to be reported by their individual account beneficiaries. For Form 8938 purposes, they are  considered a "specified financial asset." A reporting exemption does apply, however, to the financial institutions that manage American citizens' foreign (non-U.S.) pensions.

 The AXFNJ thanks everyone who helped us come up with these questions, many of whom are expat tax preparing professionals. If you also have an amazing FATCA question that you'd like to share, do send it (along with the correct answer, please!) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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