October 4th, 2009
09:01 PM GMT
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Forgive me for gearing this blog to a selected group of people, but if you are anything like me (which I am convinced most of you are), you procrastinate doing your taxes until days before the filing deadline.

Many Americans I know are befuddled by the new and seemingly urgent demands of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to declare all foreign accounts.  They must do so by October 15.  Sure, filing the TDF 90-22.1 form isn't a new requirement.  However, because of the crackdown on tax evaders by governments worldwide, including the United States, the IRS is tightening its rules on offshore accounts.

Here is a little quiz that I hope is helpful:

1) Is this you?

a) An American expatriate

b) A U.S. green card holder living overseas

c) A foreigner residing in the U.S.

(If the answer is YES to any of the above, keep reading.)

2) Do you have any account with the following in a country outside of the U.S.?

a) Banks

b) Brokerages

c) Mutual funds

d) Unit trusts

e) Pre-paid credit cards

f)  Business account where you sign the checks (even if the account is not in your name)

g) Any other financial account

(If the answer is YES, keep going...)

3) Look at all your account statements and find the highest balance for the calendar year for every account.  Add up the balances from all the accounts for a grand total.  How much do you get?

a) More than US$10,000

b) Less than US$10,000

(If you chose A, this blog is for you.)

So what now?  The IRS wants you to declare all your accounts.  You need to write on the form the most money you had in every account to the dollar.  (No more ranges.)  And you have to file for past years, too.  Evan Blanco, partner with Deloitte in Hong Kong, told me filers should make a good faith effort to "go back over the past six years and look at any accounts that they had anything to do with."

The penalty?  A hefty fine or, if it is deemed you willfully hid money, prison time.

So better get cracking.

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