US treasury confirms FBAR deadline extensions, following clerical error

Monday, 19 October 2020
An administrative error has forced the US Department of the Treasury to push back the filing deadline for all taxpayers’ foreign bank account reports (FBARs) for the 2019 tax year, from 14 October to 31 October 2020.
Clock and hourglass

The mistake was made when the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the treasury department responsible for FBARs, updated its website last Wednesday (14 October). The week before, FinCEN had posted an announcement giving victims of various natural disasters until 31 December 2020 to file their FBARs. That announcement was genuine, but on 14 October an additional announcement was posted incorrectly stating ‘The FBAR deadline for Federal tax year 2019 has been moved from 15 Oct 2020 to 31 Dec 2020.’

That post was removed the following day (15 October), and later that day FinCEN released a further announcement clarifying that the extension to 31 December was being granted only to disaster victims. However, some taxpayers are likely to have read the incorrect posting before it was deleted, and concluded that they had another three months' grace. They will thus have missed the 15 October deadline that did, in fact, apply to them. Such taxpayers will have strong reasonable cause arguments to avoid penalties for late FBAR filings, noted US law firm Kostelanetz & Fink, which carefully took a copy of the erroneous FinCEN posting for future use.

On 16 October FinCEN put out a further clarifying statement, apologising for the error and any confusion caused, and announcing it was extending the deadline for all FBAR filers to 31 October.

'FinCEN ... has coordinated with the Internal Revenue Service to address the concerns of filers who may have missed their filing deadline due to the [incorrect] 14 October 2020 message', it said. 'Filers who file their 2019 calendar year FBAR by 31 October 2020 will be deemed to have timely filed.'

As set out in the original 6 October notice, FBAR filers impacted by recent natural disasters continue to have until 31 December 2020 to file their FBARs.


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