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comparison of form 8938 and fbar

Comparison of Form 8938 and FBAR

Last Update Date : August 14, 2018

comparison of form 8938 and fbar

The life of a human being is closely intertwined with the information in various forms, starting with our birth certificate. The various forms in our lives hold information about our health, income, education, general details (gender, age, marital status etc.), financial/bank records, etc. Every U.S. Taxpayer is aware of the forms they must file annually with the IRS. However, many American Indians or Expats are unaware of the compliance requirements of form 8938 and the filing of FBAR. While, at first glance these two forms may seem similar, the differences are many, which this guide will outline.

What is Form 8938?

Form 8938 is filed annually with your tax return to the IRS, which details the information of all your foreign financial assets and accounts. The purpose of this form is to ensure every U.S. taxpayer is compliant with tax laws and not evading taxes on income earned abroad.

What is Foreign Bank Account Reporting (FBAR)?

Foreign Bank Account Reporting (FBAR) is a simple form filed with the treasury department outlining the details of Financial accounts held in foreign financial institutions. While, Form 8938 has tax implications, FBAR is only a report outlining the details of all foreign bank accounts held by the taxpayer, so that if a person is evading taxes by hiding his/her money offshore, the IRS can catch them.

Comparison of Form 8938 and FBAR

Who Must File?

Form 8938 – U.S. Citizens and resident/ aliens (nonresident alien in special circumstances) holding financial assets which fall within the reporting thresholds.
FBAR – Any U.S. citizen, resident aliens, trusts, domestic entities and estates must report their foreign financial accounts that meet the reporting threshold limit.

Are U.S Territories Applicable?

Form 8938 – No.
FBAR – Yes

When To File?

Form 8938 – This is due on the same date as your annual income tax return, which is filed with the IRS.
FBAR – It must be filed by April 15th of every year (extension till October 15th available)

Where is it Filed?

Form 8938 – To the IRS with your annual income tax return
FBAR – Through BSA’s e-filing System.

What Must be Reported?

Form 8938 – Maximum value of all foreign assets, including financial accounts and foreign investments.
FBAR – The details of all financial accounts held in the foreign country.

What is the Reporting Threshold?

Form 8938 – The reporting threshold varies from $50,000 to $600,000 depending upon factors such as married, unmarried, joint account or single account. To see the details of the threshold, click here.
FBAR – If the total of all foreign accounts held exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year, even if is only by $1.

How are Account and Asset Values Determined?

Form 8938 – The market value can be calculated using the currency rate at the end of the taxable year, as per form 8938 instruction,
FBAR – The maximum value according to the bank account statements, converted into U.S dollar as per the exchange rate at the end of year.


Form 8938 – The penalty for non-disclosure is $10,000 with an additional $10,000 for every thirty day cycle of non-filing post receiving a notice from the IRS. Criminal prosecution is also a possibility.
FBAR – In non-willful cases, the fine can be up to $10,000 and if found that non-disclosure was intentional then penalties up to $100,000 or 50% of the account balances, whichever is greater. Criminal prosecution is also possible.

What Foreign Assets are Reportable?

Below is a list classified as assets, which are reportable under FBAR and Form 8938.

Types of Asset Form 8938 FBAR
Directly held foreign currency No No
Precious Metals No No
Jewelry, Cars, Antiques, etc. No No
Social Security from Foreign Country No No
Mutual Funds From Foreign Country Yes Yes
Domestic Mutual Funds/Securities No No
Foreign life-insurance or annuity contract containing cash value Yes Yes
Foreign equity and hedge funds Yes No
Directly held foreign real estate No No
Foreign real estate held through foreign entity No No
U.S Bank account held in a branch in a foreign country No No
Foreign Account with Signatory Authority No Yes
Foreign Stocks and Securities from a foreign country in a foreign financial institution Yes, but contents to be reported separately Yes, but contents to be reported separately
Foreign stocks and securities not in a financial account Yes No


Partnership interest in foreign country Yes No
Interest in Foreign financial assets through an entity No Yes, if ownership or beneficial interest is sufficient
Financial accounts in foreign financial institution Yes Yes

The filing of FBAR and Form 8938 is mandatory for American Indians and expats, failure to which is punishable by jail time, in certain scenarios. To ensure you report all your financial details to prevent complications in the future, enlist the aid of the experts at H&R Block India.

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