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Discussion Starter #1
Dear everyone, I have a question, hopefully you can help me answer it!

I've lived in the Netherlands for about 13 years, ever since I graduated high school. Last year I found out about my filing obligations, so I sent in the 1040 and 2555-EZ forms for 2013. This year (for 2014) I did the same thing, claiming the automatic 2 month extension to file, since that applies to my situation. I sent them using the Dutch postal service and asked for a tracking number receipt so I could make sure that the forms got there. Unfortunately, due to some changes with how the postal service tracks mailings, it's unclear if my forms were actually delivered to the IRS - no one at the postal service is able to tell me that. Apparently, nowadays they are only able to track post up to a certain point. So my forms my have been develivered or they may have been lost in transit. There's no way of telling. So now I'm not sure what to do: Should I send the forms in again or just hope that they got there? If I send the forms via express post with the same service but without a tracking number, they'll make it before June 15th. But then it might look weird that I sent them twice, that is, if they did in fact get there.

It might be worth mentioning that I don't owe the IRS a payment and the physical presence test applies to me, haven't been back to the US in years, and I don't earn that much either - just graduated college like two years ago. My situation is a relatively simple one, no big bank accounts or the like.

Advice is greatly appreciated!
 

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Tracking forms sent to the IRS is a notoriously difficult task in any event. I've always just sent my forms in regular mail from France, Germany or if I'm planning a trip back to the US in the first 4 or 5 months of the year, sometimes I just mail them from the US (cheaper postage). As long as you owe nothing, I'd just assume they got them until and unless you hear differently from them.

Obviously, you keep copies of everything you sent, and that's the end of it. Now, if you wind up with a more complicated filing, owe money, or have other "unusual" circumstances, you may want to consider another way of sending them in. But it's rare that the question ever comes up in simple cases where nothing is owed.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you very much for the advice. That helps a lot!

I wasn't aware of the FinCEN Form 114 / FBAR. After some further browsing on the forum I also see that I should have filled in a Schedule B, Part III for both 2013 and 2014, since I have two small accounts and some retirements stuff. I seemed to have misread the 1040 instructions. In the paragraph describing Schedule B, Part III, I thought they were saying that that was the same thing as form 8938, and when I read the instructions for that form, I thought I fell under the reporting thresholds and didn't have to fill anything in. :-(

At points during the last 6 years, I may have crossed the $10,000 mark for the FBAR, but I mean we're talking like a few hundred or thousand at the very most - if I total both accounts and retirement plans - not tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. I'll have to check statements.

Due to this all, still a few more questions:

1) What do I do to amend the 2013 and 2014 (1040 and 2555-EZ forms) to reflect the schedule B, Part III? Is there another form to fill in to amend these forms or should I just resend those forms? (Assuming they even got the 2014 forms, of course.) I could wait a couple of weeks and get receipts for both years to be absolutely sure like poster above said.

2) I read on the forum that it's a good idea to back file tax forms for 3 years and FBARs for 6 years. But to which year do I have to go back to - since the first year I filled anything at all in was 2013? Or should I start counting from this year or last year?

3) I saw that on the FBARs you have to report retirement / pension in some cases. I have 2 seperate plans. They're both defined contribution plans. What I've built up in both of them isn't very much right now. Nonetheless I'm guessing I have to report those too, right?

4) If I do, then only problem is that I miss some of the yearly and monthly statements for one of the retirement plans. Can I get away with making educated guesses for what the worth was for the missing years or is there a better way to approach this? Getting statements over previous years from the reponsible organization is most likely not possible.

5) Any other general information on how to approach correcting these mistakes and getting everything up to date is much appreciated. So I just make quiet disclosures and send in the forms without going into some disclosure program right?

Thank you in advance!
 

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OK, first of all, don't panic. Unless somehow you owed thousands of dollars in back taxes over the past few years, the fact that you didn't file the Schedule B isn't really going to cause any problems. (And actually, you can't "amend" a return unless you need to adjust the amount due - either to you or to the IRS.)

Officially, to go under the "streamlined compliance" procedure, you need to file "current year plus three back years" - so in your case, 2014 (the current year) and then 2013, 2012 and 2011. Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures The streamlined program is simple enough - basically just marking up your back filings to indicate that you're filing under the streamlined program. (You can indicate in your cover letter that you already filed 2013.)

For the FBARs/FinCEN, if you want to get up to date, then file 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009. But only for those years in which the total of all your overseas accounts exceeded $10,000. And yes, a good faith estimate based on whatever documents you do have is perfectly acceptable. (You can always add a couple thousand to whatever you estimate - there is no "max total" in US $ that they can reasonably compare to, and if you're over by a little bit, there's no penalty.) Do keep a record of how you came up with your good faith estimate. If there is ever a question (and it's highly unlikely there will be), you can show them where you got the number you reported, even down to the "and then I added $5000 just to be on the safe side."

If the retirement plans are the sort of thing where you could access the money you have in the plan (say, if you change employers) before retirement age, then yes, it probably should be reported. But keep it simple. If they want more information they'll come back to you - the main thing is to disclose.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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Discussion Starter #6
Thank do much for your answers. I had a few more questions though:

Can I file the FBAR online for 2014 and then proceed to fill out the other returns and FBAR for previous years later on the Streamlined program, like in three weeks or a month? It's been somewhat of a hassel trying to find statements for the previous years, this year itsn't a problem though.
Or is this going to cause me trouble and should I just do it all at once? I got kind of scared reading the instructions, because they said if you make a mistake on the forms, then they won't accept you into the Streamlined program.
The more rational side of me says I'm not interesting for the IRS having just graduated college and no big bank accounts even though there may be years where it passed the 10,000 mark, despite the fact that I just didn't know about all this, but you never know!

Also does anyone have the most up-to-date link for the IRS website? When I search I seem to find different pages with instructions about what steps I have to take. I wanted to post the link here, but the system won't let me for some reason.

Again, thank you so much!
 

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Can I file the FBAR online for 2014 and then proceed to fill out the other returns and FBAR for previous years later on the Streamlined program, like in three weeks or a month?
FinCEN Form 114 always goes directly to FinCEN, not the IRS. So whether you participate in the IRS's Streamlined Program or not, you file FinCEN Form 114 (current and previous years) the same way.

Yes, you can delay your previous years' FinCEN e-filings if necessary. However, I wouldn't delay *too* long. The U.S. Treasury (FinCEN) is always free, even today, to send you a letter of inquiry asking why you haven't filed if/when they are sufficiently motivated. It's clearly best if you file truthfully before they ask.

It's been somewhat of a hassel trying to find statements for the previous years, this year itsn't a problem though.
Sure, but as long as you're taking a reasonable, best estimate, even if that estimate is too high, that's fine. FinCEN Form 114 doesn't require you to provide financial statements. It doesn't even require you to have them.

For example, if you know (for sure) that you've never had more funds in your account(s) than you've had in 2014, then one perfectly acceptable approach is to report the 2014 high balance figures for prior years as well. There is no penalty for overreporting. And note also that you are not required to file for any years when you did not meet the filing threshold.

If you inadvertently make a "terrible" mistake and forgot about those gambling winnings or tuition payment that passed through your account, so the balance you reported was too low, you can file an amended report -- the e-filing system allows that, too.

Make a good faith effort to be truthful, quite simply.
 
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