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Foreign Asset Reporting And U.S. Territories

By Usman Mohammad
The ABA Tax Times
Vol. 39 No. 3 – Spring 2020

Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, The United States Virgin Islands, The Northern Mariana Islands—these are all United States territories or possessions. Individuals born in these territories are deemed by law to be either United States citizens or United States nationals. Yet these locations are separated from the contiguous United States by vast bodies of water. Many U.S. citizens from the contiguous United States have never been to any of the territories. Travel from the contiguous United States to any one of these territories involves a multiple-hour trip by either air or sea. In many ways, these locations seem foreign and exotic to most Americans.

The FBAR, Form 8938, Form 3520, Form 5471, Form 8621—these are all information reporting forms used to report various types of foreign assets to different bureaus within the U.S. Department of the Treasury, such as the Internal Revenue Service (the IRS) or the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen). When most people think of “foreign” assets, they think of assets located in foreign countries, such as Switzerland, Israel, China, the United Kingdom, or Russia.

What about an asset—such as a bank account—located in a U.S. territory or possession? Is it a foreign or a domestic asset? The answer, unfortunately, is not so simple.