How to Report Your Foreign Bank Interest on Your US Income Tax Return

February 28, 2012 by · 309 Comments
Filed under: Foreign Income 
Rupees

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Maybe you’ve heard the stories in the news. The IRS is cracking down on persons with foreign bank accounts who don’t report their income. The penalties for not reporting can be severe. So how do you report your foreign bank account income anyway? Surprisingly, it’s not really all that hard.

The first thing to do is to take a look at your foreign bank statement. Did you earn any interest on the account? How much?

Okay, but I’m guessing your statement is in a foreign currency. So you’re going to have to use a currency conversion rate. While there are several currency exchange websites, I like to use the US Department of Treasury exchange. That’s the one the IRS links to, so when I’m working on tax forms I like to use that rate. Here’s the link: http://fms.treas.gov/intn.html#rates

When you go to the exchange site, you’ll notice that the list is by country name, in alphabetical order. So let’s say that your foreign bank account deals in rupees; we’ll scroll down until we find India-Rupee. The exchange rate for rupees on December 31, 2011 was 52.25 rupees to one US dollar. So if you had earned interest of 1000 rupees in an Indian bank, that would be the equivalent of $19.14 USD. (Because you would take 1000 and divide by 52.25. That equals 19.13876, which you’d round to $19.14.)

You’d report that interest on Schedule B of your US income tax return.

At the bottom of the Schedule B form there is a question:

At any time during 2011, did you have a financial interest in or signature authority over a financial account (such as a bank account, securities, account, or brokerage account) located in a foreign country? See instructions.

It’s a yes or no answer.  If you read the instructions, you’ll find that you don’t have to say “yes” unless your foreign bank account has had the equivalent of $10,000 USD or more in it. If your foreign bank or securities accounts do have more than $10,000 in them, you will be required to complete the FBAR form, also known as the TD F 90-22.1. (I’ll make another post about that later this week.) The FBAR is not sent with the 1040 so you can do that separately from your tax return.

 

If you are using tax software, you may find the questions to be a little different.  They may specifically ask–did you have a foreign bank account and did you have over $10,000 in that bank account.  Just answer the questions honestly and your software will guide you.

If you are filing an FBAR, the IRS wants you to list the name of the country that your bank account is in on your 1040. There’s a little blank space right after the question about foreign accounts.

And don’t forget to answer the last question about foreign trusts. To be honest, I don’t do foreign trusts, so I’ve never had to say yes. If you’re involved with a foreign trust, you’re going to want to look elsewhere to get more information. But, if you don’t have a foreign trust, you just have to remember to mark the box “no”.

Now that you see how easy it is to report your foreign interest income, you don’t have to worry about the IRS coming to call over your foreign bank account.

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