dual citizen | FBAR | foreign retirement account

Cheers —

Here is a summary of my situation. I’m providing some details, as I suspect my situation isn’t entirely unique, and either someone in said similar situation will have some advice, or this thread might help someone in the future.

Here is…

1 I have dual American and Canadian nationality (Canadian by birth). One of my parents was a US citizen, and we thought it might be useful to have dual citizenship (education, employment), which it was. But now…

2 I was employed by a Canadian university from 1992 to 1997. During this period, the University made non-matching contributions to an RRSP account, which is managed by a major insurance company in Canada. There has been no account activity (beyond market-based changes) since 1998 when I moved to the United States. Current value is > US$10,000.

3 Prior to 1992, I had no US employment history and no US tax filings. As such, since I was Canadian, being paid by a Canadian university, there was no question of even filing a US return while living in Canada – despite my dual Canadian-American citizenship.

4 In ~1998, I moved to the United States. Because I moved in the middle of the year, I ended up filing income tax returns with Revenue Canada and the IRS in late 1998. To complete US taxes, I used the services H&R Block Premium Tax. At the time, we discussed “foreign income”, which was listed on the form, but no additional forms were required for the RRSP account, and there was no discussion about me having to file what anything about this account.

5 After moving to Ithaca in 1999, I continued to use H&R Block to file my taxes. In the years for which I have printed returns filed by H&R Block, there are no entries (that I can find) relating to foreign accounts. The statements reflect discussions with H&R’s tax advisors 17-20 years ago, so I don’t recall explicitly discussing the RRSP account, but it appears it was mentioned. But, there is nothing on the returns (that I can find) alerting the IRS to this account, indicating that this is probably not the case.

6 Until a few days ago (literally), I had never even heard of FBAR, and when I did, and searched, it initially seemed like it didn’t apply , as my immediate interpretation was that it applied to foreign bank accounts or foreign accounts used to invest funds made while working in the United States (for example, a businessman who uses a foreign account for certain of its earned assets). Since my RRSP was based on institutional contributions to the Canadian equivalent of an IRA, and IRAs are not taxable, and the funds were earned while I was living as a Canadian in Canada, I assumed FBAR didn’t apply (once I knew what FBAR was). In fact, that would have been my implicit assumption since ~1198, since the tax people (when I used them) never asked, and even though I saw something on the tax forms I filled out myself- even since then I just skipped that since I assumed it didn’t apply.

However, apparently this is incorrect. At this point, I’m out of my depth. Not filing an FBAR (for a considerable number of years, although I now know that penalties only accrue for 5-6 years) was absolutely ‘not deliberate’ – and since I am now at aware of FBAR and trying to figure out how to make the necessary disclosures, I’m clearly not trying to “hide anything” (now or at any time). And, I never received any communication from the IRS regarding the RRSP account, so I was not alerted that this might be an issue.

Over the past day I’ve read a bit about ‘Simplified National Offshore Procedures’ for FBAR non-compliance, but beyond that it’s clear I’ll need some professional help (or from a better knowledge of the privileges of the canteen in the prison I ‘will be sent to 😉

Any ideas/advice? Thanks in advance…

Melvin B. Baillie