My wife and I are Canadians living and working in the US. Have been here long enough to be considered resident-aliens (I think, based on this substantial presence test I switched from being NRA to RA in the fall of 2015). Trying to figure out my tax return using online Turbotax software but there are questions about foreign financial accounts that I'm not sure how to answer. Do I need to file this FBAR and if so how do I do it ? Is there any benefit to filing a dual-status return (part of the year NRA and part RA?) [note: I only started working in the US in August 2015] What other considerations do I have to keep in mind? I have more than $10k in Canadian accounts.
This is partly a dupe of What is the deadline to file FBAR for a foreigner recently arrived in the US? but I think it's different enough to merit an answer.
If you became (or were) a US resident for tax purposes last year and had during the year a 'financial interest in' (i.e. own or benefit from) more than US$10k in 'financial accounts' in a country or countries other than the US, yes you must file FBAR, Foreign Bank Account Report. (Technically BSA also requires reporting by people who have 'signature authority over' such accounts and no financial interest, but Treasury has continously waived that part.)
You do not file this with the IRS. Although there is detailed information on the IRS website and there is a checkbox on Schedule B to Form 1040 to remind you, FBAR is actually filed with a different part of the Treasury Department called FinCEN through their website. Note that FinCEN collects other information besides FBAR and the rest of their website is largely about CTRs, SARs, and other confusing things; focus on the parts about FBAR.
The deadline is June 30 this year as it has been in the past. However, next year it is scheduled to change to April 15; allegedly this will be more convenient.
There is ALSO Form 8938. This is a separate and more recent law (FATCA) where you do report some foreign assets to the IRS as part of your income tax return. The threshold is higher, only if you have over $100k or $150k for a couple filing jointly (half that if separate or single, higher if living abroad, which you presently aren't), but the scope is broader, including more than just financial accounts. See the IRS comparison and the full instructions (PDF or online) and form. Since this goes on your tax return I expect TurboTax should prompt you for the necessary information and include it, although I've not done so.
Yes this information is partly duplicated which is stupid. Everybody in sight, including the National Taxpayer Advocate, has been arguing for years they should be combined, and some of the very harsh penalties (under FATCA especially) should be relaxed. Nevertheless both reports are legally required. As Mark Twain famously said: "Suppose you are a (US) congressman. And suppose you are an idiot. But I repeat myself ...."