I am a recent H1B visa worker in the US (from Europe). In April 2018 I will have to submit my first income tax return statement. Due to having lived all of my life in Europe, I had (and still have) a number of oversees investments prior to my coming to the US. These include: a mutual fund, bank accounts, shares in an investment holding company, and a small share in a non-listed software company. The balance of some of these exceeds certain thresholds and so I have to file both of the following:

  • IRS Form 8938 - Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets
  • FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)

My shares in the overseas software company are (and always have been) significantly less than 10% so I think I don't have to file Form 5471.

My question is:

Is filing these forms something that US tax payers normally do on their own or would such a course of action be ill-advised and I should hire a CPA instead ?

I am not sure what the fines are in case I make an earnest attempt to disclose and accurately report everything but I still make some mistakes due to my inexperience. As such, I find it hard to do a cost-benefit analysis for hiring a CPA. To preempt being accused of being a penny pincher, I note that the total amount of my offshore investments is obviously not in the millions or else I wouldn't be asking the question.

  • 2
    I don't have statistics but I'd bet most people do this on their own, many using (retail) software as FEE1 says. But the 'non-listed company' may be a problem; you need a method of valuing it that is defensible if necessary in an audit or investigation, and that may require professional advice, unless it's so small that even an erroneous valuation is close enough no enforcer would care. Jan 24 '18 at 15:09
  • Good day Marcus! I have similar question now and would love to learn your experience? Did you manage to submit yourself or used CPA? Was it difficult? Did you have to submit also 8621 (you mentioned you had shares in an investment company)? Thank you!!!
    – Sergey
    Dec 5 '21 at 4:44

It depends on what you're comfortable with.

If you're using TurboTax, it will help you fill out IRS Form 8938. Other services should offer similar functionality. You can also find the instructions on the IRS website.

Filing the FinCEN Form 114 should be pretty straightforward.

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