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us expat tax guide – germany

Why are German banks asking if I’m a US citizen?

US citizens or green card holders residing in Germany may receive requests from their banks to confirm their US citizenship status and provide their Social Security Number (SSN).

This requirement is due to the agreements between the US and foreign financial institutions, obliging these banks to report the details of US customers to the US authorities. This process is part of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and aims at preventing tax evasion by US persons using foreign accounts.

What is the purpose of the W-9 form request from banks?

The W-9 form, or the Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification, is a critical document in this process.

A TIN is simply a Social Security Number.

Banks ask US citizens or green card holders to fill out this form to gather necessary information, including their SSN, to comply with reporting obligations under FATCA. This form serves as a declaration of US tax status to the bank and enables them to fulfill their reporting duties to the US government.

What if I’m not a US citizen or Green Card holder?

Complete Form W-8 BEN or your bank’s equivalent form to confirm you are not a US person.

Does bank reporting replace the need for FBAR filing?

No, it does not. Despite banks reporting the account details of US citizens to the US, this does not exempt individuals from their obligation to file their own FBAR if required.

The bank’s reporting is only for its own compliance, ensuring it follows international tax laws and agreements. US citizens and green card holders must still file an FBAR of their own if their foreign financial accounts exceed the reporting threshold at any point during the calendar year.

It’s important to note that a bank will not file an FBAR for a customer.

What should US citizens do in response to these requests?

US citizens should comply with their bank’s request by accurately filling out the W-9 form and returning it to them.

Additionally, US citizens should review their own filing requirements with a tax professional, including the FBAR and Form 8938 (Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets), to ensure full compliance with US tax laws.

What if I haven’t filed US tax returns for many years, or ever?

Learn about the IRS Streamlined Tax Amnesty program here.

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