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November 25, 2008


The IRS recently announced that starting in 2009 they will start imposing the $10,000 penalty onf corporations that file Form 5471 late or not at all. This form is required of anyone (US corporation, LLC, trust, individual or partnership) owning more than 10% of a foreign corporation. It usually includes a yearly income and expense statement and balance sheet and information on the corporation, its distributions, business, owners, etc. This form is due with the regular or extended due date of the owner's regular tax return and is attached to the regular tax return.

It appears a large number of US taxpayers operating businesses abroad (and often also living abroad) form a corporation to operate their small business, but never file this form due to lack of knowledge or neglect. Often attaching a written excuse to the form will abate the penalty but ater the end of 2008, it appears this might not be as successful as it has been.

It is entirely possible that in the future the IRS will extend the automatic penalty assessment to individuals who file Form 5471 late or fail to file it. Right now they often will waive that penalty if the taxpayer attaches a reasonable excuse.