Form 3520-A Explained: The Ultimate Resource For US Expats

Form 3520-A Explained: The Ultimate Resource for US Expats

Navigating the complexities of U.S. tax compliance and international taxation can be challenging, especially for U.S. expatriates. One form that often goes unnoticed but carries significant penalties for non-compliance is Form 3520-A. In this article, we’ll delve into what Form 3520-A is, who needs to file it, and the penalties for failing to do so.

Form 3520-A, also known as the “Annual Information Return of Foreign Trust With a U.S. Owner,” is a tax form required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to report information about foreign trusts. If you are a U.S. person who is treated as the owner of any part of the assets of a foreign trust, you are obligated to ensure that this form is filed annually as part of your income tax return.


The responsibility for filing Form 3520-A generally falls on the trustee of the foreign trust. However, if the foreign trust does not have a U.S. agent, the U.S. owner must ensure that the form is filed. A U.S. owner is defined as a U.S. person, including foreign persons who are treated as the owner of any part of the assets of a Foreign Grantor Trust under the grantor trust rules.

Form 3520-A must be filed by the 15th day of the 3rd month following the end of the trust’s tax year, usually March 15th for calendar year taxpayers. This is a crucial 3520-A filing requirement that many expats are unaware of, leading to hefty penalties.

Warning: Failure to file Form 3520-A results in an automatic $10,000 penalty assessed by the Internal Revenue Service. This is not a penalty you can appeal; it’s automatic. The IRS does not offer Abatement of Penalties for this. In our experience, this is one of the only penalties that U.S. expats consistently face because they are often unaware that the form needs to be filed by March 15th.

The form requires detailed financial information about the foreign trust and its financial accounts, including but not limited to:

The name of the trust and the U.S. owner
Identification of all U.S. beneficiaries who received distributions
A full accounting of the trust’s assets and liabilities
The trust’s income statement
Any changes in the trust’s asset composition, including foreign accounts
All transactions involving the foreign trust’s assets must be reported. This includes reportable events such as:

Contributions to and distributions from the trust
Sales and purchases of assets
Loans and loan repayments
Any other financial activities affecting the trust’s assets or foreign estate
Form 3520-A is a comprehensive document that requires various pieces of information, including:

The name, address, and taxpayer identification number of the foreign trust or foreign entity
The name and address of the U.S. agent for the foreign trust
Detailed financial statements, including an income statement and a balance sheet
Information about distributions made during the year, if any
Information about the U.S. person treated as the owner of the trust
Annual statements from the financial institution where the trust’s assets are held
While the primary focus of Form 3520-A is on foreign trusts, it’s essential to understand that the form is part of a broader framework of international taxation and reporting requirements for U.S. expats. The IRS is increasingly scrutinizing foreign accounts and assets held by U.S. persons, making it crucial to stay updated on your tax obligations.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

One common mistake is the failure to recognize the need for filing Form 3520-A or filing it after the deadline, especially among those who are new to the complexities of international taxation. Another mistake is the incorrect classification of foreign entities, which can lead to non-compliance and penalties.

Form 3520-A is a critical tax form for U.S. expats, including nonresident alien individuals, who are treated as owners of foreign trusts. The deadline for filing is March 15th, and failure to comply results in an automatic $10,000 penalty that cannot be appealed. Given the complexity of the form and the severe penalties for non-compliance, it’s highly recommended to consult a tax professional to ensure that you meet all your reporting and tax obligations. Stay informed and stay compliant to avoid unnecessary financial burdens.

At 1040 Abroad, we understand the challenges that come with this form, and we’re committed to assisting you in this journey. What sets us apart is our dedication to providing value to our clients and leads. Not only do we offer expert guidance on Form 3520-A, but we also prepare it free of charge when you choose us to handle Form 3520. Additionally, we extend the courtesy of unlimited email consultations to ensure that you have the support you need.

Your financial well-being is our priority, and we encourage you to make informed decisions to avoid unnecessary financial burdens. By partnering with us, you’re not just getting a service; you’re gaining a reliable ally in staying compliant with your tax obligations. Trust in our expertise, and let us help you navigate the complexities of tax reporting while residing abroad. Your peace of mind is worth it.

Have a question? Contact Olivier Wagner, 1040 Abroad

Olivier Wagner

Certified Public Accountant, U.S. immigrant, expat, and perpetual traveler Olivier Wagner preaches the philosophy of being a worldly American. He uses his expertise to show you how to use 100% legal strategies (beyond traditionally maligned “tax havens”) to keep your income and assets safe from the IRS. Before obtaining my U.S. citizenship and traveling all over the world, he was born and raised in France. His experience learning the intricacies of the U.S. immigration process combined with his desire to travel freely lead me to specialize in taxes for Americans living and working abroad. He helps Americans Abroad file their taxes and devise strategies that make sense for their lifestyle. These strategies encompass all aspects of registering an offshore business, opening a bank account abroad, and planning out new residencies and citizenships. He is operating the accounting firm 1040 Abroad. 1040 Abroad exists to help you make sense of an incredibly large world of possibilities. Find out more by visiting

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