Someday you may need to know how to send $1 million or more overseas. Maybe you’ll have found your dream vacation home abroad or discovered a fabulous business opportunity. Perhaps you’ll come into an inheritance that needs to cross international borders. Whatever the reason, consider the options, tax implications and fees involved in transferring a lot of money internationally.
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How do taxes play into a large money transfer?
People used to send money overseas to shelter it from taxes. It didn’t take long for the government to catch on, and the United States now has specific rules that govern its residents and their assets — within and outside of the country.
In addition to filing traditional income tax statements, US citizens with bank accounts offshore must complete a Foreign Bank Account Report by June 30 of each year that an overseas account holds $10,000 or more. The rules stipulate this requirement even if the account has a lower balance by the year’s end — which means if you transfer a large sum of money overseas, even if it is invested shortly after, it needs to be reported to the IRS. Penalties for not complying, whether by accident or on purpose, are significant. Those who mistakenly fail to report can expect fines of up to 5% of the asset value involved. For those who wait until an investigation is launched, the penalty increases to up to 50 percent.
US residents are also required to report worldwide income, including from foreign accounts and investments. You may need to factor this in when thinking about offshore business or properties.
What are the tax implications of sending a large transfer? Get everything you need to know about money transfers and the IRS.
Money transfer services with no maximum sending limit
Different considerations for different motivations
Whether you’re sending money to start a business or to study abroad, you’ll need to consider specific implications for each situation.
If you’re investing in a business, you may be required to own property in the country your offshore account or holding company is held in. That can mean significant additional costs — not just for the purchase of a residence, but also for the legal or account registration fees that may be required for setting up the holding company.
Offshore trusts, foundations or businesses can provide a way to restructure ownership of assets in the case of lawsuits or debt issues at home, making them an attractive option to protect individual assets from seizure. There are still tax implications, however, for whoever holds the assets offshore.
When sending money to children studying or working abroad or to family overseas for other reasons, you may need to consider the Gift Tax if the amount is higher than the $14,000 limit set in 2013. While the Gift Tax does not apply to dependent children, you’ll want to confirm the government’s definition of dependent, because gifts to family who are not dependents will be hit by the tax.
Laws and Legal documents you need when transferring large sums of money
How important is the exchange rate?
Given the amount of money you’re looking to send, a solid exchange rate is critical. Even minor variances in exchange rates can save — or cost you — thousands of dollars. To find the best exchange rate, first find out what the mid-market rate is for the currency you’re looking to exchange your dollars for. Use this rate as baseline to compare against the rates your bank or transfer service is offering. The closer you can get to the mid-market rate, the better the deal.
Let’s say the mid-market rate for dollars to euros is 1 USD = 0.95 EUR. Charging above the mid-market rate means a company will convert your money for less than it’s really worth — reducing the exchange rate to 1 USD = 0.90 EUR, for example. When you’re talking about a transfer of $1 million, that’s a difference of $50,000 into a pocket that’s not yours.
What is the mid-market rate?
The mid-market rate is what your money’s actually worth compared to another currency. “Mid-market” refers to the midpoint between worldwide supply and demand for that currency. Use this rate as a baseline to compare against the rates provided by your bank or transfer service. With it, you’ll discover which companies offer the best rates.
If you have time on your side, you may want to use a limit order. A limit order allows you to set a target exchange rate with a service or broker, which monitors the rates 24/7 to make sure you don’t miss it. Once exchange rates meet your target, the service or broker will contact you to complete the transfer. Services like OFX offer limit orders at no charge for minimum transfers of $30,000 to $50,000.
Should I use my local bank?
You may be tempted to turn to more traditional methods, like your local bank. However, on top of weaker exchange rates and higher fees, you’ll find that it typically takes longer for your bank to transfer money internationally. This could be a problem if your money needs to get to its destination by a certain time.
Banks too may limit the countries to which you can transfer such a large sum of money, depending on the partnerships it has established.
Using a money transfer service
Beyond major US banks are money transfer companies, such as OFX. These providers each have their own rates, transfer maximums and advantages but are typically cheaper and faster than banks. You can also track your money along each step of the transfer, with online and phone support available if you have any questions.
Rochelle has always wanted to work in Tokyo, and now she’s saved enough to make the leap to full-time resident. She needs to transfer $1 million to her Japanese bank account for a down payment on a new apartment and living expenses.
Comparing the online transfer options available for such a large amount, Rochelle finds that OFX charges no fees for overseas transfers of $5,000 or more.
|OFX||Other transfer service|
|Exchange rate||1 USD = 117.117 JPY||1 USD = 116.411 JPY|
|Processing time||1 business day||2 business days|
|Amount received in JPY||117,117,000 JPY||117,117,000 JPY|
With OFX, Rochelle saves $100 in fees and gains 706,000 yen — more than $6,000 — on the exchange rate. She also saves a day of waiting for the funds to land in her bank account.
World First International Money Transfers
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- Competitive exchange rates
- Spot contracts, forward contracts and limit orders are available
- Weekly updates on market exchange rates
What’s in the fees?
The fees that banks and other money transfer providers charge cover a number of areas. Besides transaction fees, banks and transfer services establish working arrangements in other countries to facilitate the exchange. These arrangements can siphon off your money through a variety of fees. Add to this reporting requirements that vary by country and amount you’re sending. These include the KYC (Know Your Customer) Report, Source of Funds Reporting, SAR/CTR (Suspicious Activity Report/ Currency Transaction Report) and Threshold Reporting. Each of these documents take time and resources on the part of the service provider — costs they pass on to you.
Stop paying too much when you transfer $10,000 overseas
Options to find the most affordable deal when you transfer $15,000 overseas
Compare the cost of three methods of transfers
What else do you need to know?
In cases where the US has imposed sanctions on a country, sending money can be far more complicated, though not impossible. Finding someone who can help you navigate the rules and understand the options makes a big difference.
Service providers will also limit how much you can send daily or monthly, so you’ll want to factor this into your decision. Know too that many of the rates quoted by providers may be affected by the amount you’re sending and could be negotiable, especially with larger sums. Even sending limits can be negotiated, although additional evidence and reporting may be required.
Whenever the opportunity to send a large amount of money overseas arises, compare your options, ask questions and consider exchange rates and fees that can either preserve or erode how much actually arrives on the other side.