Over the past
20 years, banks, casinos, brokerages, and many other financial businesses have
filed millions of paper forms with FinCEN. Many large and sophisticated firms eventually
started using magnetic tape, but even with these advances millions of paper forms
still had to be reviewed and manually keyed into the FinCEN Database. Last year
alone, financial institutions and individuals filed more than 17 million separate
reports with FinCEN and more than 2 million of those were on paper. Although a
variety of reports are required under FinCEN’s regulations, the majority of these
fall into two categories. The first category covers Currency Transaction
Reports (CTRs), which are filed in connection with cash transactions involving
currency exceeding $10,000. The second category focuses on Suspicious Activity
Reports (SARs) which are filed in connection with transactions that financial
institutions know, or have reason to suspect, may be related to illicit
activity. FinCEN reports create a financial trail
that law enforcement and intelligence agencies use to track criminal and
terrorist networks, and their activities and assets. These reports help detect
and deter illicit activity, including money laundering, the financing of
terrorist activity, and many other types of fraud.
ago, FinCEN started encouraging financial institutions to use its free,
Web-based system known as the Bank Secrecy Act Electronic Filing System (BSA
E-Filing) in an attempt to cut down on paper reports.
In September 2011, FinCEN proposed that nearly all FinCEN reports be
electronically filed. After an extensive review of comments and suggestions
from the industry and the public, FinCEN reaffirmed this requirement in
February 2012. As of July 1, 2012, FinCEN is no longer accepting most paper filings,
and has considered extensions and exemptions only in certain circumstances.
supports Treasury’s flagship initiative of moving toward a paperless Treasury.
It also allows for greater data security and privacy compared with paper forms,
ensures compatibility with future versions of FinCEN reports, and allows
quicker access to investigators. E-Filing also positively impacts the public by
reducing government and industry costs and the environmental waste of paper
forms. This will save the U.S. Government millions of dollars per year through
the reduction of expenditures associated with paper processing, in particular
the physical intake and sorting of incoming reports, and the manual keying of
reported information into FinCEN’s database.
FinCEN reports fall within the electronic filing mandate. For practical
reasons, the Currency and Monetary Instrument Report (CMIR), which is most
often completed by individuals upon physically crossing the border into the
United States, and paper versions of FinCEN Form 8300 (Report of Cash Payments
Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business) are not included in the mandate. In
addition, while FinCEN strongly encourages individuals to electronically file Reports
of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs), FinCEN has granted an exemption
for mandatory FBAR E-Filing until June 30, 2013.
committed to working with financial institutions to increase their
understanding of the value of E-Filing and to ease their transition to the
modernized and more efficient system.
FinCEN has issued
a brochure that highlights the benefits of
E-Filing, and has prepared an instructional presentation on how to file electronically. To
become an E-Filer, visit the E-Filing System and click Become a BSA E-Filer. Follow the instructions to enroll as a financial
institution or as an individual (if filing the FBAR). If your organization has
already enrolled in E-Filing, contact your supervisory user to obtain
instructions for enrolling yourself as a general user. For technology-related
questions specific to E-Filing, please call the E-Filing Help desk at
Steve Hudak is FinCEN’s Chief of