CENTRAL AMERICAN COUNTRIES MOVE TO COMPLY WITH F.A.T.C.A.
While Mexico, the largest Central American nation, signed an I.G.A. in April of 2014, other Central American nations are also deciding to join the F.A.T.C.A. bandwagon. Panama, which has the greatest number of U.S. residents in Central America along with Costa Rica, are leading an effort to have Central America move towards compliance by the September 2015 deadline. In May 2014, Panama reached an agreement in substance to adopt an I.G.A., and has been treated as if an I.G.A. has been in effect since then. Costa Rica had already signed a Model 1 I.G.A. in December 2013.
Though Guatemala has not yet signed an I.G.A., many local financial institutions have registered for direct exchange with the I.R.S. under the Treasury Regulations. It was reported that nearly 100 foreign financial institutions (“F.F.I.’s”), including 18 banks, ten stock brokerages, and 28 insurance firms have registered with the I.R.S. to start sharing information by March 31, 2015, as required under the Regulations with respect to F.F.I.’s in non-I.G.A. jurisdictions. Edgar Morales, operation subdirector at banking trade group Asociación Bancaria de Guatemala, said that unlike Panama or Costa Rica, where aggregating these lists of U.S. resident account holders “will be much harder,” the process in Guatemala hasn’t been so complex because “there aren’t that many people who qualify under F.A.T.C.A. here.” Guatemala has a robust banking secrecy law that forbids banks from sharing customer data with other government institutions, and therefore banks that register with the I.R.S. have to obtain privacy waivers from customers to be able to reveal their information under F.A.T.C.A.