International Money Transfer Not Subject to Gift Tax

Q: Although I’m a naturalized US citizen, I’m originally from Argentina where most of my family still lives. I’m in the process of looking to purchase a home in California and my family is willing to help me with part of my down payment.

Can I receive a fairly large amount of money as a loan or gift from my family to buy a home in California? If so, what is the procedure and what kind of documents will I need. Should I expect to be taxed on the money I receive from my relatives?

A: As a US citizen, gifts you receive should not be taxable to you. Generally, the person that gives you a gift may be subject to taxes in the United States, but those taxes may not apply to your relatives. You relatives may want to talk to an accountant about any issues your relatives in Argentina would face regarding their accounting and tax issues there.

As far as your situation is concerned in the United States, when you receive money from Argentina, you may need to have a paper trail as to who has sent you the money and from where. In some cases, the best way to transfer money from a foreign country to you would be to have your relatives wire transfer the money to your bank account. Since the source of those funds will be from Argentina, your bank may require certain documentation from you.

Talk to an officer in the bank branch that you plan to use to receive the funds to discuss what documentation you might need to receive the funds and what information you need to give your relatives to send you the funds. If you are going to receive an amount in excess of $10,000 from your relatives, you might want all the funds to come into your account in one transaction at one time to eliminate paperwork and hassle.

Once you have complied with any bank paperwork requirements, you will also need to talk to your mortgage lender about the receipt of those funds. Usually mortgage lenders want to see more information to substantiate a large deposit of funds into an account.

Funds that have been stable in an account for six months or more might not be questioned, but if the deposit was made within that time period, your lender will want to know more about the deposit.

The lender will want to know why you received the funds, who sent you the funds, where your relatives obtained the funds that they sent you, and that the funds were given to you as a gift and not as a loan.

So if you’re just starting the process of looking for a home, have your relatives send you the funds now and letting them “cure” in your account for a while. Remember to make sure to follow all of your bank’s instructions on having the wire transfer sent from your relatives in Argentina to your bank account in the United States.