Sending large amounts of money can be stressful, especially if you’re coming up against wire transfer limits. Before making an international wire transfer, it’s important to understand exactly what fees you may have to pay, how long it will take, and whether there are any transfer limits.
It’s also important to know any international wire transfer reporting requirements—to the IRS or other U.S. government organizations. Knowledge is power, and taking time to research your wire transfer options with a bank, credit union, or money transfer service like Remitly will help you make the right choice for you.
In this guide, we look at the tax and reporting requirements for wire transfers, both for the sender and the receiver.
What is a wire transfer?
A wire transfer is a way of moving funds electronically from one person to another. They are often used to move large amounts of money from one person or organization to another.
There are two types of wire transfers: domestic and international. Transferring money from one party to another is also known as a remittance.
You can set up a wire transfer through your bank, credit union, or through a wire transfer service provider.
Alternative payment services include Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfers, writing a check, buying a money order, or using a payment app.
Is there a wire transfer limit?
Wire transfers are regulated under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA), which does not put a limit on the amount of money a person can transfer.
However, financial institutions often impose daily transaction limits on deposits and withdrawals from accounts. It should state these limits on the wire transfer service’s website. They’re also available if you call customer service.
If you wish to send more than the limit allows, some institutions will extend or lift the limit for their account holders.
Another consideration is the requirement to declare certain transfers to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or other regulatory groups.
Do banks report international wire transfers to the government?
The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 requires U.S. financial institutions and businesses to report transactions over $10,000 to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). This is called a Currency Transaction Report (CTR). The U.S. government tracks large transactions to combat money laundering, fraud, and other crimes.
The bank, not the individuals receiving or sending the money, files cTRs. They only file these reports for large transactions of over $10,000 that occur within one business day—including deposits, withdrawals, currency exchanges, and transfers.
If you conduct multiple transactions with a bank or any of its branches in one day, the $10,000 threshold is in aggregate.
For example, if you transfer $5,200 at the bank in the morning, and then transfer another $5,000 in the afternoon, the bank would submit a CTR because your transactions for that day exceeded $10,000.
In order to make a report, the bank may need some personal details, like your Social Security number, driver’s license, or other forms of government-issued ID.
Banks are also obliged to keep records of any wire transfers over $3,000, in order to create a paper trail if needed in a future investigation.
Banks have to file a Suspicious Activity Report if they suspect transactions of any amount may relate to illegal activity.
Do I have to report a large wire transfer to the IRS?
Whether you are sending or receiving wire transfers, you should know the circumstances when you may need to report your wire transfer to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Although there is no limit to how much you can send someone with a wire transfer, as the sender, you may be subject to a gift tax. This depends on the purpose of the transfer—that the money was meant as a gift (and not as payment or exchange for goods or services, for example)—and how much you’ve sent to that person within the year.
The IRS determines an annual exclusion amount for each tax year. In 2022, that amount was $16,000, and in 2023, the amount is $17,000. This means that you can give money to a person up to that amount without paying gift tax.
For example, let’s say in 2022, you sent your mother $800 per month via wire transfer. This money was a gift, and by the end of the year, you had sent $9,600. That’s under the $16,000 annual exclusion limit for 2022, so you won’t owe gift tax.
But let’s say in 2023, you’re sending your mother $1,500 per month as a gift. By the end of the year, you’ll have sent her $18,000, so you may owe gift tax on the amount over the annual exclusion.
There are some exceptions to the gift tax. For example, if the money you’re gifting is to pay for tuition or medical expenses, it’s not considered a taxable gift. Be sure to talk with a tax advisor to determine if you need to pay gift tax.
But what if you’re the recipient of a wire transfer? If you are receiving a gift from someone who lives outside the U.S., you may have to report the payment to the IRS.
There may not be any tax to pay, and there is no limit on how much you can receive. But if you are given a sum of money above $100,000, file Form 3520 at the end of the tax year, separate from your tax return.
If you are making a bank transfer from one of your own accounts in another country to your U.S. account, again, there is no maximum amount to how much you can send according to the IRS.
However, if you are a U.S. resident with over $10,000 in accounts outside the country, you need to declare all your foreign bank accounts in a filing to the IRS known as an FBAR. This falls under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.
What information do I need to make a wire transfer?
You will first need to choose a money transfer service. This could be the bank that you have a checking, savings, or money market account with or a money transfer service like Remitly.
For a domestic bank wire, you must provide the recipient’s name, address, bank account number, and routing number.
For an international transfer to a bank account, you will need the person’s name, address, and bank name and account number. For some transfers, you might need the BIC or SWIFT code, which are identification codes for international banks.
If you are making an international wire transfer to a person for cash pickup,, you will need the person’s name and the location where you want the cash picked up.
If you want someone to wire money to you, they will need your account information.
The bank or wire transfer service may need additional information from the sender, like a government-issued I.D., plus your address, in order to verify your identity.
How much will a wire transfer cost?
The answer to this depends on the organization making the transfer and your account type. However, under the EFTA, all the fees—including those of other banks or institutions involved in the transaction—must be clearly stated upfront.
Before setting up a wire transfer, go to the website or call the customer service center for a breakdown of all the fees and costs associated with the transaction.
Domestic wire transfers are considered a simple banking operation, and some banks will offer this service for free. However, international money transfers involve moving money between countries, and this can be more complex.
For an international wire transfer, there are two types of costs to look out for. The first is the transfer fee. This could be a percentage of the dollar amount you wish to transfer or a set wire transfer fee.
The second is the exchange rate. This is the rate at which the bank converts your home currency to foreign currency.
Another important thing to note is that the receiving bank may charge an incoming wire transfer fee.
When deciding what service to use to make an international wire transfer, consider both types of costs and select a service that can clearly explain how much of your money will end up in your recipient’s pocket.
How long does a wire transfer take?
A domestic wire can be processed quickly, perhaps as soon as the same day or the next business day. However, an international wire could take longer, often several business days.
This is because cross-border transfers may have to go through an intermediary bank, undergo compliance checks, or go through a slower banking system. There are also different time zones to consider.
Because of these potential delays, it’s essential to choose a money transfer service that can track your transfer in real time.
Is there a better way to send money internationally?
A wire is a safe and convenient way to send money to another person within the same country or internationally. When sending money abroad to friends and family, or to yourself, it’s important to use the right money transfer service.
Remitly offers transparent pricing and affordable fees, so you know how much your friend or family will receive and when. Download the mobile app today, and start sending money with Remitly.