How Do I File My US Taxes from Abroad?

Tax time is a stressful period for pretty much everybody, but it can be doubly so for U.S. taxpayers living outside the United States. As though the process of filing your U.S. taxes wasn’t complicated enough, doing so from abroad likely means having to submit a greater number of forms to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) along with other government agencies. Even when you know exactly what to file, however, ensuring that your submissions are free of mistakes and that they get to the right offices can be tough when you’re located half a world away, which is why it might be a good idea to retain the services of an international tax accountant with experience helping U.S. expats living abroad. To learn more about how to file your U.S. taxes from abroad and how a qualified professional can assist with that process, keep reading as the team at US Tax Help explains.

What Forms Do I Need to File My US Taxes from Abroad?

One of the first questions most expats have when it comes to filing their taxes is what forms they’ll need to fill out to fully comply with the expectations of the IRS. Many people don’t know this, but moving abroad does not exempt a U.S. citizen from having to file a tax return, even if they made 100% of their income in another country. This means that U.S. expats filing a tax return will need to turn in either IRS Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, or Form 1040-SR, U.S. Tax Return for Seniors. In addition, those who fall into one of the following categories may need to amend their return with one of the schedules listed below:

  • Expats with supplemental income from sources like unemployment compensation or gambling winnings or who are claiming deductions for things like student loan interest or educator expenses must file Schedule 1 with Form 1040.
  • Those who owe non-standard taxes, such as self-employment taxes or taxes on retirement plans, must submit Schedule 2 with their tax return.
  • Expats who are claiming a credit other than those on Form 1040 – including the foreign tax credit – or who have additional payments to submit must file Schedule 3.

Because most expats have bank accounts in other countries, many have to meet certain reporting requirements in addition to the standard income tax return when filing their U.S. taxes from abroad. The two most important of these are the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) or IRS Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets – part of the requirements for the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

Of these, the FBAR will likely apply to far more taxpayers, as the thresholds for this requirement are much lower. American expats with more than $10,000 in bank accounts they own or control will have to file one of these reports, which they can do electronically using FinCEN Form 114, a form available through the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s BSA E-Filing System.

The second report, IRS Form 8938, is required for those taxpayers who have hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign financial assets. Any expat filing individually who has more than $200,000 in assets at the end of the year or more than $300,000 in assets at any point during the year must file this form; for married expats filing together, these thresholds are doubled.

Depending on other factors, taxpayers filing from abroad will likely want to submit additional forms as well, especially if they want to exclude their foreign earned income from taxation (IRS Form 2555) or claim a foreign tax credit (IRS Form 1116). A qualified international tax specialist can help you determine what submissions are required in your case.

When and How to File US Taxes from Abroad

Almost every adult American should be familiar with the standard April 15 tax filing deadline, but expats should know that there are some special considerations given to those filing their U.S. taxes from abroad. Perhaps the most useful advantage here is the automatic two-month extension granted to taxpayers living overseas, pushing their effective filing deadline to June 15 in most cases. However, it’s important to note that, while late filing penalties will not be assessed until after the automatic extension, interest on any amount owed will begin to accumulate starting on April 15, so waiting to pay could cost you money.

Another piece of good news for expats is that there are a number of ways in which you can file your taxes from anywhere in the world. For instance, a virtual accountant for U.S. tax filing can lend professional expertise to your filing process, reducing your tax liability and ensuring that no mistakes are made; all you need is a computer and an Internet connection. For those who prefer to mail their forms personally, the IRS suggests the use of private delivery services – such as DHL Express, UPS Next Day Air, or FedEx Overnight – to ensure that you meet the standards for timely mailing and filing set by the agency; more information about this is available on the IRS website.

Experienced International Accountant for Filing U.S. Taxes from Abroad

When tax time rolls around, no one wants to be left scrambling to figure out what they have to file or when it’s due. If you are a U.S. citizen filing their taxes from abroad, contact the skilled team of international tax accounts at US Tax Help for the support you need to ensure that your taxes are filed in a timely and accurate manner from anywhere in the world. To learn more about what we do or schedule your first consultation, visit the US Tax Help website or call (541) 362-9127 today.