Friday, February 03, 2017

Back-Filing Your Taxes as an Expat

Semi-useful tax info with links for Americans living abroad.

Living abroad? YES!
Not earning much yet? YES!
Assume you don't have to pay US taxes on your measly income? YES!

If you live and work abroad, you probably know that you are exempt from somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000.

Assume you don't have to file your 1040 if you meet this number? YES!

Well, you are wrong, you still need to file.

If you haven't filed, and want to get on the good side of Uncle Sam before President Trump comes looking for money to build his wall, you're in luck. The IRS implemented a system back in 2009 called the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedure. Here's their official site:

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/u-s-taxpayers-residing-outside-the-united-states

The gist is that you file the last 3 years of taxes, and 6 years of something called FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report).

First, do the FBAR thing. It's super easy because it is online (no idea why all this stuff isn't online). Cool thing is that if you had less than $10,000 in a foreign bank for a year, you don't need to file anything. Hooray for living check-to-check!

https://www.fincen.gov/resources/filing-information

Filing the last 3 years of taxes requires printing out your 1040s (the normal tax form) and 2555-EZ (used for foreign earned income exemption).

Need old forms? Get them here:

http://www.usexpattaxhelp.com/us-expat-irs-tax-forms.php

Fill out 2555-EZ before you do the 1040, as the 2555 has one instruction at the very end that is important for the 1040.

Write "STREAMLINED FOREIGN OFFSHORE" on the top of everything and mail it to:

Internal Revenue Service
3651 South I-H 35
Stop 6063 AUSC
Attn:  Streamlined Foreign Offshore
Austin, TX 78741

Pretty simple when you read it here. But I spent hours and hours scouring the net for the specifics. I guess there are all kinds of exceptions and rules for people with property, or wives, or shit like expensive gifts of which there are entire 8-page forms dedicated to.

Here's a site to look up how much your money was worth in the past:

http://www.x-rates.com/historical/

Of course, your mileage may vary, but maybe someone, somewhere will find this useful. Tax company professionals will charge a lot to do this stuff for you.

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