Being a U.S. expat is exciting!
The lifestyle offers unique opportunities to travel, enjoy different cultures and lead a cost-efficient lifestyle. However, being an expat is more than just a holiday.
Careful consideration of financial responsibilities (health insurance, living expenses and expat taxes) is in order. Understanding tax implications is paramount to optimizing your financial situation while living abroad, so let’s take a look at notable points of interest in this regard.
Tax audits when working abroad can be a prospect of concern. When earning income in a foreign country, expats must ensure accurate reporting and compliance with tax laws. Tax authorities in both the host country and the home country may conduct audits to verify income, deductions, and other financial details.
Being prepared and keeping organized records is essential to navigate the audit process. Seek professional advice from tax experts specializing in international taxation to ensure adherence to complex tax regulations and mitigate the risk of audits. Proper tax planning and compliance will provide you with peace of mind and financial security while working abroad.
Report Foreign Bank Accounts
Additional reporting requirements may be in order for expats to own a foreign bank account. Scilicet, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) stipulates that if the aggregate value of your foreign financial accounts exceeds a pre-defined threshold, you’ll need to file FinCEN Form 114 (the FBAR). The FBAR will disclose your accounts to the US Department of the Treasury.
Defining U.S. Residents
All Americans who meet any of the following criteria are considered US residents:
- People who lived in the state for any duration during the tax year
- People who have a permanent place of residence in the state
- People with immediate family members residing in the state while they are living abroad
- People who retain voting rights, ID cards or driver’s licenses issued by the state
Additionally, Americans who have income in a state are also expected to pay state taxes. This category includes individuals who:
- Earn income in the state, regardless of where they currently reside.
- Receive pensions, retirement income, or any other government benefits from the state.
States With No State Income Expat Taxes
The following U.S. states do not levy state income taxes on expats:
- South Dakota
- Washington State
New Hampshire and Tennessee apply income tax solely on dividends and interest income.
The “Sticky States” With Rigorous Taxation Rules
On the other hand, “sticky states” like California, South Carolina, New Mexico and Virginia have strict taxation rules that may impact expats, regardless of their current location. Taxation in these states is applicable if an expat:
- Owns property within the state
- Holds bank or investment accounts in the state
- Possesses an ID card, driver’s license, or voter registration issued by the state
- Maintains a mailing address in the state
- Has dependents residing in the state
It is essential to note that tax obligations may vary significantly for expats residing in states with different tax rules. E.g., expats in Florida may experience notable differences compared to their counterparts in New Mexico.
That’s why it’s crucial for expats to fully educate themselves about tax obligations to ensure financial compliance.
Residency Rules and Tax Treaties
Different countries have their own rules for determining tax residency.
Simply put, it’s critical to understand the residency requirements of your home country and your country of residence. When setting goals in life, you should take into account this knowledge, especially if you’re planning to amass savings for the future.
Tax treaties between countries may also impact your tax liabilities (see below). They will help you prevent double taxation and help you understand which country has the primary right to tax your income.
Know Your Tax Obligations
Expat tax obligations depend on your residency status and source of income. To determine if state taxes apply to you, observe the following:
- Time spent abroad: If you lived in a state for any duration during the tax year, you may be considered a resident.
- Permanent residence: Owning a permanent residence in a state may establish residency.
- Immediate family: Having immediate family residing in the state while abroad can affect your tax status.
- State identification: Retaining voting rights, driver’s license, or ID card in the state can indicate residency.
How to Prevent Double Taxation
Preventing double taxation is essential for U.S. expats. There are multiple options available, including:
- Tax treaties: The US has tax treaties with ca. 70 countries
- Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE): Qualifying for FEIE allows you to exclude a portion of your foreign earned income from US taxes.
- Foreign Tax Credit (FTC): The FTC enables expats to claim a credit for foreign income taxes paid.
Overall, there are plenty of solutions for minimizing tax-related costs when living abroad, so make sure you consider all options.