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Expat Tax Blog

Apr 11

Living Expenses Are Through the Roof – How to Deduct More Than 30% Allowance for Housing Exclusion & Reduce Tax Bill

by julie

What is the housing exclusion?

If you qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE), calculated through form 2555 on your tax return, you can also claim exclusion from gross income of your housing costs. In practice, what this means is that you can exclude far more than the $100k allocated to FEIE from your income, reducing your tax bill. Given that European living expenses have grown tremendously – this is key for those required to file a U.S tax return while living abroad.

What kind of costs qualify?

“Reasonable” expenses paid or incurred for housing outside of the U.S for you, your spouse and your dependents (assuming they lived with you). If you only qualify for FEIE for part of the year, then only the housing expenses for that part of the year are counted.

If you pay a broker fee, this is a reasonable expense. The cost of residential parking is a reasonable expense. But – if you choose to spend 3 months in the Ritz in Paris while looking for apartments and hanging at the Hemingway Bar, this is not reasonable.

Whole Story at TFX.

Mar 19

14 Tax Issues Faced by Non-US Citizens Working in the United States

by julie

1) When am I considered a US tax resident for tax purposes (ie how many days spent in the US)?

You will be considered a United States resident for tax purposes if you meet the substantial presence test for the calendar year. To meet this test, you must be physically present in the United States (U.S.) on at least:

1. 31 days during the current year, and

2. 183 days during the 3-year period that includes the current year and the 2 years immediately before that, counting:

– All the days you were present in the current year, and

– 1/3 of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, and

– 1/6 of the days you were present in the second year before the current year.

2) Do I have to declare my worldwide income (such as my foreign earned & unearned income)?

Once you meet the Substantial Presence test you become a subject to  the same filing obligations as U.S. citizen, i.e. you are required to declare your worldwide income.

Whole Story at TFX.

Mar 17

How much should retirees withdraw from their traditional 401(K) or IRA?

by julie

By April 1 of the year following the year that you turn 70½ you must start taking the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from a traditional IRA or 401(k). The amount you must withdraw is determined based on your age and account value.

If you don’t take the required amount you are at risk of an excise penalty equal to 50% of the amount you should have withdrawn but did not. This is the simple part. The difficult part is the decision whether you should withdraw only the required amount or more.

Another challenging question is when to start making withdrawals. There is a 20 year gap between the age of 59 ½ when distributions are allowed and the age of 70 ½ when they become mandatory.

How do pension distributions get taxed? Tax Deferral Explained.

Except for funds saved in a ROTH IRA, money saved in Traditional IRA and employment retirement plans are pre-tax. At the time when contributions to the plan were made, your earnings contributed to the plan were tax free. The common agreement was to pay tax later on plan distributions. This principle is called “tax deferral”.

Importantly – the tax rate on pension distributions will depend on the total taxable income of the retiree. If total income is below the taxable level then plan distributions will remain tax free for the recipients.

Whole Story at TFX.

Mar 6

How to Determine Maximum Annual Account Balance for FBAR

by julie

Due to recent changes, the FinCEN Form 114 (FBAR) due date was moved from June 30th to April 15th. As anyone who has filled out this form knows, this form requires declaration of all non-US financial accounts and the highest balance for each account during the year. Even though this sounds like an easy question to answer, it can actually be quite complex if transfers between accounts occur during the year. This article will address the frequently asked questions related to this issue.

I have transferred funds between accounts; do these balances get counted twice?

Simply put, yes.

But don’t be too concerned. It is understandable if you don’t want to appear to have more assets than you actually have, but the government is not going to give you extra scrutiny for the differences between USD 550,000 and USD 700,000. The US Department of the Treasury is aware that transfers can cause funds to be double counted.

The regulations require you to report “the maximum account value of each account” within the timespan of the FBAR reporting period. Notice that there is no reference to tieing out the balances to the total worth.

So, not only do you not need to adjust your balances to avoid double counting, but in reality it is not the correct way to do it. It is the maximum account balance of each account that must be reported.

Whole Story at TFX.

Feb 25

Tax Impact of Name Change – Whom to Contact and What Forms to Complete

by julie

While marriage is the most common reason for changing your name, it is not the only reason.

Whatever the impetus, you must now make sure that you are all set from a legal and taxation standpoint.

The primary identifier for the IRS is your social security number – and your tax return must match your Social Security records. Failure to take appropriate steps can delay your tax refund or other logistical annoyances you can avoid.

Notify Social security

– Fill out and print an Application for a Social Security Card

– Review https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ss5doc.htm for what documents you may need

Until you change your name with SSA, you must continue to file tax returns under your prior name.  This holds true even if you were married, are now divorced, and want to change your name back.

The Whole Story at TFX.