Personal taxes


What Do I Need to Know About Expat Taxes for American Citizens Abroad?

12 Minutes Read

Exploring US Expat Taxes in 2024: What Do You Need to Know About Filing US Taxes for Expats and American Citizens Abroad?



Did you know that the Association of Americans Resident Overseas reports a 13% surge in the number of Americans living overseas from 2018 to 2023, reaching over 5.4 million?

As an expat, navigating the complexities of US tax laws can be daunting. This article will guide you through everything you need to know about expat taxes, ensuring you are well-prepared and compliant.

Do You Need to File a U.S. Tax Return if You Live Abroad?

What is expat taxes?

Yes, US citizens must file a U.S. tax return regardless of where they live if their income exceeds certain thresholds. For the 2024 tax year, the minimum gross income thresholds are:

  • 10% Tax Rate:
    • Single: $0 to $11,000
    • Head of Household: $0 to $15,700
    • Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow: $0 to $22,000
    • Married Filing Separately: $0 to $11,000
  • 12% Tax Rate:
    • Single: $11,001 to $44,725
    • Head of Household: $15,701 to $59,850
    • Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow: $22,001 to $89,450
    • Married Filing Separately: $11,601 to $47,150
  • 22% Tax Rate:
    • Single: $44,726 to $100,525
    • Head of Household: $59,851 to $100,500
    • Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow: $89,451 to $201,050
    • Married Filing Separately: $44,726 to $100,525
  • 24% Tax Rate:
    • Single: $100,526 to $191,950
    • Head of Household: $100,501 to $191,950
    • Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow: $201,051 to $383,900
    • Married Filing Separately: $100,526 to $191,950
  • 32% Tax Rate:
    • Single: $191,951 to $243,725
    • Head of Household: $191,951 to $243,700
    • Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow: $383,901 to $487,450
    • Married Filing Separately: $191,951 to $243,725
  • 35% Tax Rate:
    • Single: $243,726 to $609,350
    • Head of Household: $243,701 to $609,350
    • Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow: $487,451 to $731,200
    • Married Filing Separately: $243,726 to $365,600
  • 37% Tax Rate:
    • Single: $609,351 or more
    • Head of Household: $609,351 or more
    • Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow: $731,201 or more
    • Married Filing Separately: $365,601 or more

Even if expats don’t owe taxes due to foreign tax credits or the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, they still must file a US tax return. Misunderstanding this can lead to complications for American expats.

How Does the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion Benefit You?

The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) allows qualifying American expats to exclude up to $126,500 (2024 tax year) of foreign earned income from US taxation. To qualify, you must:

  • Have a tax home outside of the U.S.
  • Meet the Bona Fide Residence Test (a full tax year) or the Physical Presence Test (330 full days out of 12 consecutive months).

This exclusion helps reduce taxable income significantly but doesn’t exempt you from filing a tax return or paying state taxes. Expats need to know these rules to manage their tax situation properly.

Further reading: What is IRS Tax Form 1040NR for Non-Resident Aliens: Understanding Taxation for Nonresident Aliens and Resident Aliens by Internal Revenue Service

What Tax Forms Do You Need to File as an Expat?

Essential tax forms include:

  • Form 2555: To claim the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.
  • Form 1116: To claim the Foreign Tax Credit.
  • FBAR (FinCEN Form 114): To report foreign bank accounts if their combined value exceeds $10,000.
  • Form 8938: To report specified foreign financial assets if they exceed certain thresholds ($200,000 for single filers, $400,000 for joint filers living abroad).

Expats should use tax software or consult with expat tax services to ensure they include all necessary forms and meet filing requirements.

What Are the Specific Tax Filing Requirements for Expats?

When Is the Tax Deadline for Expats?

American expats receive an automatic extension to June 15th to file their federal tax return, but taxes owed are still due by April 15th to avoid interest. You can request a further extension to October 15th using Form 4868.

How Do You Handle State Taxes While Living Abroad?

State tax obligations depend on your last state of residence. Some states, like California and New York, aggressively tax residents who live abroad, while others, like Texas and Florida, have no state income tax.

Expats need to know their state’s specific rules and consider declaring non-residency if applicable. Understanding state tax rules is vital for U.S. citizens living abroad.

Do Self-Employed Expats Have Different Filing Requirements?

Yes, self-employed expats must pay self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare taxes) if net earnings are $400 or more. They may also deduct business expenses and claim the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and Foreign Tax Credit.

Strategies include making estimated tax payments using Form 1040-ES and keeping detailed records of all business expenses. Self-employed expats face unique tax filing requirements.

What Tax Benefits Are Available for U.S. Expats?

How Can the Foreign Tax Credit Reduce Your Tax Liability?

The Foreign Tax Credit (FTC) helps U.S. expats avoid double taxation by allowing you to offset the taxes you pay to foreign countries against your U.S. tax liability. Here’s how it works:

  • Calculate the Credit: Determine the amount of foreign taxes paid. Only income taxes qualify.
  • Claim the Credit: Use Form 1116 to claim the FTC. Enter the foreign taxes paid and the corresponding foreign income.
  • Limitations: The credit is limited to the amount of U.S. tax attributable to your foreign income. Excess credits can be carried back one year or forward ten years.

Further reading: IRS Form 5695: Claim Your Residential Energy Credit Tax Credit

What Is the Foreign Housing Exclusion/Deduction?

The Foreign Housing Exclusion/Deduction allows you to exclude or deduct certain housing expenses if you live and work abroad:

  • Eligibility: You must meet the same criteria as the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE), including having a foreign tax home and meeting the Bona Fide Residence or Physical Presence Test.
  • Calculating the Benefit: The exclusion covers reasonable housing expenses, such as rent, utilities, and insurance, above a base amount (16% of the FEIE).
  • Claiming the Benefit: Use Form 2555 to claim this benefit.

Are There Any Special Tax Treaties That Benefit Expats?

Yes, the U.S. has tax treaties with several countries that provide additional tax relief and prevent double taxation:

  • Overview: Tax treaties often provide reductions or exemptions on certain types of income, such as pensions, dividends, and interest.
  • Claiming Benefits: To claim treaty benefits, you may need to submit Form 8833 (Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure) with your tax return.

How Can You Simplify the Process of Filing U.S. Taxes as an Expat?

Should You Hire an Expat Tax Professional?

Consider hiring a tax professional if your tax situation is complex:

  • Pros: Expertise in expatriate taxes, personalized advice, handling of complicated tax returns, and potential for saving money through optimized tax strategies.
  • Cons: Costs can range from $300 to $2,000 or more, depending on complexity.
  • Finding a Professional: Look for certified public accountants (CPAs) or enrolled agents (EAs) specializing in expat taxes. Check reviews and ask for references.

What Are Some Essential Tax Tips for U.S. Expats?

Stay compliant and maximize benefits with these tips:

  • Maintain Records: Keep detailed records of income, expenses, and foreign taxes paid.
  • Understand Deadlines: Know your tax deadlines, including extensions. Missing a tax filing deadline can result in penalties and interest.
  • Plan Ahead: Consider the tax implications of moving abroad, such as state tax residency. Many expats don’t realize they may still owe state taxes.
  • Use Tax Benefits: Fully utilize the FEIE, FTC, and any applicable tax treaties.
  • Stay Informed: Tax laws change, so stay updated or consult a professional regularly. Expats need to stay informed about changes in tax laws.

Do Americans Living Abroad Need to File a US Tax Return?

US citizens living abroad must file a US tax return and pay your taxes owed on time. American expats need to file US expat taxes and comply with US tax filing requirements for Americans.

How Can US Expats Claim the Child Tax Credit?

Claiming the child tax credit can help expats offset foreign-earned income for US taxpayers. This can be especially beneficial for those who never filed taxes or have years of tax returns to catch up on.

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Your Taxes?

Expats don't usually end up with complicated tax situations if they file and pay taxes owed promptly. But, if you owe US taxes and fail to file your tax return or pay income taxes, it can lead to significant penalties.

Do You Need to File State Taxes as an Expat?

US citizens abroad may need to file state taxes, depending on their home state. This is separate from the need to file a tax return for federal purposes.

How Can American Expats Eliminate Their US Tax Obligations?

Expats can offset local taxes and utilize income tax treaties to reduce US tax liabilities. Filing an income tax return correctly can help claim a variety of tax benefits, including US expat tax benefits. Understanding individual income tax and social security taxes outside of the US is essential.

Key Takeaways

  • Filing Requirement: US taxpayers living abroad must file your US tax return on time.
  • Foreign Earned Income Exclusion: For the tax year 2022 and 2023, American expats can offset foreign-earned income up to $112,000.
  • Foreign Tax Credit: Expats can claim credits for taxes paid to foreign governments to avoid double taxation.
  • FBAR Filing: Report foreign bank accounts if balances exceed $10,000 to stay compliant with expat tax filing rules.
  • Residency Status: Spending more than 35 days in the US can affect your status and state taxes as a U.S. expat.

How can Taxfyle help?

Finding an accountant to manage your bookkeeping and file taxes is a big decision. Luckily, you don't have to handle the search on your own.

At Taxfyle, we connect small businesses with licensed, experienced CPAs or EAs in the US. We handle the hard part of finding the right tax professional by matching you with a Pro who has the right experience to meet your unique needs and will manage your bookkeeping and file taxes for you.

Legal Disclaimer

Tickmark, Inc. and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, tax or accounting advice or recommendations. All information prepared on this site is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied on for legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your own legal, tax or accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. The content on this website is provided “as is;” no representations are made that the content is error-free.

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June 28, 2024


Kristal Sepulveda, CPA

Kristal Sepulveda, CPA


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