Navigating through the many intricacies of international tax laws can be confusing and complicated. Common questions often arise, from when to file taxes overseas to how to apply for a Taxpayer Identification Number. CPA Accounting & Tax Services specializes in International Tax matters and has compiled a list of the 9 most commonly asked questions to help you safeguard your personal and/or business interests abroad.

1. Does an American Who Lives Abroad Need to File a Tax Return? 

Answer: Yes. All United States Citizens and Green Card holders are required to report income earned abroad to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This does not mean you will owe taxes, however as there are a number of tax credits that will reduce Expat tax to zero. Most income must be recognized even if you do not pay taxes to the country of residence.

2. Does a Non-U.S. Citizen Who Has a Business In the United States Need To Pay Taxes?   

Answer: Yes. You must file a tax return for all goods and services sold in the US.

This also applies even if you run your business through Amazon or similar entities. 

3. Can a Non-U.S. Citizen Get an Individual Tax Identification Number? 

Answer: Yes. The IRS will issue an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) when there is a requirement of filing a return. If you need a ITIN, form W7 must be filed along with the tax return.

4. Can I Get the Money Withheld From the Sale of My Investment Property Back? 

Answer: Yes. But the amount may vary and you may actually owe. Oftentimes during the sale of an investment property in the U.S., the closing company will withhold a substantial amount of money from the payment to pay the IRS.  A complete tax return must be filed to include the calculations for the sale. This will not guarantee a full refund. In fact, depending on the gain, you may owe. 

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5. If I Have Not Filed My Tax Return Since I Moved, Do I Owe Penalties? 

Answer:  It depends. There are “amnesty” programs available to US citizens who have not filed returns. The most common is the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). 

This voluntary disclosure program is specifically designed for taxpayers with exposure to potential criminal liability and/or substantial civil penalties due to a willful failure to report foreign financial assets and pay all tax due in respect of those assets.

To those who choose this filing method, would need to submit their tax returns for the last 3 delinquent years along with the last 6 delinquent years of FBAR forms. The IRS requires that the taxpayer continue to file every year thereafter. You should consult an experienced tax professional or attorney to help determine the best course of action.

6. Can I Claim My Non-Resident Spouse As A Dependent On My Tax Return? 

Answer:  No. Spouses are not considered dependents. They are joint return holders for which a ITIN will be required to file.

7. Do I Need To Continue To Pay Social Security & Medicare Taxes To The U.S. In Order To Be Eligible For Future Benefits? 

Answer:  If you live in a country in which there is a Totalization Agreement, the amount you contribute to Social Security will give you a credit with the United States Social Security Administration. If you live in a country where there is no Totalization Agreement, you will not earn credits for payments made into that country’s social security program. 

8. Can I Exclude Income When I Live Abroad When Filing My Return? 

Answer:  You may qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion of up to $101,300. To qualify, you must meet one of the following: 

1-You lived abroad for 330 days within a 365-day window beginning and ending in the tax year (this does not need to be a calendar year).

2-You were a bona fide resident of the country you live in, meaning that you lived in a regular housing in the foreign country, you paid taxes and that was where you and your family lived.

9. Will I Be Double Taxed On My Income If I File A Return In Both The Foreign County And The U.S.? 

Answer:  The IRS offers the foreign tax credit. You may be eligible to receive a dollar for dollar credit on the U.S. tax, based on taxes paid on the same income.

Complicated International Tax Laws require an expert. Contact the professionals at  CPA Accounting & Tax Services to help guide you through tax season and beyond. We specialize in Business Accounting Services, Individual Tax Services, International Tax Services and Tax Resolution Services. We have offices in Orlando, Florida and service clients worldwide. Find out how we can serve all of your accounting needs by contacting us today: