Reporting Foreign Income

working abroadIf you are living or working outside the United States, you generally must file and pay your tax in the same way as people living in the U.S. This includes people with dual citizenship.

In addition, U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts exceeding certain thresholds may be required to file Form FinCen114, known as the “FBAR” as well as Form 8938, also referred to as “FATCA.”

FBAR is not a tax form, but is due to the Treasury Department by April 15, 2019, but may be extended to October 15. Form 114 must be filed electronically through the BSA E-Filing System website. The BSA E-Filing System supports electronic filing of Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) forms (either individually or in batches) through a FinCEN secure network.

FATCA (Form 8938) is submitted on the tax due date (including extensions, if any,) of your income tax return.

Here’s what else you need to know about reporting foreign income:

1. Report Worldwide Income. By law, Americans living abroad, as well as many non-U.S. citizens, must file a U.S. income tax return and report any worldwide income. Some key tax benefits, such as the foreign earned income exclusion, are only available to those who file U.S. returns. Any income received, or deductible expenses paid in foreign currency must be reported on a U.S. tax return in U.S. dollars. Likewise, any tax payments must be made in U.S. dollars. Both FinCen Form 114 and IRS Form 8938, require the use of a December 31 exchange rate for all transactions, regardless of the actual exchange rate on the date of the transaction. Generally, the IRS accepts any posted exchange rate that is used consistently.

2. Report Foreign Accounts and Assets. Federal law requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report any worldwide income, including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts.

3. File Required Tax Forms. In most cases, affected taxpayers need to file Schedule B, Interest and Ordinary Dividends, with their tax returns. Part III of Schedule B asks about the existence of foreign accounts, such as bank and securities accounts, and usually requires U.S. citizens to report the country in which each account is located.

Some taxpayers may need to file additional forms with the Treasury Department such as Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets or FinCEN Form 114 (formerly TD F 90-22.1), Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”).

FBAR. Taxpayers do not file the FBAR with individual, business, trust or estate tax returns. Instead, taxpayers with foreign accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000 at any time during 2018 (or in 2019 for next year’s filing returns) must file a Treasury Department FinCEN Form 114 (formerly TD F 90-22.1), Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”).

The deadline for filing the FBAR is the same as for a federal income tax return and must be filed electronically with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) by April 15, 2019. FinCEN grants filers missing the April 15 deadline an automatic extension until October 15, 2019, to file the FBAR.

Taxpayers who want to paper-file their FBAR must call the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s Regulatory Helpline to request an exemption from e-filing.

Form 8938. Generally, U.S. citizens, resident aliens, and certain nonresident aliens must report specified foreign financial assets on Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets if the aggregate value of those assets exceeds certain thresholds:

  • If the total value is at or below $50,000 at the end of the tax year, there is no reporting requirement for the year, unless the total value was more than $75,000 at any time during the tax year
  • Taxpayers who do not have to file an income tax return for the tax year do not have to file Form 8938, regardless of the value of their specified foreign financial assets.

The threshold is higher for individuals who live outside the United States and thresholds are different for married and single taxpayers. In addition, penalties apply for failure to file accurately.

Please contact the office if you need additional information about thresholds for reporting, what constitutes a specified foreign financial asset, how to determine the total value of relevant assets, what assets are exempted and what information must be provided.

An individual may have to file both forms, and separate penalties may apply for failure to file each form.

4. Review the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. Many Americans who live and work abroad qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion when they file their tax return. This means taxpayers who qualify will not pay taxes on up to $103,900 of their wages and other foreign earned income they received in 2018 ($105,900 in 2019). Please contact the office if you have any questions about foreign earned income exclusion.

5. Don’t Overlook Credits and Deductions. Taxpayers may be able to take either a credit or a deduction for income taxes paid to a foreign country. This benefit reduces the taxes these taxpayers pay in situations where both the U.S. and another country tax the same income. However, you cannot claim the additional child tax credit if you file Form 2555, Foreign Earned Income or Form 2555-EZ, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

6. Automatic Extension. U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad on April 15, 2019, qualified for an automatic two-month extension (until June 15) to file their 2018 federal income tax returns. The extension of time to file also applies to those serving in the military outside the U.S. Taxpayers must attach a statement to their returns explaining why they qualify for the extension.

7. Additional Extension of Time to File. U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad may be granted a filing extension of up to six months (October 15, 2019) by filing Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return prior to the due date of the tax return (April 15, 2019). However, a taxpayer filing an extension must pay any tax due by the original date or be subject to late payment penalties and interest.

8. Get Tax Help. If you’re a taxpayer or resident alien living abroad that needs help with tax filing issues, IRS notices, and tax bills, or have questions about foreign earned income and offshore financial assets in a bank or brokerage account, don’t hesitate to call the office of Lahrmer & Company LLC at (866) 474-1238 or office@lahrmercpa.com.

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