Search This Blog

July 26, 2017

One Financial Mistake That Can Cost Expats Living Abroad Millions - and We See This All Too Often When We do Tax Returns

Too many expats and others living abroad keep all of their savings and investments in low interest paying bank or savings accounts in the USA. This is historically a big mistake.  It is understandable that you want to keep your funds in the USA, because the banks and currency in your country of location may not be stable or safe. However, other than some reserves a US bank account is not the answer.

Investing in the stock market (over the long run and in good conservative companies) and real estate (in areas where history shows the values will increase significantly in the future - Such as California) will give you a nest egg on retirement of 3 to 4 times the amount you will have if you just keep it all in a bank earning interest.  The worst place to keep it as you can see in the following article is under your mattress.

Read More in the following Washington Post article

Remember also, investments in stocks and real estate abroad is mostly treated the same for US tax purposes as investing in US stocks and bonds. However, investing in foreign mutual funds can result in you having to pay higher taxes (thanks to the US Mutual Fund Lobby).  Want to discuss your investment  and tax strategy. Email Don at  We have assisted hundreds of clients on their way to accumulating retirement wealth.

July 12, 2017


Tips on How to Handle an IRS Letter or Notice

The IRS mails millions of letters every year to taxpayers for a variety of reasons. Keep the following suggestions in mind on how to best handle a letter or notice from the IRS:

Do not panic. Simply responding will take care of most IRS letters and notices.Do not ignore the letter. Most IRS notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. Each notice deals with a specific issue and includes specific instructions on what to do. Read the letter carefully; some notices or letters require a response by a specific date.Respond timely. A notice may likely be about changes to a taxpayer’s account, taxes owed or a payment request. Sometimes a notice may ask for more information about a specific issue or item on a tax return.

A timely response could minimize additional interest and penalty charges.If a notice indicates a changed or corrected tax return, review the information and compare it with your original return. If the taxpayer agrees, they should note the corrections on their copy of the tax return for their records. There is usually no need to reply to a notice unless specifically instructed to do so, or to make a payment.Taxpayers must respond to a notice they do not agree with. They should mail a letter explaining why they disagree to the address on the contact stub at the bottom of the notice. Include information and documents for the IRS to consider and allow at least 30 days for a response.

There is no need to call the IRS or make an appointment at a taxpayer assistance center for most notices. If a call seems necessary, use the phone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Be sure to have a copy of the related tax return and notice when calling.Always keep copies of any notices received with tax records. The IRS and its authorized private collection agency will send letters and notices by mail. The IRS will not demand payment a certain way, such as prepaid debit or credit card. Taxpayers have several payment options for taxes owed.

Need help understanding a notice or responding to the IRS (or state tax agency). Email us at and attach a copy.

July 8, 2017

Plan Ahead for Tax Time When Renting Out Residential or Vacation Property Outside of USA

Summertime is a time of year when people rent out their property located in a foreign country. In addition to the standard clean up and maintenance, owners need to be aware of the tax implications of residential and vacation home rentals both in and outside of USA. Most of the tax rules are the same for both.
Receiving money for the use of a dwelling also used as a taxpayer’s personal residence generally requires reporting the rental income on a tax return. It also means certain expenses become deductible to reduce the total amount of rental income that's subject to tax.
Dwelling Unit.  This may be a house, an apartment, condominium, mobile home, boat, vacation home or similar property. It's possible to use more than one dwelling unit as a residence during the year.
Used as a Home.  The dwelling unit is considered to be used as a residence if the taxpayer uses it for personal purposes during the tax year for more than the greater of: 14 days   or 10% of the total days rented to others at a fair rental price. Rental expenses cannot be more than the rent received.
Personal Use.  Personal use means use by the owner, owner’s family, friends, other property owners and their families. Personal use includes anyone paying less than a fair rental price.
Divide Expenses. Special rules generally apply to the rental of a home, apartment or other dwelling unit that is used by the taxpayer as a residence during the taxable year. Usually, rental income must be reported in full, and any expenses need to be divided between personal and business purposes. Special deduction limits apply.
How to Report. Use Schedule E to report rental income and rental expenses on Supplemental Income and Loss. Rental income may also be subject to Net Investment Income Tax. Use Schedule A to report deductible expenses for personal use on Itemized Deductions. This includes such costs as mortgage interest, property taxes and casualty losses.
Special Rules.  If the dwelling unit is rented out fewer than 15 days during the year, none of the rental income is reportable and none of the rental expenses are deductible. Find out more about these rules; see Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes).
 You can get forms and publications on at any time.
Foreign Taxes May Have to be Paid in the Country in which the property is located.  Check with a local accountant. For instance in Mexico you must not only pay income taxes on the rental income but may also have to pay Value Added Taxes.  Failure to register and pay can result in substantial penalties in Mexico and other countries.
Good News - You do get foreign tax credits for income taxes paid in foreign countries which will offset your US taxes on the same income dollar for dollar. Other taxes you pay may be deductible as rental expenses. Most states do not allow a foriegn tax credit on state returns.
Additional Resources:
YouTube Videos:
Renting Your Vacation Home – English | Spanish | ASL
Share this tip on social media -- Plan Ahead for Tax Time When Renting Out Residential or Vacation Property.

Email us for US tax and legal planning for the rental of your foreign property or its sale or purchase. Planning ahead can often avoid tax problems later.    Also visit our website at