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December 28, 2019


Over 30 years of Internatinal Tax and Legal Expertise by CPAs and Attorneys provide you with the answers and guidance you need:

Tax Services
  • US Expatriate Tax Planning & Return Preparation 
  • International Tax Planning for Corporations, LLCs, Partnerships and Trusts 
  • Past Year  Unfiled Returns for  Internal Revenue Service and all States 
  • International Estate Planning
  • Formation of US Corporations, Limted Liability Companies and Other Entities for use by offshore owners
  • US Nonresident Taxation
  • Corporate Expatriate Tax Equilization Assistance and Review
  • Phone and Email Consulations on all U.S. Tax Matters as affecting those living abroad and offshore.
  • Foreign bank and financial account reporting.
Tax Services for those working and residing in Mexico
  • Preparation of individual, Expatriations US Returns in coordinateions with Mexican tax law.
  • Mexican - US Business, personal and real estate tax planning.
  • Preparation of Past Year Unfiled US Tax Returns
  • Preparation of special US Tax Forms Required for those owning real estate or operating businesses in Mexico for Mexican Corporations, Fideicomisos, Mexican Bank Accounts, etc.

  • Formation of Corporations in all US States including California, Nevada, Florida and Washington
  • Formation US Limited Liability Companies, Limited Partnerships and Partnerships for California and Nevada
  • Planning and advising on best use of US Business Entities to Achieve your Offhshore Business Goals.
  • US Estate Planning for Residents and Nonresidents
  • U.S. Real Estate Law - Purchases, Sales and Leases
  • Nonresident ownership of US Real Estate
  • Contract review and Contract Drafting

December 22, 2019

US Citizens Voting in Federal Elections While Living Abroad

Even though you live abroad full time and do not have a state of residence, you can still vote in Federal elections.

Most U.S. citizens 18 years or older who reside outside the United States are eligible to vote absentee for federal office candidates in U.S. primary and general elections. In addition, some states allow overseas citizens to vote for state and local office candidates and referendums. For information about your state, see the Voting Assistance Guide.

In some states, U.S. citizens who are 18 years or older and were born abroad but who have never resided in the United States are eligible to vote absentee. Direct your questions about eligibility to local election officials.

To learn more go to  Since you are paying for it as a US taxpayer (though living abroad) you might as well take part in directing the way your US taxes are used.  If you need help with your US taxes or estate planning, EMAIL US.

December 20, 2019

Expatriates That Owe IRS May Lose Their Passports

Over 8 million Americans are estimated to be living overseas.  Many of those live abroad due to debt and amounts owed the IRS for past taxes.  The IRS has a new program which puts those Americans in jeopardy should they return to the USA for a visit. READ MORE HERE

If you need help catching up with your taxes or entering into an offer in compromise or payment plan with the IRS for past due US income taxes, WE CAN HELP.  Email us with your questions or to set up a mini-consultation to solve your past due tax burden.  EMAIL US


December 19, 2019

2019 Year End Tax Planning for US Expatriate Taxpayers and Others

Our year end  2019 Expatriate Tax Planning Letter can be read and downloaded here (pdf file).  Read it to learn of tax law changes for 2019 and possible planning steps you can take before year end to save you money.

If you want to get started early on your 2019 expatriate tax return you can download our 2019 Expatriate Tax Questionnaire HERE. (MS word file )  After you fill it out send it to us for a fee quote and fast preparation.

If you have  US expatriate, international or US nonresident tax questions email us by clicking HERE

Our firm CPAs and Attorney have combined experience in International Taxation of over 60 years. 

December 16, 2019

Excess Foreign Tax Credits - What to do about it?

If you live in a high tax country as an expatriate and you end up with excess foreign tax credits that cannot be used to offset the tax on the same income on your US Income Tax Return, all is not lost.
Excess foreign tax credits carry over and can be used for 10 years into the future on your returns assuming you do not have enough foreign tax credits to offset the tax on your foreign income.  See the instructions to the IRS foreign tax credit form 1116.

The best solution to recover your foreign taxes when you have excess foreign tax credits, is to move to a low tax country and you can then use them.  A list of countries in the world including the highest personal income tax rate for each country is HERE   You can use this to plan for the future use of excess foreign tax credits that are carried over.

December 15, 2019

US Expatriates May Be Eligible for Foreign Earned Income Exclusion Which increases for 2019

The foreign earned income exclusion has gone up for the 2019 tax year.   For the 2018 tax year, the maximum was $103,900. However, the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion 2019 maximum amount has risen to $105,900.  To be eligible to exclude this amount from your US tax return you must be a bonafide resident of a foreign country based on your physical presence for 330 days out of a 12 month fiscal year or be living and working in a foreign country for an entire calendar year.  The specific rules are set for in IRS publication 54.  

In additional to the foreign earned income exclusion an expat can exclude their housing costs so long as they exceeed a minimum amount  (see publication 54) and up to a maximum amount which may vary by country (see publication 54).

You also get a standard deduction of $24,400 if you file a joint return or $12,200 if you file as single. An additional $1,300 is added if you are aged.

We can help you reduce or save taxes you pay the US IRS.  Email us with your questions and help.  Visit our website at   We have been assisting US expatriates and US nonresidents living abroad with the US taxes for over 25 years.  Kauffman Nelson LLP, CPAs and attorney.

December 6, 2019


The link below is to the IRS Criminal Investigation Division 2019 Report.  Might be worth reading if you are worried about your situation.  Our of the 330 million plus Americans, the IRS last year only
instituted approx 1500 criminal investigations and less than 1000 resulted in criminal prosecutions.  If it does get that far, it is worth worrying about since they have a 91% conviction rate.

Download the pdf report here.... full of a lot of information that may be useful to you.

If you have personal concerns and was to discuss it with a tax attorney.  We offer mini consultations by phone, skype, whatsapp, etc.  Email us at

October 10, 2019


If you were born in the USA or your parents where US citizens you could be an Accidental American and may have problems soon with the IRS. Most individuals in this situation do not know that even if they never received a social security number or Taxpayer ID number, the IRS can come after them and make it difficult to open a foreign bank account even in the country which they reside.

READ MORE HERE   If you need help because you are an Accidental American we can help.  Email us at TAXMELESS.COM

October 8, 2019

How Your Wealth Compares with Wealth around the World - from CNBC and Bloomberg

Yesterday statistics for 2018 came out that indicated the one percent wealthy
in the USA are paying taxes at a percentage lower rate than the middle class. None
of recent tax cuts are trickling down to the middle class or  poor.

Yesterday the IRS admitted the mostly audit the lower middle class and poor
because it is easier to collect money than auditing the wealthy. They claimed
that they do not have a staff sophisticated enough to audit the wealthy and stand
up to the high priced tax lawyers and CPAs hired by the wealthy.

Write US if you want assistance with your taxes and to find every break that 
is available fo regular taxpayers.  We are attorney  and CPAs specializing in 
US expatriate, US nonresident and US international tax law. CLICK HERE

September 24, 2019


A taxpayer that willfully attempts to evade paying income taxes is subject to criminal and civil penalties. The type of fraud will determine the applicable penalty. The following are some examples of possible punishments for specific types of tax fraud. Remember a delinquent taxpayer expat or nonresident, can never be certain if the IRS will not view their actions as beyond negligent but intentional fraud. Therefore, file your past due returns before the IRS finds you first.  Filing yourself before being caught is viewed as indicative of no criminal intent.
  • Attempt to evade or defeat paying taxes: Upon conviction, the taxpayer is guilty of a felony and is subject to other penalties allowed by law, in addition to (1) imprisonment for no more than 5 years, (2) a fine of not more than $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for corporations, or (3) both penalties, plus the cost of prosecution.
  • Fraud and false statements: Upon conviction, the taxpayer is guilty of a felony and is subject to (1) imprisonment for no more than 3 years, (2) a fine of not more than $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for corporations, or (3) both penalties, plus the cost of prosecution .
  • Willful failure to file a return, supply information, or pay tax at the time or times required by law. This includes the failure to pay estimated tax or a final tax, and the failure to make a return, keep records, or supply information. Upon conviction, the taxpayer is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to other penalties allowed by law, in addition to (1) imprisonment for no more than 1 year, (2) a fine of not more than $100,000 for individuals or $200,000 for corporations, or (3) both penalties, plus the cost of prosecution .
Get Legal Help with Your Income Tax Problems avoid these criminal consequences.  We are CPAs and attorneys with over 30 years experience with US international, expatriate and nonresident taxation. We can solve your tax  problems before it becomes necessary to hire a criminal attorney.  Email us at .com and visit our website at

August 14, 2019


The IRS has begun sending letters to taxpayers with virtual currency transactions that potentially failed to report income and pay the resulting tax from virtual currency transactions or did not report their transactions properly.

"Taxpayers should take these letters very seriously by reviewing their tax filings and when appropriate, amend past returns and pay back taxes, interest and penalties," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "The IRS is expanding our efforts involving virtual currency, including increased use of data analytics. We are focused on enforcing the law and helping taxpayers fully understand and meet their obligations."

The IRS started sending the educational letters to taxpayers last week. By the end of August, more than 10,000 taxpayers will receive these letters. The names of these taxpayers were obtained through various ongoing IRS compliance efforts.

For taxpayers receiving an educational letter, there are three variations: Letter 6173, Letter 6174 or Letter 6174-A, all three versions strive to help taxpayers understand their tax and filing obligations and how to correct past errors.

Taxpayers are pointed to appropriate information on, including which forms and schedules to use and where to send them.

Last year the IRS announced a Virtual Currency Compliance campaign to address tax noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency through outreach and examinations of taxpayers. The IRS will remain actively engaged in addressing non-compliance related to virtual currency transactions through a variety of efforts, ranging from taxpayer education to audits to criminal investigations.

Virtual currency is an ongoing focus area for IRS Criminal Investigation.

IRS Notice 2014-21 states that virtual currency is property for federal tax purposes and provides guidance on how general federal tax principles apply to virtual currency transactions. Compliance efforts follow these general tax principles. The IRS will continue to consider and solicit taxpayer and practitioner feedback in education efforts and future guidance.

The IRS anticipates issuing additional legal guidance in this area in the near future. Taxpayers who do not properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions are, when appropriate, liable for tax, penalties and interest. In some cases, taxpayers could be subject to criminal prosecution.

Article from the TaxBook

Need legal or tax assistance with your vitural currency matters. Email us here.  Visit our website at  We are attorneys and CPAs who specialize in International, Expatriate and Nonresident US taxation.

August 12, 2019


Many clients and potential clients have asked us what other services do we provide other than tax US tax return preparation.  A list of some of those services are included below: 

  • Phone and internet  mini -consultations with individual taxpayers  in connection with expatriate, nonresident and international tax planning and questions.
  • Phone and internet consultations with CPAs and Enrolled Agents that require advice or consultation on International, Nonresident and Expatriate US tax forms, rules and regulations.
  • Assist taxpayers preparing their own tax returns with questions and the preparation of international, nonresident and expatriate tax forms
  • Review of your self prepared returns that contain international, expatriate and nonresident tax issues and forms.
  • Formation on US corporations, LLCs and Partnerships for expatriates and most states.
  • IRS and State Tax Agency defense against audits and assessments.
Almost no firms offer the combined expertise of CPAs and Attorneys at reasonable fees. Contact with your questions, and for information.  CONTACT US HERE BY EMAIL.  We have been doing nonresident, expatriate and international taxes for over 25 years.  Call us in the US at 949-480-1235.

August 9, 2019

Are Virtual Currencies such as Bitcoin reportable on FBAR forms (form 114)? - the answer is sometimes yes.

The IRS does not consider virtual currencies such as BItcoin to be the same as cash or money. They consider it to be an asset to be treated for tax purposes much like stock, when purchased, sold or held as an investment.

There are certain situations however when virtual currency is reportable the same as a foreign bank account on the FBAR form 114 which is used to report foreign bank and financial accounts.  Failure to file this form each year can result in penalties of $10,000 or more. There are many reported court cases where the penalties for failing to file this form have resulted in penalties to one taxpayer of many hundreds of dollars or more.

Read more about the rules for reporting your virtual currency  - when to do it and when not -to the IRS HERE.

If you have not been filing this form and think you may be required to do so, and want to avoid the high penalties, need assistance or have questions CONTACT US.  We are CPAs and attorneys that have combined experience of over 60 years with US International Taxation.

July 3, 2019

What to Look for - US IRS Tax Scams and Con Men

Tax scams with calls, letters, emails, etc. allegedly from the IRS are out of control.  We even get the phone calls and emails here in our offices at Kauffman Nelson LLC.  Many sound authentic but all have the sole intent of cheating you out of your money.  Often the message includes immediate threats of prosecution, etc.  These scam attempts occur not only in the US but wherever Americans live abroad.

Do not give anyone on the phone who claims to be the IRS any financial information, your social security number or any other information that could be used to steal your identity or financial assets.

The IRS will only contact you by mail. If you have any suspicions of about contacts involving your taxes do not respond but contact the IRS directly at the phone numbers listed on the internet or go to their offices.


If you need help contact us at We are attorneys and CPAs and know the real IRS when we see it.

May 27, 2019

Reducing or Eliminating 951a GILTI Tax on Conrolled Foreign Corporations

Many clients want to reduce or eliminate the new tax for 2018 and beyond on the undistributed earnings of their controlled foreign corporations (over 50% ownership in the hands of US taxpayers). This replaces the old regime where profits left in foreign corporations (except in certain specific types of situations) are not taxed until distributed as dividends or wages.

The new  IRS Section 951a is complex and often hits  US owners of small foreign corporations. The tax on the earnings which are deemed distributed actually is assessed on the 1040 (or other US tax form) of the owner of the corporation though a deemed distribution (Subpart F) which is included with the shareholders other income.  READ MORE ABOUT HOW TO AVOID  OR REDUCE THE GILTI 951A TAX HERE

If you own a controlled  foreign corporation we can provide you with guidance and help you eliminate or reduce this new tax on deemed distributions of its profits.  Email us at with your questions or for help.   Don Nelson, Tax Attorney

May 10, 2019


When you are self employed and have your own business abroad most of the same rules apply that apply when  in the USA.  Many overlook deductions and expenses which may reduce your taxable income and social security payments to US (if required).  Some of the expense rules applicable to your US income tax return may be different than those in the country in which you operate your business.   See below for guidance.

Business expenses. Business expenses are usually deductible if the business operates to make a profit. To be deductible, a business expense must be both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that’s common and accepted in the trade or business. A necessary expense is one that’s helpful and appropriate for the trade or business. An expense doesn’t have to be indispensable to be considered necessary. Business expenses include:
  • Business use of a home – If a taxpayer uses part of their home for business, part of their home expenses may be deductible. These expenses may include mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs and depreciation. Alternatively, a simplified method is available for figuring this deduction. Special rules and limits apply. See Publication 587 for details. 
  • Business use of a car – If a taxpayer uses their car in their business, they can deduct car expenses. If they use it for both business and personal purposes, they must divide expenses based on actual mileage. For details, including special recordkeeping rules, see Publication 463.
  • Meals and entertainment – In general, taxpayers can deduct 50 percent of the cost of business meals if the taxpayer -- or an employee of the taxpayer --is present and the food or beverages aren’t lavish or extravagant.
  • Rent expense – In general, a taxpayer can deduct rent as an expense only if the rent is for property used in their trade or business. If they have or will receive equity in or title to the property, the rent is not deductible.
  • Interest – Business interest expense is an amount charged for the use of money a taxpayer borrowed for business activities. Limits and special rules may apply. See basic questions and answers about the limitation on the deduction for business interest expense for more information.
  • Taxes – A taxpayer can deduct various federal, state, local, and foreign taxes directly attributable to their trade or business as business expenses.
Publication 535, Business Expenses, has more information about these and other deductible business expenses, including employee related expenses such as employees’ pay, retirement plans and insurance.

You may owe US self employment tax (medicare and social security) on your net business income if the US does not have a social security agreement with the country you live in or if you are not paying into that countries social security system. Many countries do not have such agreements with the US.

We can help with your nonresident, international and expatriate tax planning, tax returns and IRS issues, audits, payment plans and citizenship surrender. Email us at Expatriate Tax Help Now.   US Tel. 949-480-1235

May 9, 2019


If you owe taxes as an expat mailing a check to the IRS often is not the answer. The following video from the IRS shows how to pay the IRS by direct deposit, credit card or debit card.  Listen to the IRS video explaining payment methods here:

Another method which can be used to pay from foreign bank accounts is the IRS wire transfer. Read more about this method and how to do it HERE.

Many states including California have on line portals to allow payments without sending checks directly from your bank account.

Of course the CPAs and Attorneys at TaxMeLess are always there to help you with your expatriate, nonresident and international tax return forms, payments plans and citizenship surrender (stop paying US taxes forever).  You can email us by clicking HERE

April 10, 2019

Reporting Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, Foreign Assets on your 2018 Tax Return

You may be obligated to report your foreign financial accounts on line using form 114. Failure to do so may cause the IRS to assess penalties of $10,000 or more .... and there are also criminal penalties. Learn more in the Forbes article HERE

Also if you have other types of foreign assets such as foreign corporations, foreign partnerships, foreign LLCS, foreign bonds, stocks, etc. you may be required to file form 8938 with your tax return or incur the same type of penalties.  READ MORE HERE

These rules are complex and compliance with the law is important. We are here to help you with these forms or your entire US resident, US expatriate or US nonresident tax return. Email us at . We are US CPAS and Attorneys that deal exclusively with International Tax Issues and Returns.

March 7, 2019

US Expats Moving Expenses Can No Longer Be Deducted and If Paid for by Employer it is Taxable Income to Recipient

For businesses that have employees, there are changes to fringe benefits that can affect a business’s bottom line and their employee’s tax liabilities. One of these changes is to qualified moving expenses.
Under previous law, payment or reimbursement of an employee’s qualified moving expenses were not subject to income or employment taxes.
Under last year’s tax reform legislation, employers must include all moving expenses, in employees’ wages, subject to income and employment taxes.


Generally, members of the U.S. Armed Forces can still exclude qualified moving expense reimbursements from their income if:
  • They are on active duty
  • They move pursuant to a military order and incident to a permanent change of station
  • The moving expenses would qualify as a deduction if the employee didn’t get a reimbursement

Transition rule

There is a transition rule under the new law. Under this rule, certain payments or reimbursements aren’t subject to federal income or employment taxes. This includes amounts that:
  • An employer pays a third party in 2018 for qualified moving services provided to an employee prior to 2018.  
  • An employer reimburses an employee in 2018 for qualified moving expenses incurred prior to 2018. 
To qualify for the transition rule, the payments or reimbursements must be for qualified expenses which would have been deductible by the employee if the employee had directly paid them before Jan. 1, 2018. The employee must not have deducted them in 2017.

We can help you with your US Federal and State Tax Returns. We know all of the special rules for US expatriates and the changes made by the recent tax  law.  Email us at for assistance and your tax return preparation. We have specialized in expatriates for over 20 years. Download our 2018 tax return questionnaire for expatriates. Send it to us afrter filled out and we will provide you with a fixed fee quote.

March 6, 2019


Has your business ever received a large cash payment, and you were not quite sure what Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business, if your business receives more than $10,000 in cash from one buyer as a result of a single transaction or two or more related transactions.
your reporting obligations were regarding that large payment? The general rule is that you must file Form 8300,
The Form 8300 provides valuable information to the Internal Revenue Service and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in their efforts to combat money laundering. This is an important effort, since money laundering is a tool used to facilitate various criminal activities, ranging from tax evasion to terrorist financing to drug dealing, to hide the proceeds from their illegal activities.  READ MORE HERE
Need more information on this form, tax law and how it applies to nonresidents, expatriates and those residing in the USA?  Email us at Our firm includes CPAs and an Tax Attorney. When required we can provide you with attorney-client privilege.

February 23, 2019

US Expatriates & Nonresidents With US assets -Why you Need a US Living Trust

If you have assets located in the US and want to avoid time consuming and expensive court probates
you need a living trust with respect to your US assets. Such a trust also assures you that your US assets upon your demise will go directly to the individuals you name as beneficiaries.  Read more in the Forbes articles the 10 reasons you need a a living Trust (over which you have total authority while you are alive) below.

Forbes: 10 Reasons Why You Need A Trust.

US citizens currently can bequeath over 11 million dollars in assets without incurring any estate tax. However US nonresidents with US assets will incur an estate tax on assets that exceed $60,000 in value.  There are techniques to avoid the US estate tax on nonresidents which can be used if title to your US assets are held in the proper manner. Let us know if we can help with your estate planning. Email us at We are US attorneys and CPAs. specializing in expatriates, nonresidents and international tax matters.  Visit our website at

February 8, 2019

Best Place for US Taxpayer Abroad to Form Your Foreign Corporaton?

U.S. corporations reported more foreign income in Bermuda than in any other sovereign nation in the Americas in 2016, despite having only 384 total employees located there, according to data recently released by IRS.

This may be one good indicator  if you are a US entrepreneur located  abroad where to locate your foreign corporation for best foreign tax breaks, etc.  Check Bermuda taxes out here.

Have questions on your US taxes, forms or planning for a foreign corporation you own, email us at taxmeless@gmail.con

February 4, 2019

US Expatriate, Nonresident or International Tax Consultations With An Attorney

A "MINI TAX CONSULTATION" IS NOW AVAILABLE with a US Attorney by Phone or SkypeIf you have specific tax questions on your personal situation and need to discuss it with an US expatriate international tax expert, with the protection of  Attorney-Client privilege, you can request a "Mini Consultation."   "Mini Consultation" costs a minimum of $300 US for up to 30 minutes of Mr. Nelson's professional legal tax advice over the phone, skype or by  email from any where in the world.         

  No need to visit his office.  If  you send us an outline of your situation, facts and questions in advance, we prepare in advance and this time is extremely productive and usually resolves all of your questions  within the time allowed. Over 900 U.S. expat taxpayers located everywhere in the world  have used "Mini Consultations" to resolve their tax problems and issues.  US Phone (949) 480-1235. US Fax (949) 606-9627 or we can talk on my skype address dondnelson.   Payment can easily be made by credit card, or  paypal, or direct  bank transfer. If your questions or problems are URGENT let us know and we can often schedule it on the same day. Learn More About  How your Mini Consultation Works

Don Nelson, Attorney at Law has ever 30 years experience with US expatriate, international and nonresident taxation and representing taxpayers before the IRS.  He is also a partner in Kauffman Nelson LLP Certified Public Accountants.  Read more about his background and experience.

January 31, 2019


If you check "No" on schedule B that you do not have a foreign bank account and check "No" that the combined balances of all of your  foreign bank and financial accounts ever exceeded $10,000US has been held by the Courts to show your personal intent to violate the law.  If you have foreign bank or financial accounts (including foreign stock brokerage accounts) you may need to amend your returns and file form 114 for those past years to avoid possible criminal and civil penalties from the IRS.

Form 114 where you report this foreign accounts is simple. You simple show your highest balance for the calendar year, name, address and account number of the bank.  You also need to indicate information on other individuals who also sign on the accounts.  The statute of limitations for failure to file form 114 is 6 years.

If you have not reported your foreign accounts properly, we recommend you correct this problem before the IRS contacts you. The IRS is  receiving reports from most of the banks in the world on US taxpayers holding these foreign accounts. If you come forward before the IRS catches you in almost all situations the penalties may be waived.

We can help you catch up. We offer our clients attorney-client privilege which protects you statements to us from discovery by the IRS or FBI.  Email us at for further assistance and to set up a consultation to chart the best course of action for you.

January 28, 2019

2018 Fast Tax Facts for US Expatriates and Green Card Holders Living and Working Abroad

by Kauffman Nelson LLP CPAS and Don D. Nelson , Attorney,  Charles Kauffman CPA

If you are a US Citizen or green card holder you must file a US tax return every year unless your taxable income is below a certain threshold.  Even if your income is below that threshold, you may still be required to file certain forms to report foreign assets, etc. Failure to file these forms can result in severe IRS penalties.   If you do not itemize your health, tax, interest, charitable and miscellaneous deductions you get a standard deduction of $12,000 if single or filing as married filing separately or $24,000 if you file jointly with your spouse.

As a US expatriate living and working abroad 4/15/19, your 2018 tax return is automatically extended until 6/17/19  but any taxes due must be paid by 4/15/19 to avoid penalties and interest. The return can be further extended until 10/15/19 if the proper extension form is filed. An even further extension until December may be available if the proper letter is sent to the IRS.

 For 2018 if you are a qualified expatriate you get a foreign earned income exclusion (earnings from wages or self employment) of $104,100, but this exclusion is only available if you file a tax return. You must qualify under one of two tests to take this exclusion: (1) bonafide resident test or (2) physical presence test. You can read more about how to qualify in IRS Publication 54. This exclusion only applies to income taxes and does not apply to US self- employment tax (social security plus medicare).  You spouse who lives and works abroad with you will also be able to use this exclusion against any earned income they have abroad. You can lose this exclusion if you file your return more than 18 months late. The exclusion can only be claimed on filed tax return and does not apply if you fail to file a tax return.

 For 2018 if you qualify for the entire year  for the foreign earned income exclusion  (form 2555) you will be excluded from having to comply with the health insurance rules  (or possible penalties) of Obamacare (ACA). These rules are complex and should be reviewed if you do not qualify for the expat exclusion for the entire year of 2017 because you may have an obligation to purchase health insurance or be penalized.

 If your foreign earnings from wages or self -employment exceed the foreign earned income exclusion you can claim a housing expense for the rent, utilities and maintenance you pay if those amounts that exceed a minimum non-deductible amount.   There is a limit to the housing amount and certain “high-cost” locations there is a higher amount of housing expense which can be considered. (For “high-cost” country limitations see Form 2555 instructions).

  You get credits against your US income tax obligation for foreign income taxes paid to a foreign country but you must file a US tax return to claim these credits. This avoids double taxation of the same income.

  If you own 10% or more of a Foreign corporation or Foreign partnership (LLC) you must file special IRS forms,  or incur substantial penalties which can be greater including criminal prosecution if the IRS discovers you have failed to file these forms.

  If you create a foreign trust or are a beneficiary of a foreign trust you may be obligated to file forms 3520 and /or 3520A each year to report those activities or be subject to severe penalties. Foreign foundations and non-profits which indirectly benefit you may be foreign trusts in the eyes of the IRS.

  Your net self- employment income in a foreign country (earned as an independent contractor or in your own sole proprietorship) is subject to US self -employment tax (medicare and social security) of  15.3% which cannot be reduced or eliminated by the foreign earned income exclusion. The one exception is if you live in one of the very few countries that have a social security agreement with the US and you pay the equivalent of social security in that country.

  Forming the correct type of foreign corporation and making the proper US tax election (to cause the income and foreign taxes  the foreign corporation pays to flow through to your personal US tax return) with the IRS for that corporation may save you significant income taxes and avoid later adverse tax consequences. You need to take investigate this procedure before you actually form that foreign because it can be difficult to make that election later and only certain types of foreign business entities are eligible to make this election..

  If at any time during the tax year your combined highest balances in your foreign bank and financial accounts (when added together) ever equal or exceed $10,000US you must file a FBAR form 114 with the IRS by October 15, 2019 for the 2018 calendar year or incur a penalty of $10,000 or more including criminal prosecution. Foreign financial accounts often include accounts in you sign on for a foreign corporation, foreign partnerships foreign pension plans, stock brokerage accounts, and cash surrender value of foreign life insurance.  This form does not go in with your personal income tax return and can only be filed separately on the web at:

  The IRS gets lists of Americans applying or renewing for US passports or entering the country. They will compare these lists with those who are filing US income tax returns and take action against those who do not.

  Often due to foreign tax credits and the foreign earned income tax expats living abroad who file all past year unfiled tax returns end up owing no or very little US taxes. The IRS has several special programs which will help you catch up if you are in arrears which will reduce or possibly eliminate all potential penalties for failing to file the required foreign asset reporting forms. We can direct you to the best program for your situation, prepare the returns and forms and represent you before the IRS.

 Beginning in 2011 a new law went into effect which requires all US Citizens report all of their worldwide financial assets with their personal tax return if in total the value of those assets exceed certain minimum amounts starting at $50,000. Failure to file that form 8938 on time can result in a penalty of $10,000. The form is complex and has different rules that apply to you if you live abroad or live in the US. This form is required in addition to the FBAR form 114.

 Certain types of income of foreign corporations are immediately taxable on the US shareholder's personal income tax return. This is called Subpart F income. The rules are complex and if you own a foreign corporation you need to determine if these rules apply to you when you file the required form 5471 for that corporation. For 2018 a new tax was enacted with the acronym of GILTI tax. This may or may not cause every Controlled Foreign Corporation to owe taxes on the income it does not distribute to its owners. LEARN MORE HERE

  If you own investments in a foreign corporation or own foreign mutual fund shares you may be required to file the IRS form 8621 for owning part of a Passive Foreign Investment Company (PFIC) or incur additional, taxes and penalties for your failure to do so. A PFIC is any foreign corporation that has more than 75% of its gross income from passive income or 50 percent or more of its assets produce or will produce passive income.

There are many more special tax laws too numerous to mention here that apply to expatriates, green card holders and US  taxpayers with foreign assets, businesses, etc. Please consult a tax expert if you have other offshore matters to be certain what is required to be filed.

Download your   2018 US tax return questionnaire prepared expressly for Expatriates HERE. Send us your completed questionnaire and we will immediately provide you with a flat fee quote for preparing your return(s).

Don D. Nelson, US Tax Attorney, Charles Kauffman CPA, Kauffman Nelson, LLP, CPAs
Huntington Beach, California USA
US Phone: (949) 480-1235, US Fax: (949) 606-9627 or
Skype address: dondnelson
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We have been preparing tax returns and assisting US clients located in over 123 countries around the the world for over 35 years. We also assist US Nonresidents meet their US tax obligations and return filing requirements. Email, skype or phone us for immediate assistance.

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Disclaimer and Conditions: The information contained herein is general in nature and is not to be construed or relied on   as tax or legal advice with respect to you individual tax situation or questions. Your use of this material does not create any attorney/CPA relationship between you and this firm or any other obligation. You are advised to retain competent tax professionals help with your individual tax matters and for appropriate answers your specific tax questions.