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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
Visit our International Tax Blog for the Latest Expat and International Tax Developments at    /

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.

MINI TAX CONSULTATIONS BY PHONE, SKYPE OR EMAIL: We offer mini consultations (with attorney client privilege) to answer your tax questions and resolve your tax issues.  Email: to learn more or request a consultation

For additional useful information and tax assistance go to our website at.

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.

January 14, 2019

2018 Tax Return Preparation For US Expatriates, US Nonresidents and Others Doing Business in USA

Attached is  our 2018 basic expat tax questionnaire form for your use in sending us the necessary information for this  year's tax return preparation.  We will send you back a fee estimate once we receive and review the questionnaire.

If you are subject to the foreign bank account filing requirement, the form is due to be received by the US Treasury Department by April 15, but there is an automatic extension to October 15.  This form is separate from the tax return itself.  We can prepare this form for you OR you can prepare and submit via this on-line yourself at the BSA website (more information can be found in the questionnaire).   

If you need additional questionnaires for self-employment, rental properties, a foreign corporation, or multiple foreign bank accounts please let us know and we would be happy to send over.  Also if you were living in the US for all of 2018, we can send you a different questionnaire (this questionnaire is set up for those living abroad at least part of 2018).  Some of the other questionnaires are available on the resources tab at MORE TAX FORMS

If you need 
your tax return completed (or an estimate of tax due) by April 15, we would need your complete tax data no later than March 15, 2019.  If you will be living outside the U.S. on April 15, 2019, you receive an automatic extension for tax return filing until June 17, 2019 (therefore if you want to file on-time for June 17 please send in early May).  We can also file for an additional extension to October if desired or needed.  At peak periods our turnaround time can range to 35-40 days from the date complete information is received.

NOTE:  The tax act passed in December 2017 changed but did not simplify the way the federal government will tax most individuals and businesses.  In particular, the changes to self-employed individuals and those who own non-US businesses are substantial (and hopefully favorable in many cases from a tax point of view).  Given the significance of these changes it is fair to say that fees will increase on the clients affected by the more complex changes.  Those with very straight-forward fact patterns may not be affected significantly.  The training and software cost increases for CPA’s across the board due to these changes has been the biggest our industry has seen in decades.  We would like to thank you in advance for your patience this year and we have taken steps to ensure the change to the new tax law goes as smoothly as possible.

2018 Expatriate Tax Return Questionnaire (Download)

Email us with questions or for additional help;  Visit our website at 

We offer mini tax consultations on your questions concerning US expatriate, nonresident and  international tax questions. To learn more or request one write us at 

January 11, 2019


The following is a summary of important tax developments that occurred in October, November, and December of 2018 that may affect you. 
Business meals. One of the provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) disallows a deduction for any item with respect to an activity that is of a type generally considered to constitute entertainment, amusement, or recreation. However, the TCJA did not address the circumstances in which the provision of food and beverages might constitute entertainment. The new guidance clarifies that, as in the past, taxpayers generally may continue to deduct 50% of otherwise allowable business meal expenses if: (a) the expense is an ordinary and necessary expense paid or incurred during the tax year in carrying on any trade or business; (b) the expense is not lavish or extravagant under the circumstances; (c) the taxpayer, or an employee of the taxpayer, is present at the furnishing of the food or beverages; (d) the food and beverages are provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant, or similar business contact; and (e) in the case of food and beverages provided during or at an entertainment activity, the food and beverages are purchased separately from the entertainment, or the cost of the food and beverages is stated separately from the cost of the entertainment on one or more bills, invoices, or receipts.

Depreciation and expensing. IRS provided guidance on deducting expenses under Code Sec. 179(a) and depreciation under the alternate depreciation system (ADS) of Code Sec. 168(g), as amended by the TCJA. The guidance explains how taxpayers can elect to treat qualified real property, as defined under the TCJA, as property eligible for the expense election. The TCJA amended the definition of qualified real property to mean qualified improvement property and some improvements to nonresidential real property, such as: roofs; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning property; fire protection and alarm systems; and security systems. The guidance also explains how real property trades or businesses or farming businesses, electing out of the TCJA interest deduction limitations, can change to the ADS for property placed in service before 2018, and provides that such is not a change in accounting method. In addition, the guidance provides an optional depreciation table for residential rental property depreciated under the ADS with a 30-year recovery period.

State & local taxes. IRS has provided safe harbors allowing a deduction for certain payments made by a C corporation or a "specified pass-through entity" to or for the use of a charitable organization if, in return for such payment, they receive or expect to receive a state or local tax credit that reduces a state or local tax imposed on the entity. Such payment is treated as meeting the requirements of an ordinary and necessary business expense. For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the TCJA limits an individual's deduction to $10,000 ($5,000 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return) for the aggregate amount of the following state and local taxes paid during the calendar year: (1) real property taxes; (2) personal property taxes; (3) income, war profits, and excess profits taxes, and (4) general sales taxes. This limitation does not apply to certain taxes that are paid and incurred in carrying on a trade or business or a for-profit activity. An entity will be considered a specified pass-through entity only if: (1) the entity is a business entity other than a C corporation that is regarded for all federal income tax purposes as separate from its owners; (2) the entity operates a trade or business; (3) the entity is subject to a state or local tax incurred in carrying on its trade or business that is imposed directly on the entity; and (4) in return for a payment to a charitable organization, the entity receives or expects to receive a state or local tax credit that the entity applies or expects to apply to offset a state or local tax described in (3), above, other than a state or local income tax.
Personal exemption suspension. IRS provided guidance clarifying how the suspension of the personal exemption deduction from 2018 through 2025 under the TCJA applies to certain rules that referenced that provision and were not also suspended. These include rules dealing with the premium tax credit and, for 2018, the individual shared responsibility provision (also known as the individual mandate). Under the TCJA, for purposes of any other provision, the suspension of the personal exemption (by reducing the exemption amount to zero) is not be taken into account in determining whether a deduction is allowed or allowable, or whether a taxpayer is entitled to a deduction.

Limitation on deducting business interest expense. IRS has provided a safe harbor that allows taxpayers to treat certain infrastructure trades or businesses (such as airports, ports, mass commuting facilities, and sewage and waste disposal facilities) as real property trades or businesses solely for purposes of qualifying as an electing real property trade or business. For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the TCJA provides that a deduction allowed for business interest for any tax year can't exceed the sum of: (1) the taxpayer's business interest income for the tax year; (2) 30% of the taxpayer's adjusted taxable income for the tax year; plus (3) the taxpayer's floor plan financing interest (certain interest paid by vehicle dealers) for the tax year. The term "business interest" generally means any interest properly allocable to a trade or business, but for purposes of the limitation on the deduction for business interest, it doesn't include interest properly allocable to an "electing real property trade or business." Thus, interest expense that is properly allocable to an electing real property trade or business is not properly allocable to a trade or business, and is not business interest expense that is subject to the interest limitation.