Twice this week, I’ve talked with Americans living abroad who’ve received bad advice from family members or U.S.-based tax professionals that they did not need to file an annual tax return with the IRS because they did not work in the United States. The U.S. taxes its citizens even if they live and work abroad.
There are different income thresholds. Basically, if you earn more than U.S. $10,500 - before your home-country tax payments - you need to file a U.S. tax return. And the threshold is even lower if you’re married or self-employed. You can find a short quiz to determine if you need to file a US tax return here.
When taking this quiz, if you’re unsure about your filing status, the website can help you find the answer. If you're married to a non-U.S. citizen, you may have difficulty qualifying for Head of Household filing status. You would need to live with a “qualifying person.” This means either a U.S. Citizen spouse or child. Many dual nationals cannot qualify as Head of Household because they did not live in the United States long enough to transmit citizenship to their children. This strikes me as terribly unfair. Children deserve support, and parents deserve equal tax treatment regardless of the nationality of their children.
The other big problem I uncovered was the FBAR. Neither person was aware of the obligation to report their “foreign” bank accounts once they met the $10,000 threshold. Find out more here.
When making decisions about your financial affairs, make sure you get advice from a qualified professional. I offer free initial consultations and would be happy to answer your questions. You can request an appointment here.
Christine Dahl is an American attorney based in The Hague who helps expats and dual nationals understand and comply with U.S. tax laws.