From when we were hired for our first job, we knew there was a taxman to pay. We saw it in our paychecks when it seemed like a good chunk of change was going to things like “federal,” “state,” “Medicare” and “FICA.”
Not to worry, our parents told us. You’ll probably get some of that back in a tax refund, but you have to file your tax return by April 15. Every year since, it was a race to beat the April 15 deadline. We used to see cars on the news lined up around the block on April 15 as people rushed to get their tax return postmarked by midnight.
Every year it was the same story – until you relocated to another country. Suddenly, April 15 didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. Like all Americans, you have to pay any taxes you owe by April 15 to avoid interest and penalties.
However, here’s the catch: Most expats won’t have to pay any U.S. taxes, thanks to claiming either the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion or the Foreign Tax Credit. These two IRS provision can reduce an expat’s tax liabilities so they aren’t being taxed twice.
For US citizens filing taxes from abroad, the new “April 15” is actually June 15. Expats receive an automatic two-month extension until June 15 each year in order to give them enough time to file their foreign tax return first.
However, American citizens living abroad, like their America-residing counterparts, also have an opportunity to request a personal extension. If expats aren’t prepared to file by June 15, they can complete Form 4868 to request an extra four months to file.
This puts the tax filing deadline at Oct. 15 – a full six months away from the April 15 deadline that has been drilled into our memory since youth.
Oct. 15 is also the Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) deadline for filing FinCEN Form 114. While this form is closely associated with your tax status, the IRS has nothing to do with it. This form is not to be filed with federal tax returns and instead needs to be submitted separately online using the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s BSA E-Filing System. It is officially due April 15, but expats receive an automatic extension until Oct. 15.
FBAR filing is required for United States citizens who have financial interest in or authority over a foreign financial account or multiple accounts that total more than $10,000 at any time during the calendar year.
If you’re still stuck in tax limbo by Oct. 15, then you have just one more chance to make things right and get your taxes completed “on time.” Near the Oct. 15 deadline, expats can request an additional two months to work on their taxes – until Dec. 15. Unlike other extensions, this one must be requested in writing and be granted by the IRS. It is not automatic.