WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers living and working outside of the United States that they must file their 2018 federal income tax return by Monday, June 17.
The June 17 deadline applies to both U.S. citizens and resident aliens abroad, including those with dual citizenship. An extension of time to file is available for those who cannot meet this filing deadline.
Essential points to consider:
Most people abroad need to file
Just as most taxpayers in the United States are required to file their tax returns with the IRS by April 15, those living and working in another country are also required to file. However, an automatic two-month deadline extension is granted and in 2019 that date is June 17.
An income tax filing requirement generally applies even if a taxpayer qualifies for tax benefits, such as the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion or the Foreign Tax Credit, which substantially reduce or eliminate U.S. tax liability. These tax benefits are only available if an eligible taxpayer files a U.S. income tax return.
A taxpayer qualifies for the special June 17 filing deadline if both their tax home and abode are outside the United States and Puerto Rico. Those serving in the military outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico on the regular due date of their tax return also qualify for the extension to June 17. Be sure to attach a statement indicating which of these two situations apply.
Payments for taxes owed were due April 15 Interest, currently at the rate of 6 percent per year, compounded daily, still applies to any tax payment received after the original April 15 deadline. For details, see the “When to File and Pay” section in Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.
Reporting required for foreign accounts and assets
Federal law requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report any worldwide income, including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts. In most cases, affected taxpayers need to complete and attach Schedule B to their tax return. Part III of Schedule B asks about the existence of foreign accounts, such as bank and securities accounts, and usually requires U.S. citizens to report the country in which each account is located.
In addition, certain taxpayers may also have to complete and attach to their return Form 8938, Statement of Foreign Financial Assets. Generally, U.S. citizens, resident aliens and certain nonresident aliens must report specified foreign financial assets on this form if the aggregate value of those assets exceeds certain thresholds. See the instructions for this form for details.
Foreign accounts reporting deadline
Separate from reporting specified foreign financial assets on their tax return, taxpayers with an interest in, or signature or other authority over, foreign financial accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000 at any time during 2018, must file electronically with the Treasury Department a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). Because of this threshold, the IRS encourages taxpayers with foreign assets, even relatively small ones, to check if this filing requirement applies to them. The form is only available through the BSA E-filing System website.
The deadline for filing the annual Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) is now the same as for a federal income tax return, April 15, 2019, but FinCEN is granting filers missing the original deadline an automatic extension until Oct. 15, 2019, to file. Specific extension requests are not required.
Automatic extensions available
Taxpayers abroad who can’t meet the June 17 deadline can still get more time to file, but they need to ask for it. An extension request must be filed by June 17. Automatic extensions give people until Oct. 15, 2019, to file; however, this does not extend the time to pay tax.
One of the easiest ways to get an extension of time to file is through the Free File link on IRS.gov. In a matter of minutes, anyone, regardless of income, can use this free service to electronically request an extension on Form 4868. Requests may also be made using a paper form by following the instructions provided on the form. Form 4868 requires taxpayers to estimate their tax liability and pay any amount due.
Another option is to pay electronically, and the IRS will automatically process an extension when taxpayers select Form 4868 and are making a full or partial federal tax payment using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) or a debit or credit card. There is no need to file a separate Form 4868 when making an electronic payment and indicating it is for an extension. International taxpayers who do not have a U.S. bank account should refer to the Foreign Electronic Payments section on IRS.gov for more payment options and information.
Combat zone taxpayers get more time without having to ask for it
Members of the military and eligible support personnel serving in a combat zone have at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file their tax returns and pay any taxes due. This includes those serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat zones. A list of designated combat zones can be found in Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide.
Various circumstances affect the exact length of the extension available to any given taxpayer. Details, including examples illustrating how these extensions are calculated, can be found in the Extensions of Deadlines section in Publication 3.
Choose Free File
U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad can use IRS Free File to prepare and electronically file their returns for free. This means both U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad with adjusted gross incomes (AGI) of $66,000 or less can use brand-name software to prepare their tax returns and then e-file them for free. A limited number of companies provide tax software that can accommodate foreign addresses. A second option, Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms, has no income limit and is best suited to people who are comfortable preparing their own tax return.
Both the e-file and Free File electronic filing options are available until Oct. 15, 2019. Check out the e-file link on IRS.gov for details on the various electronic filing options. Free File is not available to non-resident aliens required to file Form 1040-NR.
Report in U.S. dollars
Any income received or deductible expenses paid in foreign currency must be reported on a U.S. tax return in U.S. dollars. Likewise, any tax payments must be made in U.S. dollars.
Both FINCEN Form 114 and IRS Form 8938 require the use of a December 31 exchange rate for all transactions, regardless of the actual exchange rate on the date of the transaction. Generally, the IRS accepts any posted exchange rate that is used consistently. For more information on exchange rates, see Foreign Currency and Currency Exchange Rates.
Taxpayers who relinquished their U.S. citizenship or ceased to be lawful permanent residents of the United States during 2018 must file a dual-status alien tax return, attaching Form 8854, Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement. A copy of the Form 8854 must also be filed with Internal Revenue Service, Philadelphia, PA 19255-0049, by the due date of the tax return (including extensions). See the instructions for this form and Notice 2009-85 (PDF), Guidance for Expatriates Under Section 877A, for further details.
Taxpayers who owe tax for 2018 can avoid having the same problem for 2019 by increasing the amount of tax withheld from their paychecks. For help determining the right amount to withhold, use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov.
IRS ends Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP)
The IRS will continue to use tools besides voluntary disclosure to combat offshore tax avoidance, including taxpayer education, whistleblower leads, civil examination and criminal prosecution. The IRS continues to use Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures that will remain in place and be available to eligible taxpayers. But, as with OVDP, the IRS said it may end the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures at some point. Full details of the OVDP and Streamlined Procedures are available at Options Available for U.S. Taxpayers with Undisclosed Foreign Financial Assets.
Taxpayers concerned that their non-compliance may rise to the level of tax and tax-related crimes may consider coming into compliance with the tax law and avoid potential criminal prosecution through the updated Voluntary Disclosure Practice by preparing Form 14457. More information on the updated procedures for the Voluntary Disclosure Practice can be found in the Nov. 20, 2018, Interim Guidance Memo LB&I-09-1118-01.
- Any U.S. taxpayer living abroad with tax questions can refer to the International Taxpayers page on IRS.gov and use the IRS Tax Map and the International Tax Topic Index to get answers.
- Taxpayers with foreign financial accounts that report their accounts to the U.S Treasury Department should also visit the FBAR Fact Sheet posted on IRS.gov.
- Taxpayers who are looking for tax return preparers abroad should visit the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.
- To help avoid delays with tax refunds, taxpayers living abroad should visit the Helpful Tips for Effectively Receiving a Tax Refund for Taxpayers Living Abroad page.
- More information on the tax rules that apply to U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad can be found in Publication 54, available on IRS.gov.