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Tax Tips for U.S. Americans Abroad

Your Options as a US Citizen Abroad Never Filed Tax Return

So why is the IRS so concerned with US Expats? Well the US has the highest tax avoidance cost (circa $200 billion) in the world. So it makes sense that the IRS is continuously trying to find new ways, means, and methods to track US citizens who live or work abroad to make sure they get their tax reporting job done. This also explains the strict FATCA laws to prevent overseas money laundering. However, US citizen abroad never filed tax return, this can seem daunting.

Maybe you recently discovered you have to file (and possibly pay) US taxes and want to start getting that off your to-do list? You may be years behind on taxes or wondering what the solutions are for a US citizen that never filed a tax return, to begin with?

The truth is that within the rights of US citizens, if you don’t move forward with reporting your worldwide income every year, you could get fined. So, we got the answers for you on what to do if you’re a US citizen abroad never filed tax return…

New US Expat That Never Filed

If you are a new American expat living abroad for the first time and missed out on one or two years of filing your federal tax return, it’s ok. You can simply file back taxes from your missing returns. So if you are a new expat and already missed a year of filing, the US tax year you need to file for is the year before (ie: right now it is the year 2019, so you would need to file for 2018).

US citizens living abroad who have just missed one or two years US federal tax filing can catch up by simply back filing their missing returns. The filing deadline for US expats is June 15th but you can request an extension to the October 15th deadline.

Also, something else to be aware of if you missed out on a couple of years of filing a tax return while living abroad – is reporting your foreign bank account details.

This is only if you’ve ever had $10,000 combined or more in your foreign bank account(s) at any one time during the year. Or if you have signatory authority or control over someone else’s foreign bank account(s), which tip you over the 10K filing threshold, this is also important to take note. For one or both instances from above, you’ll need to file an FBAR, which stands for Foreign Bank Account Report.

If you actually have over $400,000 (single filers) of foreign financial assets in your foreign bank account at the end of the year, then you need to use Form 8938 in addition to a federal US tax return. Or, as we mentioned before, just go through us since we handle all the necessary tax forms every year for a US expat.

IRS Tax Amnesty Program

If you have never filed a tax return and are a US expat living abroad for more than 3 years, there is a solution for you. You can catch up on your US taxes as an American abroad by utilizing the IRS Tax Amnesty Program. This means you can avoid late filing penalties! It is a safe and legal way to get back on track if you’ve never filed a tax return.

However, it’s understandable if you are hesitant or nervous to start this filing process because it means you have to be open about being a US citizen abroad never filed tax return. Fear not though, as this US Expat Tax Amnesty program is made especially for you and will reduce any late filing fees if applicable!

After you catch up using the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedure, you will continue to start reporting your worldwide income every year. It’s an obligation every taxpaying US citizen must fulfill once a year, and it can be stressful and complicated. (But this is where we come in! Here at MyExpatTaxes we provide help for American citizens abroad. We make life a little easier through our simple and affordable tax software.)

It is possible to come clean and eradicate the past history of not doing taxes with the IRS. Just check out the solution below:

The Streamlined Procedure

If the reason you failed to file because of “negligence, inadvertence, or mistake,” it means you are qualified to use the Streamlined Procedure Program. Being a “non-willful” individual who uses one of the reasons above shows the innocence that you were not deliberate in avoiding paying taxes. 

Additionally, filing late as a US expat can be a painless step if you want to live a worry-free life regarding getting caught by the IRS and being forced to pay taxes inevitably. So we suggest not to postpone the inevitable! Especially if you reach out to us to begin the catch-up process, this prevents the IRS from being super strict with you in the possible future.

The Streamlined Procedure needs at the last 3 US tax returns, plus the last 6 FBARS (if applicable), and a note that states how your previous failure to file was not because of wilful avoidance (a.k.a. knowing about it but not doing it anyway).

Plus, you can also take advantage of the Foreign Tax Credit and Foreign Earned Income Exclusion as you work on the Streamlined.

We say it’s better to just nip problems in the bud before they get out of hand. Staying tax compliant is a great thing you can do for your wellbeing as a US expat!

US Citizens Who Never Filed Can Use MyExpatTaxes

US taxes abroad can be difficult to understand. At the end of the day, if you are still struggling to figure out your tax profile and how to become more tax compliant, we suggest you entrust in an expat tax service.

Over here at MyExpatTaxes, we support American citizens abroad (even an Accidental American abroad) with all their tax questions and get them to a state of ease as we bring them to a state of tax compliance. Also, our customer service team is available to answer your emails, DMs, and any form of message you may have regarding getting back on track with the IRS as a US citizen abroad.

Plus, our award-winning software is sure to impress. Just submit all required information our software needs from you, and you can be done with your US taxes for the whole year. The IRS in the United States and our team will surely appreciate the effort you made!

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42 Comments

  1. Avatar Tony Bridges on February 20, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    My son has lived in El Salvador since 2017 and has not filed a US tax return. Need assistance on how to resolve as he wants to move back to the US. Was marred to a El Salvadorian in 2018

    • Michelle H. Michelle H. on February 21, 2020 at 11:47 am

      Hi Tony,

      Your son can take advantage of the Streamlined Procedure through us. The fee is €149 per year of missed filing, and €100 for extended support for us to guide your son through this process and work with the FBAR filings (if necessary). He can get started by signing up in our app today.

      • Avatar Linda Joy on April 3, 2020 at 2:15 am

        Hi. I’m a U.S. citizen who moved to Honduras as a minor. I’ve never filed taxes, and only recently started working, but do not even earn 1k a month. As far as I understand, if I am under the income threshold, I shouldn’t have to file. But as a newly single mother, having never received income before now, I’m uncertain what would be needed.

        • Markus Markus on April 3, 2020 at 12:56 pm

          Hi Linda,

          Even when you’re not required to file, it may be beneficial in your case: For one thing, you’ll be eligible to receive the Stimulus payment and if your child is a US citizen, they may be eligble for the Additional Child Tax Credit.

  2. Avatar Mario on February 21, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    I need assistance on this tax return forms since I lived abroad 33 years ( I´m 34 years old) and never filed a tax return. I moved back to USA a couple of months ago and I want to place this in order since I´m planning to ask for a K1 visa for my fiance and at a certain point in the process, I need to show tax return info.

    • Markus Markus on February 22, 2020 at 12:37 pm

      Hi Mario – you’ve come to the right place, then! 🙂 You can sign up at https://app.myexpattaxes.com and go through the Streamlined Filing Procedure.

    • Avatar Gertrude on July 9, 2020 at 12:56 am

      Hello, I am 29 years old and I am an American citizen but I have lived in Haiti since my childhood. Now I work but I don’t earn 1k / month! I still want to file my taxes. What is the process?

  3. Avatar Niracha Marchetti on March 2, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    hi,
    I am 26 years American girl being raised and been living outside the States and now doing my master abroad. I have never earned more than $1000 a month. Do I need to file my tax or pay tax? or i can wait till i started working and earn enough to pay tax then start filing my taxes?

    • Markus Markus on March 2, 2020 at 5:10 pm

      Hi Niracha! It’s unlikely you owe taxes, but it depends on how much income you had – the filing threshold as a single person under 65 is USD 12,200 (for 2019). So you may be just under it or just over it. If your income is below the filing threshold, you don’t have to file. Note that it’s not just earned income (like salaries) that counts towards the threshold. Interest, government subsidies and the like would all count as income.

  4. Avatar Paul Rooney on March 5, 2020 at 12:12 am

    Hi,

    I’m a US citizen, living in Sydney for the past 15 years. My salary isn’t really high, just a bit over 100K the past few years. I filed my US taxes for maybe the first 3 or 4 years of living here. As I always owed zero tax to the US I just stopped doing it. I’d like to get back on track as I’m now 58 and hope to draw off my social security when I do retire, here in Sydney. Also, I’m considering becoming a dual citizen, getting my Australian citizenship, but I’ve been reluctant as I’m not sure how this would impact both my social security and my Australian Super Annuation.

    Would you be able to help with this?

    • Markus Markus on March 25, 2020 at 9:10 pm

      Hi Paul – yes, we’ll be able to help! Ideally, you go ahead and create an account with us at https://app.myexpattaxes.com

  5. Avatar Mia on March 21, 2020 at 12:14 am

    Hi. I am an American citizen, living abroad since 2016. I didn’t work all this time and don’t need to file Fatca. This year I should report foreign account interest for 2019. So will I have problems? I really don’t owe anything for these years living abroad that’s why I didn’t file. Now I should report (just report, no payment owned) for 2019 and I’m gonna file. Will I face problems and how IRS will inform me? Do they mail notifications to international addresses?

  6. Avatar Kaitlin on March 30, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    Hi, I am an American citizen living abroad since 2017. For tax year 2017, I filed using 1040.com but now this website does not exist anymore. How can I check to see that the tax return was actually filed properly? Additionally, I forgot to file for tax year 2018 and now I also need to do 2019 tax return. I do not have > 10K in any foreign bank account so I am excluded from this requirement. How would you advise me to check the status of the 2017 tax return and also file the 2018 and 2019 one? Thank you very much in advance.

    • Markus Markus on April 3, 2020 at 2:00 pm

      Normally, I’d recommend to call the IRS, but I’m afraid it’ll be hard to get through. Best thing to do now would be to file your 2018 and ’19 tax returns, and later in the year inquire about 2017 and file that (again) if needed.

  7. Avatar Phyllisa on April 1, 2020 at 2:03 am

    Hi. I was born in the United States, but move to The Bahamas with my mother when I was 5 years old. I have never filed taxes, and I’d like to move to the United States in the near future. However, I know I need to get my taxes sorted. How do I go about doing this?

    • Michelle H. Michelle H. on April 1, 2020 at 9:00 am

      Hi Phyllisa, you’ll need to make sure you are in good standing with the IRS before you move to the US. Do check this blog here and sign up on our app to start the filing and making up process!

  8. Avatar Henry on April 3, 2020 at 1:49 am

    Hi. I’ve been on disability in Japan for the last 8 years. My disability payments come from the Japanese government. Do I have to file for those years?

    Thanks.

    • Markus Markus on April 3, 2020 at 12:59 pm

      Hello Henry! It depends on how much the Japanese government paid and if you’re under or below the filing threshold. Even if you are not required to file, you may want to do it now to be able to get the stimulus payment from the US.

      • Avatar Henry on April 3, 2020 at 11:53 pm

        Thank you, Markus.

  9. Avatar Brad on April 4, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Hi, I’m an American citizen, I’m 67 years old, I was traveling abroad in 1971, joined a Christian volunteer organization in 1972 and have never resided or worked in the US since then, being self-supporting mainly through donations. I never filed a tax return as my income has never exceeded 12000 US per year. Now for the past 10 years my income has been exclusively from donations from friends, but still less than 12000 US per year (it seems like in any case I would come under the Foreign Earned Income provision and exemption). Next year (2021) I would like to enroll in a 2 year Bible College in the US, and hopefully find some part-time work in the US during that time, so I was thinking to make a tax report this year to regularize my tax situation. I’m married to a Brazilian woman who is not a resident of the US. However I have no idea how to explain this to the tax authorities on the 1040 and 2555 forms, it seems like donations don’t need to be taxed, and it doesn’t look like there is any place to explain my situation on the forms. Do you have a suggestion of what I should do? Thank you!

    • Markus Markus on April 5, 2020 at 10:00 am

      You should sign up with us and go through the questionnaire and we’ll get you all the forms you need. 🙂

  10. Avatar Shelly on April 16, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    Hi, I was born in the US but my mother filed for a UK birth certificate straight away. We returned to the UK when I was 4 months old and have lived here ever since (25 years). I have been in full time education the whole time (currently doing a PhD). I recently discovered i was also classed as a US citizen and now I’m worried what that might mean for the university stipend and future job earnings. Theres not a lot of official information online for someone in my position,. I dont have an american passport, I have never worked there and have not been back since I left at 4 months old.
    Do you have any advice?
    Thanks

    • Michelle H. Michelle H. on April 16, 2020 at 3:04 pm

      Hi Shelly,
      Thanks for your question. I suggest you take a look at our Accidental Americans blog here. You’ll also need to obtain a US social security number in order to get an American passport, which we explain how to do so in the blog. If you have further questions – please do reach out to us again!

  11. Avatar Danielle on April 16, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    Hello,

    I am American and have been living abroad since 2007. I filed a tax return my first year abroad and since I was below the income threshold I didn’t need to pay anything. I then misunderstood and thought that I no longer needed to file unless I went above the threshold. I worked for one more year and then did not work for the following 6 years as I was supported by my partner while having our two children. I still live abroad and starting working freelance from home in 2018. I still make below the income threshold but worry that maybe I should still file for the last two years that I have been working freelance?

    I appreciate any advice you can offer.

    • Michelle H. Michelle H. on April 17, 2020 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Danielle,
      Do take a look at this blog and this blog. If they don’t answer your questions please let me know.

  12. Avatar ann marie on April 22, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    Hello, my son is 19 years old (turns 20 in September) and will be filing taxes for the first time. He earns below $12 000. Which forms does he need to file and should he file for 2018 and 2019?

    • Michelle H. Michelle H. on April 23, 2020 at 10:18 am

      Hi Ann,

      Your son doesn’t have to file his taxes if he makes under the threshold, however, it can try the Non-Filer portal through the IRS this year to receive the stimulus check.

  13. Avatar Amit on April 22, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    I have dual citizenship with Israel, have never lived in the US, but have a social security number. Since I have never filed US taxes, am I eligible for the stimulus package? Thanks!

    • Michelle H. Michelle H. on April 23, 2020 at 10:12 am

      Hi Amit,
      You’ll need to make up for the taxes you didn’t file through our Streamlined Procedure package before you can receive the Stimulus check.

  14. Avatar Sarah on April 28, 2020 at 6:14 pm

    Hi, I have been living permanently in Germany since 2014 and have filed my US taxes every year. Last year I got married and my German husband looked at the 2019 tax return (which I haven’t filed yet) as we are filing married separately and he wanted to see the papers. He asked me why I never put any income in Form 1040 and I explained that I thought that I didn’t have to because I am below the 100,00K threshold and therefore do not owe any taxes. We then found out together that this seems to be a common expat mistake and that I should have been filing Form 2555 as well. What should I do to correct this? Can I just submit the missing 2555 Forms for 2014-2018 (+ 2019) and write a note explaining my misconception? Also, regarding the Corona Stimulus, how do I apply for this? I read that the government will directly deposit the funds or send a check.. They don’t have my bank account info though because I never put that into my 1040. Will it then automatically be sent via mail? Thanks!

    • Michelle H. Michelle H. on April 29, 2020 at 2:08 pm

      Hi Sarah,
      You’ll need to use the Streamlined Procedure process to make up for the years you forgot to file, as sending the IRS a note and missed forms will not work. You’ll need to become tax compliant before you can be eligible for the stimulus check – so you’ll need to use the Streamlined to do this.

  15. Avatar Douglas on May 7, 2020 at 8:49 am

    Hi. I’m a US citizen. I moved to Ethiopia when I was 12. I never filed for taxes and have never had an income. Im thinking of going back to America soon and would like to know if I need to sort anything out to cause myself less trouble before going back.
    Thanks

    • Jody Fennell Jody Fennell on May 8, 2020 at 2:50 pm

      Hi Douglas!
      If you should have been filing US taxes, but have not, it is probably best to go through the Streamlining Procedure (IRS Amnesty) outlined here: https://www.myexpattaxes.com/the-streamlined-procedure-for-u-s-expats

      This ensures you are all caught up with the IRS. We offer this procedure for about 700 euros, which is less than half of most other tax firms (charging at a start of $2K… we know, it’s a lot!)

  16. Avatar daniel on May 7, 2020 at 11:19 am

    Hi. I’m a us citizen but left as a child. I have not filed any US taxes but I also have not had an income. I am planning to go back to live in USA but want to know if I need to straighten this up before going back.
    Thanks

  17. Avatar Sharyn on May 25, 2020 at 5:35 am

    Hello ! Thanks for all the helpful advice above. Quick question – my husband, US citizen living abroad not having filed for too many years, now wants to use the Streamlined procedure for catching up… i understand to file the previous 3 years (2016-2018) using the streamlined procedure which is a mail in to the IRS. BUT for 2019, does he just go ahead and file normally online? or do we need to explain anything that he has submitted docs to the streamlined procedure – is there even anywhere to explain that? Just wondering how they would process the 2019 return without that red flag popping up.
    Thanks!!

    • Michelle H. Michelle H. on May 25, 2020 at 10:08 am

      Hi Sharyn,

      It’s best your husband uses the MyExpatTaxes software to file through the Streamlined Procedure and 2019 taxes, as we can include everything in one package for him and no one has to worry about red flags 🙂

  18. Avatar Chris on June 30, 2020 at 2:38 am

    Hello! I’m a US passport holder born in Japan and lived most of my life, except the 4-5 yrs as a student in U.S. I am 40 years old and I’ve never worked outside of Japan. I’ve never filed US tax and would like to be tax compliant as I’ve recently discovered this is compulsory.

    My gross income are generated only from my work in Japan (around 140K US annually for the past 3-4 years) and have been advised by a local tax attorney (who used to cope with US Individual Tax return) that I may be eligible to the Streamlined Procedure.

    Under the assumption that I am eligible for the Streamlined Procedure, may I ask for your estimated cost, and the length of time you require usually for the filing to be completed? I did see this page but wasn’t sure if this covered everything (https://www.myexpattaxes.com/streamlining) Thank you!

    • Michelle H. Michelle H. on July 2, 2020 at 3:13 pm

      Hi Chris,
      Please send us an email so we can take a better look at your tax situation and answer your questions more personally: support@myexpattaxes.com – Thanks!

  19. Avatar Cheryl on July 7, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    Hello,

    I’m a 56-year-old US citizen living in the UK since 2005 on a spouse visa. I’ve worked for the past 14 years earning around £40,000 per year and paying UK taxes. I’ve never filed for my US taxes because I didn’t think I needed to, but now I’m worried that I should have been filing. Should I start filing and will I have to pay back taxes or fees?

    I’m also a US disabled veteran with an account in the USA receiving disability payments. My stimulus payment automatically went into that account. Will that flag me up to the IRS and/or do I need to file for those payments?

    Can you please advise me?

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