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2021 Tax Filing Requirements for Expats

Expat Tax Blog | Tax Tips for US Americans Abroad

2021 tax filing requirements for expats

It’s that time of year. The 2021 tax filing requirements for expats have been released on the IRS’ website. Now it’s time to check whether your gross income from worldwide sources reached the tax filing requirement! Gross income from worldwide sources is income you received in the world that came in the form of money, property, goods, and services that are not exempt from tax. 

Due to inflation, the IRS changes the tax filing thresholds every year, and it rises every year. This means you may or may not need to file US taxes – it all depends on whether you reach the filing threshold.

2021 Filing Status

Before we share the 2021 filing requirements, it’s important to know your filing status as an American expat. These filing statuses have reached the tax filing requirement from worldwide gross income:

Single Filer: Not legally married in either the US or abroad.

Married Filing Jointly: Legally married and you want to file with your spouse. You can file with your spouse if they are a US citizen/Green cardholder with an SSN or a Non-Resident Alien with an ITIN.

Married Filing Separately: Legally married, and your spouse does not want to be included in your tax return. Most expats married to non-US citizens will be filing under this status.

Head of Household: These individuals are responsible for paying more than half in maintaining the home during the tax year. They must have a qualifying child or dependent, and the child must meet the criteria. Expats with a Non-Resident Alien spouse can be considered unmarried for the purpose of qualifying for this filing status.

Qualifying Widower: A US citizen who retains the Married Filing Jointly status benefits for two years after the spouse passed away. You also need to have a dependent child to file with this status.

Separately, we have non-filers. They are US citizens who make no income or their worldwide income falls below the filing requirement. Non-filers do not need to file US taxes. However, we explain in this blog why they can reconsider claiming potential tax refunds.

2021 Tax Filing Requirements for Expats

Whether you live in the United States or abroad, you have a natural duty to file US taxes if you are required as an American citizen. More specifically, your filing status, income, and age determine whether you must file a tax return.

Essentially you must file a US tax return for 2021 (tax season 2020) if your gross income from worldwide sources is at least the amount shown in the following table for people under 65 years old:

Filing Status: Worldwide gross income amount:
Single $12,400
Married Filing Jointly $24,800
Married Filing Separately* $5
Head of Household $18,650
Qualifying Widower $24,800

Note: If another taxpayer claims your spouse as a dependent, or your spouse has filed a separate return, you will need to file as ‘’Married Filing Separately.’’ Again if you are married with a US-spouse or your spouse has an ITIN, you can file ‘’Married Filing Jointly.’’

*The Married Filing Separately status also applies if you are not living with your spouse at the end of the year (example: separated, in process of divorce).

Self-employed Filing Requirements

If you’re a self-employed US citizen, your net earnings from self-employment need to be $400 or more to file a tax return. This is even if your gross income from worldwide sources is below the tax filing threshold for your filing status (see table).

Net earnings from self-employment is the sales revenue left over after all operating expenses like costs, taxes, interest, etc., have been deducted from your total revenue. 

As explained in our Self-Employment blog, self-employed persons need to also file Schedule C along with their tax returns. This Schedule is included within the MyExpatTaxes software and reports all profits and/or losses from your company to the IRS. 

2021 US Tax Deadlines

2021 Expat Tax Deadlines

Knowing the 2021 tax filing requirements for expats and their extensions is important as an American living abroad. This is because if you missed the filing date, and the IRS finds out about it, you’ll be given hefty penalties. 

Last year, when the coronavirus affected the entire world, the IRS changed the expat tax filing and paying deadline to July 15. This normally doesn’t happen, but due to an unprecedented global event, the IRS did it.

Now, even despite a pandemic continuing all over the world, the expat tax deadlines have reverted to their normal spots:

April 15: US Tax Payment Deadline

Typically, expats don’t owe any US taxes. This is due to expat tax benefits like the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and Foreign Tax Credit. However, if they are self-employed, live in a low-tax country, or are high-earners, they may have to pay US taxes.

The US tax payment deadline for Americans abroad is April 15, 2021. The tax filing deadline is different (see below).

June 15: Tax Filing Deadline for Expats

June 15, 2021, is the automatic two-month tax filing extension for US citizens abroad. This date is what separates expats from Americans in the United States because of the tax extension.

In order to claim this automatic extension, expats do need to include a specific overseas extension statement to their tax return. Furthermore, if expats want to extend their tax filing obligation, they can apply for a free tax extension via the MyExpatTaxes tax software starting in March.

October 15: First Tax Filing Extension Deadline & FBAR Filing Deadline

Once you apply and submit your tax extension through our platform, you can file US taxes – penalty-free – between June 15 and October 15, 2021. You aren’t obligated to file an extension if you can file before the June deadline. Plus, if you do file an extension with us, you aren’t obligated to file future expat taxes with us, too.

The October 15 deadline is also the deadline if you need to file a Foreign Bank Account Report – FBAR. If you have had a total of $10,000 in all financial foreign accounts at any one time during the year, you’ll need to file an FBAR. Don’t worry; we have this included in the MyExpatTaxes’s software!

December 15: Very Last Day to File US Taxes

December 15, 2021, is the last day if you want to file US expat taxes without penalties. However, it requires a process to be eligible to file until this deadline.

You’ll need to write and mail a letter to the IRS and include specific documents you need to get an extension for. Additionally, you’ll have to write down a reason why the IRS should grant you an extension. We suggest you send this letter as soon as possible so you can get started with filing.

As a note, the IRS will not send you a confirmation about whether or not they received your letter. However, you can track your letter and have someone at the IRS office sign it for confirmation. 

File US Taxes Abroad

Here at MyExpatTaxes, we have all the US tax forms you need as a US citizen abroad, so you can get your filing done all in one place. Our affordable DIY base package is only 149 Euro and includes FBAR, FATCA, access to our support team, and more.

Sign up, walk through our expat tax software, answer straightforward questions in our user-friendly interface, and practically be done in 30 minutes.

We also offer additional tax support for corporations and self-employed individuals. Check out our new pricing page that highlights everything we offer and how affordable it is!

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