Tax Tips for U.S. Americans Abroad
If you are living abroad, you are already familiar with some of the tax laws within your adopted country. Especially if you are working overseas – depending on your income – you most likely pay taxes to the country you’re living in. But did you know you can get credit towards your foreign income to prevent you from paying double tax?
The Foreign Tax Credit (FTC) from the IRS in the United States is a dollar-for-dollar reduction towards your foreign earned income. This means, for example, if you paid 200 Euros to the Italian government as a resident of a foreign country, you can take a 200 dollar credit and apply it to any US taxes you owe. Thus, you can subtract 200 Euros (convert into USD) off of your US tax bill.
It’s important to note, however, that you as an American expat cannot take credit from the income you excluded from the FEIE (Foreign Earned Income Exclusion). This particular credit is a tax benefit that helps you exclude up to $105,900 of foreign earned income for the tax season 2019.
How to Claim the FTC
For your US expat taxes, in order to claim the Foreign Tax Credit, you’ll have to meet the following:
- The tax owed and paid by you
- The tax must be income which is offered for taxation (ie: “assessed income” – calculating taxable income and then assessing tax liability from it)
- The tax needs to originate in a foreign country legally (ie: foreign country taxes)
- You need to have a foreign tax liability that was accrued or paid
Furthermore, refunds stay as refunds and cannot be included in the aggregate (amount) of the foreign taxes you paid. So if you had 1,000 euros withheld on your French taxes throughout the year and received 100 euros back in a tax refund, you will only be able to claim the net amount of 900 euros as a foreign tax credit.
Therefore, in order to claim the FTC, you can manually complete Form 1116. But in order to fill out this form, you will need to change the foreign taxes paid into US dollars.
Since you will need to convert foreign taxes paid into US dollars, it’s best to convert on either the exact date the foreign tax was paid OR the average yearly exchange rate dictated by the IRS. Then once you fill out the form, attach it to your federal tax return (Form 1040).
However, since our software covers Foreign Tax Credit, you can skip out on the manual labor and easily get your US taxes done through us.
Qualifying for FTC
How can you be sure you qualify for the Foreign Tax Credit? First, make sure that taxes you are paying in the foreign country you are working in, is imposed onto you. Meaning, by law you must pay taxes in a foreign country and so, you carry forward this responsibility.
Then, only a certain type of finances can qualify for this credit. In the most common case, it is personal income, which includes everything from wages, business income to investment income.
By using the Foreign Tax Credit, you are reducing your US taxable income as an American abroad. Additionally, when you use the FTC for credit onto your own US taxes, you lessen the burden of your US tax liability.
If you want to deduct your foreign taxes, you can fill out Form 1040 (Schedule A – Itemized Deductions). However, we recommend against this as it usually results in a lower reduction than the Foreign Tax Credit approach.
Once you know for a fact you want to utilize the Foreign Tax Credit, you can fill out Form 1116, or just use our online software to get it done smoothly! If you own a company abroad, you can use Form 1118 for Corporations.
Categorizing your Foreign Tax Credit
Before you even get started on the math, you will need to put your foreign tax credits into different buckets. The most important being:
- General Income Category
- Passive Income
Why? Because the IRS and many other tax authorities tax different types of income are taxed with different rules, rates, etc. For example, long-term investment income can be quite favorably taxed versus ordinary income. Therefore, it’s important and required to ensure that the foreign tax credits are only applied to the type of income they were applied to.
General Income Category income most commonly applies to income items such as salary, wages, self-employment income. While Passive Income Category income includes dividends, interest, royalties, rents, and annuities.
US Foreign Tax Credit Calculation
Your foreign tax credit cannot be more than your total U.S. tax liability multiplied by a fraction. The numerator of the fraction is your taxable income from sources outside the United States. The denominator is your total taxable income from U.S. and foreign sources.IRS
In order to see how much US Foreign Tax Credit you can gain, please multiply the total amount of your foreign source taxable income (before tax exemptions) with the total US tax you need to pay.
For the tax year, George made $100,000 in the US, but also made $50,000 in Italy (after converting Euros to US Dollars). He also owes $10,000 in US taxes.
Therefore, George’s total income is $150,000 and one-third of that income ($50,000) is foreign-sourced. He can receive $3,300 as the maximum foreign tax credit ($10,000 x 1/3).
Carryback and Carryover of Unused Credit
US citizens abroad who are subject to tax and can’t claim a credit for the full amount of qualified foreign income taxes paid or accrued in the year are allowed a carryback and/or carryover of the unused foreign income tax. It is possible to carry back for one year and then carry forward for 10 years the unused foreign tax.
For more information on this topic (including taxes paid or accrued in years before 2007), see Publication 514, Foreign Tax Credit for Individuals.
To start the process of claiming your Foreign Tax Credit sign up through us at MyExpatTaxes, and get ready for a smooth ride. We help hundreds of American citizens living abroad on a daily basis deal with tax forms, filing status, tax rate, and more!
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