skip navigation

Search Help
Navigation Help


Main Topics
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z #


FAQs
Forms
Publications
Tax Topics


Comments
About Tax Map

previous page Previous Page: Publication 54 - Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad - Obtaining Copies of Tax Treaties
next page Next Page: Publication 541 - Partnerships - Partnerships
 Use previous pagenext page to find additional occurrences of topic items.Index for this Publication
taxmap/pubs/p54-025.htm#en_us_publink100047617

Chapter 7
How To Get 
Tax Help(p37)

spacer

You can get help with unresolved tax issues, order free publications and forms, ask tax questions, and get information from the IRS in several ways. By selecting the method that is best for you, you will have quick and easy access to tax help.
taxmap/pubs/p54-025.htm#en_us_publink100047618

Contacting your Taxpayer Advocate.(p37)


rule
spacer

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS whose employees assist taxpayers who are experiencing economic harm, who are seeking help in resolving tax problems that have not been resolved through normal channels, or who believe that an IRS system or procedure is not working as it should.
You can contact the TAS by calling the TAS toll-free case intake line at 1-877-777-4778 or TTY/TDD 1-800-829-4059 to see if you are eligible for assistance. You can also call or write your local taxpayer advocate, whose phone number and address are listed in your local telephone directory and in Publication 1546, Taxpayer Advocate Service—Your Voice at the IRS. You can file Form 911, Request for Taxpayer Advocate Service Assistance (And Application for Taxpayer Assistance Order), or ask an IRS employee to complete it on your behalf. For more information, go to www.irs.gov/advocate.
If you live outside of the United States, you can call the Taxpayer Advocate at (787) 622-8940 in English or (787) 622-8930 in Spanish. You can contact the Taxpayer Advocate at:

Internal Revenue Service 
Taxpayer Advocate 
P.O. Box 193479 
San Juan, PR 00919-3479


taxmap/pubs/p54-025.htm#en_us_publink100049822

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs).(p37)
spacer

LITCs are independent organizations that provide low income taxpayers with representation in federal tax controversies with the IRS for free or for a nominal charge. The clinics also provide tax education and outreach for taxpayers who speak English as a second language. Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List, provides information on clinics in your area. It is available at www.irs.gov or your local IRS office.
taxmap/pubs/p54-025.htm#en_us_publink100049823

Free tax services.(p37)


rule
spacer

To find out what services are available, get Publication 910, IRS Guide to Free Tax Services. It contains lists of free tax information sources, including publications, services, and free tax education and assistance programs. It also has an index of over 100 TeleTax topics (recorded tax information) you can listen to on your telephone.
Accessible versions of IRS published products are available on request in a variety of alternative formats for people with disabilities.
taxmap/pubs/p54-025.htm#en_us_publink100049824

Free help with your return.(p37)


rule
spacer

Free help in preparing your return is available nationwide from IRS-trained volunteers. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is designed to help low-income taxpayers and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program is designed to assist taxpayers age 60 and older with their tax returns. Many VITA sites offer free electronic filing and all volunteers will let you know about credits and deductions you may be entitled to claim. To find the nearest Vita or TCE site, call 1-800-829-1040.
As part of the TCE program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program. To find the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit AARP's website at 
www.aarp.org/money/taxaide.
For more information on these programs, go to www.irs.gov and enter keyword "VITA" in the upper right-hand corner.
EIC
Internet. You can access the IRS website at www.irs.gov 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to:
  • E-file your return. Find out about commercial tax preparation and e-file services available free to eligible taxpayers.
  • Check the status of your 2008 refund. Go to www.irs.gov and click on Where's My Refund. Wait at least 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, or 3 to 4 weeks after mailing a paper return. If you filed Form 8379 with your return, wait 14 weeks (11 weeks if you filed electronically). Have your 2008 tax return available so you can provide your social security number, your filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund.
  • Download forms, instructions, and publications.
  • Order IRS products online.
  • Research your tax questions online.
  • Search publications online by topic or keyword.
  • View Internal Revenue Bulletins (IRBs) published in the last few years.
  • Figure your withholding allowances using the withholding calculator online at  
    www.irs.gov/individuals.
  • Determine if Form 6251 must be filed by using our Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) Assistant.
  • Sign up to receive local and national tax news by email.
  • Get information on starting and operating a small business.
Phone
Phone. Many services are available by phone.  
  • Ordering forms, instructions, and publications. Call 1-800-829-3676 to order current-year forms, instructions, and publications, and prior-year forms and instructions. You should receive your order within 10 days.
  • Asking tax questions. Call the IRS with your tax questions at 1-800-829-1040.
  • Solving problems. You can get face-to-face help solving tax problems every business day in IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers. An employee can explain IRS letters, request adjustments to your account, or help you set up a payment plan. Call your local Taxpayer Assistance Center for an appointment. To find the number, go to  
    www.irs.gov/localcontacts or look in the phone book under United States Government, Internal Revenue Service.
  • TTY/TDD equipment. If you have access to TTY/TDD equipment, call 1-800-829-4059 to ask tax questions or to order forms and publications.
  • TeleTax topics. Call 1-800-829-4477 to listen to pre-recorded messages covering various tax topics.
  • Refund information. To check the status of your 2008 refund, call 1-800-829-1954 during business hours or 1-800-829-4477 (automated refund information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Wait at least 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, or 3 to 4 weeks after mailing a paper return. If you filed Form 8379 with your return, wait 14 weeks (11 weeks if you filed electronically). Have your 2008 tax return available so you can provide your social security number, your filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your refund. Refunds are sent out weekly on Fridays. If you check the status of your refund and are not given the date it will be issued, please wait until the next week before checking back.
  • Other refund information. To check the status of a prior year refund or amended return refund, call 1-800-829-1954.
 ____ 
If you are outside the United States, taxpayer assistance is available at the following U.S Embassies or consulate.
Frankfurt, Germany(49)(69)7535-3834
London, England(44)(20)7894-0476
Paris, France(33)(1)4312-2555
Please contact the office for times when assistance will be available. If you cannot get to one of these offices, taxpayer assistance is available at (215) 516-2000 (not a toll free call).
If you are in a U.S. territory (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands) and have a tax question, you can call 1-800-829-1040.
Evaluating the quality of our telephone services. To ensure IRS representatives give accurate, courteous, and professional answers, we use several methods to evaluate the quality of our telephone services. One method is for a second IRS representative to listen in on or record random telephone calls. Another is to ask some callers to complete a short survey at the end of the call.
Walk In
Walk-in. Many products and services are available on a walk-in basis.
  • Products. You can walk in to many post offices, libraries, and IRS offices to pick up certain forms, instructions, and publications. Some IRS offices, libraries, grocery stores, copy centers, city and county government offices, credit unions, and office supply stores have a collection of products available to print from a CD or photocopy from reproducible proofs. Also, some IRS offices and libraries have the Internal Revenue Code, regulations, Internal Revenue Bulletins, and Cumulative Bulletins available for research purposes.
  • Services. You can walk in to your local Taxpayer Assistance Center every business day for personal, face-to-face tax help. An employee can explain IRS letters, request adjustments to your tax account, or help you set up a payment plan. If you need to resolve a tax problem, have questions about how the tax law applies to your individual tax return, or you are more comfortable talking with someone in person, visit your local Taxpayer Assistance Center where you can spread out your records and talk with an IRS representative face-to-face. No appointment is necessary—just walk in. If you prefer, you can call your local Center and leave a message requesting an appointment to resolve a tax account issue. A representative will call you back within 2 business days to schedule an in-person appointment at your convenience. If you have an ongoing, complex tax account problem or a special need, such as a disability, an appointment can be requested. All other issues will be handled without an appointment. To find the number of your local office, go to www.irs.gov/localcontacts or look in the phone book under United States Government, Internal Revenue Service.
If you are outside the United States during the filing period (January to mid-June), you can get the necessary federal tax forms and publications from most U.S. Embassies and consulates.
Also, during filing season, the IRS conducts an overseas taxpayer assistance program. To find out if IRS personnel will be in your area, contact the consular office at the nearest U.S. Embassy.
Due date
Mail. You can send your order for forms, instructions, and publications to the address below. You should receive a response within 10 days after your request is received.

 
Internal Revenue Service 
1201 N. Mitsubishi Motorway 
Bloomington, IL 61705-6613


EIC
DVD for tax products. You can order Publication 1796, IRS Tax Products DVD, and obtain:
  • Current-year forms, instructions, and publications.
  • Prior-year forms, instructions, and publications.
  • Tax Map: an electronic research tool and finding aid.
  • Tax law frequently asked questions.
  • Tax Topics from the IRS telephone response system.
  • Internal Revenue Code—Title 26 of the U.S. Code.
  • Fill-in, print, and save features for most tax forms.
  • Internal Revenue Bulletins.
  • Toll-free and email technical support.
  • Two releases during the year. 
    – The first release will ship the beginning of January 2009. 
    – The final release will ship the beginning of March 2009.
Purchase the DVD from National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at  
www.irs.gov/cdorders for $30 (no handling fee) or call 1-877-233-6767 toll free to buy the DVD for $30 (plus a $6 handling fee). The price is discounted to $25 for orders placed prior to December 1, 2008.
EIC
Small Business Resource Guide 2009. This online guide is a must for every small business owner or any taxpayer about to start a business. This year's guide includes:
  • Helpful information, such as how to prepare a business plan, find financing for your business, and much more.
  • All the business tax forms, instructions, and publications needed to successfully manage a business.
  • Tax law changes for 2009.
  • Tax Map: an electronic research tool and finding aid.
  • Web links to various government agencies, business associations, and IRS organizations.
  • "Rate the Product" survey—your opportunity to suggest changes for future editions.
  • A site map of the guide to help you navigate the pages with ease.
  • An interactive "Teens in Biz" module that gives practical tips for teens about starting their own business, creating a business plan, and filing taxes.
The information is updated during the year. Visit www.irs.gov and enter keyword "SBRG" in the upper right-hand corner for more information.
taxmap/pubs/p54-025.htm#TXMP0934822e

Questions and Answers(p39)


This section answers tax- 
related questions commonly asked by taxpayers living abroad.

Filing Requirements—Where, When, and How


rule
spacer

1) When are U.S. income tax returns due?
Generally, for calendar year taxpayers, U.S. income tax returns are due on April 15. If you are a U.S. citizen or resident and both your tax home and your abode are outside the United States and Puerto Rico on the regular due date, an automatic extension is granted to June 15 for filing the return. Interest will be charged on any tax due, as shown on the return, from April 15.
2) I am going abroad this year and expect to qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion. How can I secure an extension of time to file my return, when should I file my return, and what forms are required?
  a) You should file Form 2350 by the due date of your return to request an extension of time to file. Form 2350 is a special form for those U.S. citizens or residents abroad who expect to qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion or the housing exclusion or deduction under either the bona fide residence test or physical presence test and would like to have an extension of time to delay filing until after they have qualified.
b) If the extension is granted, you should file your return after you qualify, but by the approved extension date.
c) You must file your Form 1040 with Form 2555 (or Form 2555-EZ).
3) My entire income qualifies for the foreign earned income exclusion. Must I file a tax return?
Generally, yes. Every U.S. citizen or resident who receives income must file a U.S. income tax return unless total income without regard to the foreign earned income exclusion is below an amount based on filing status. The income levels for filing purposes are discussed under Filing Requirements in chapter 1.
4) I was sent abroad by my company in November of last year. I plan to secure an extension of time on Form 2350 to file my tax return for last year because I expect to qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion under the physical presence test. However, if my company recalls me to the United States before the end of the qualifying period and I find I will not qualify for the exclusion, how and when should I file my return?
If your regular filing date has passed, you should file a return, Form 1040, as soon as possible for last year. Include a statement with this return noting that you have returned to the United States and will not qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion. You must report your worldwide income on the return. If you paid a foreign tax on the income earned abroad, you may be able to either deduct this tax as an itemized deduction or claim it as a credit against your U.S. income tax.
However, if you pay the tax due after the regular due date, interest will be charged from the regular due date until the date the tax is paid.
5) I am a U.S. citizen and have no taxable income from the United States, but I have substantial income from a foreign source. Am I required to file a U.S. income tax return?
Yes. All U.S. citizens and resident aliens are subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income. If you paid taxes to a foreign government on income from sources outside the United States, you may be able to claim a foreign tax credit against your U.S. income tax liability for the foreign taxes paid. Form 1116 is used to figure the allowable credit.
6) I am a U.S. citizen who has retired, and I expect to remain in a foreign country. Do I have any further U.S. tax obligations?
Your U.S. tax obligation on your income is the same as that of a retired person living in the United States. (See the discussion on filing requirements in chapter 1 of this publication.)
7) I have been a bona fide resident of a foreign country for over 5 years. Is it necessary for me to pay estimated tax?
U.S. taxpayers overseas have the same requirements for paying estimated tax as those in the United States. See the discussion under Estimated Tax in chapter 1.
Overseas taxpayers should not include in their estimated income any income they receive that is, or will be, exempt from U.S. taxation.
Overseas taxpayers can deduct their estimated housing deduction in figuring their estimated tax.
The first installment of estimated tax is due on April 15 of the year for which the income is earned.
8) Will a check payable in foreign currency be acceptable in payment of my U.S. tax?
Generally, only U.S. currency is acceptable for payment of income tax. However, if you are a Fulbright grantee, see Fulbright Grant in chapter 1.
9) I have met the test for physical presence in a foreign country and am filing returns for 2 years. Must I file a separate Form 2555 (or Form 2555-EZ) with each return?
Yes. A Form 2555 (or Form 2555-EZ) must be filed with each Form 1040 tax return on which the benefits of income earned abroad are claimed.
10) Does a Form 2555 (or 2555-EZ) with a Schedule C or Form W-2 attached constitute a return?
No. The Form 2555 (or 2555-EZ), Schedule C, and Form W-2 are merely attachments and do not relieve you of the requirement to file a Form 1040 to show the sources of income reported and the exclusions or deductions claimed.
11) On Form 2350, Application for Extension of Time To File U.S. Income Tax Return, I stated that I would qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion under the physical presence test. If I qualify under the bona fide residence test, can I file my return on that basis?
Yes. You can claim the foreign earned income exclusion and the foreign housing exclusion or deduction under either test as long as you meet the requirements. You are not bound by the test indicated in the application for extension of time. You must be sure, however, that you file the Form 1040 by the date approved on Form 2350, since a return filed after that date may be subject to a failure to file penalty.
If you will not qualify under the bona fide residence test until a date later than the extension granted under the physical presence rule, apply for a new extension to a date 30 days beyond the date you expect to qualify as a bona fide resident.
12) I am a U.S. citizen who worked in the United States for 6 months last year. I accepted employment overseas in July of last year and expect to qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion. Should I file a return and pay tax on the income earned in the United States during the first 6 months and then, when I qualify, file another return covering the last 6 months of the year?
No. You have the choice of one of the following two methods of filing your return:
a) You can file your return when due under the regular filing rules, report all your income without excluding your foreign earned income, and pay the tax due. After you have qualified for the exclusion, you can file an amended return, Form 1040X, accompanied by Form 2555 (or 2555-EZ), for a refund of any excess tax paid.
b) You can postpone the filing of your tax return by applying on Form 2350 for an extension of time to file to a date 30 days beyond the date you expect to qualify under either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test, then file your return reflecting the exclusion of foreign earned income. This allows you to file only once and saves you from paying the tax and waiting for a refund. However, interest is charged on any tax due on the postponed tax return, but interest is not paid on refunds paid within 45 days after the return is filed. (If you have moving expenses that are for services performed in two years, you can be granted an extension to 90 days beyond the close of the year following the year of first arrival in the foreign country.)
13) I am a U.S. citizen. I have lived abroad for a number of years and recently realized that I should have been filing U.S. income tax returns. How do I correct this oversight in not having filed returns for these years?
File the late returns as soon as possible, stating your reason for filing late. For advice on filing the returns, you should contact either an Internal Revenue Service representative in one of the three overseas offices listed on page 37, or an Internal Revenue official who travels through your area (details can be obtained from your nearest U.S. consulate or Embassy). You can also write to the Internal Revenue Service, International Section, P.O. Box 920, Bensalem, PA 19020-8518.
14) In 2003, I qualified to exclude my foreign earned income, but I did not claim this exclusion on the return I filed in 2004. I paid all outstanding taxes with the return. Can I file a claim for refund now?
It is too late to claim this refund since a claim for refund must be filed within 3 years from the date the return was filed or 2 years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. A return filed before the due date is considered filed on the due date.

Meeting the Requirements 
of Either the Bona Fide 
Residence Test or the 
Physical Presence Test


rule
spacer

1) I recently came to Country X to work for the Orange Tractor Co. and I expect to be here for 5 or 6 years. I understand that upon the completion of 1 full year I will qualify for an exclusion or deduction under the bona fide residence test. Is this correct?
Not necessarily. The law provides that to qualify under this test for the foreign earned income exclusion, the foreign housing exclusion, or the foreign housing deduction, a person must be a "bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period which includes an entire taxable year."
If, like most U.S. citizens, you file your return on a calendar year basis, the taxable year referred to in the law would be from January 1 to December 31 of any particular year. Unless you established residence in Country X on January 1, it would be more than 1 year before you would be a bona fide resident of a foreign country. Once you have completed your qualifying period, however, you are entitled to exclude the income or to claim the housing exclusion or deduction from the date you established bona fide residence.
2) I understand the physical presence test to be simply a matter of being physically present in a foreign country for at least 330 days within 12 consecutive months; but what are the criteria of the bona fide residence test?
To be a bona fide resident of a foreign country, you must show that you entered a foreign country intending to remain there for an indefinite or prolonged period and, to that end, you are making your home in that country. Consideration is given to the type of quarters occupied, whether your family went with you, the type of visa, the employment agreement, and any other factor pertinent to show whether your stay in the foreign country is indefinite or prolonged.
To claim the foreign earned income exclusion or foreign housing exclusion or deduction under this test, the period of foreign residence must include 1 full tax year (usually January 1 – December 31), but once you meet this time requirement, you figure the exclusions and the deduction from the date the residence actually began.
3) To meet the qualification of "an uninterrupted period which includes an entire taxable year," do I have to be physically present in a foreign country for the entire year?
No. Uninterrupted refers to the bona fide residence proper and not to the physical presence of the individual. During the period of bona fide residence in a foreign country, even during the first full year, you can leave the country for brief and temporary trips back to the United States or elsewhere for vacation, or even for business. To preserve your status as a bona fide resident of a foreign country, you must have a clear intention of returning from those trips, without unreasonable delay, to your foreign residence.
4) I am a U.S. citizen and during 2007 was a bona fide resident of Country X. On January 15, 2008, I was notified that I was to be assigned to Country Y. I was recalled to New York for 90 days orientation and then went to Country Y, where I have been since. Although I was not in Country Y on January 1, I was a bona fide resident of Country X and was in Country Y on December 31, 2008. My family remained in Country X until completion of the orientation period, and my household goods were shipped directly to my new post. Am I a bona fide resident of a foreign country for 2008, or must I wait for the entire year of 2009 to become one?
Since you did not break your period of foreign residence, you would continue to be a bona fide resident of a foreign country for 2008.
5) Due to illness, I returned to the United States before I completed my qualifying period to claim the foreign earned income exclusion. Can I figure the exclusion for the period I resided abroad?
No. You are not entitled to any exclusion of foreign earned income since you did not complete your qualifying period under either the bona fide residence test or physical presence test. If you paid foreign tax on the income earned abroad, you may be able to claim that tax as a deduction or as a credit against your U.S. tax.
6) Can a resident alien of the United States qualify for an exclusion or deduction under the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test?
Resident aliens of the United States can qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion, the foreign housing exclusion, or the foreign housing deduction if they meet the requirements of the physical presence test. Resident aliens who are citizens or nationals of a country with which the United States has an income tax treaty in effect can also qualify under the bona fide residence test.
7) On August 13 of last year I left the United States and arrived in Country Z to work for the Gordon Manufacturing Company. I expected to be able to exclude my foreign earned income under the physical presence test because I planned to be in Country Z for at least 1 year. However, I was reassigned back to the United States and left Country Z on July 1 of this year. Can I exclude any of my foreign earned income?
No. You cannot exclude any of the income you earned in Country Z because you were not in a foreign country for at least 330 full days as required under the physical presence test.

Foreign Earned Income


rule
spacer

1) I am an employee of the U.S. Government working abroad. Can all or part of my government income earned abroad qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion?
No. The foreign earned income exclusion applies to your foreign earned income. Amounts paid by the United States or its agencies to their employees are not treated, for this purpose, as foreign earned income.
2) I qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion under the bona fide residence test. Does my foreign earned income include my U.S. dividends and the interest I receive on a foreign bank account?
No. The only income that is foreign earned income is income from the performance of personal services abroad. Investment income is not earned income. However, you must include it in gross income reported on your Form 1040.
3) My company pays my foreign income tax on my foreign earnings. Is this taxable compensation?
Yes. The amount is compensation for services performed. The tax paid by your company should be reported on Form 1040, line 7 and on Form 2555, Part IV, line 22(f) (or on Form 2555-EZ, Part IV, line 17).
4) I live in an apartment in a foreign city for which my employer pays the rent. Should I include in my income the cost to my employer ($1,200 a month) or the fair market value of equivalent housing in the United States ($800 a month)?
You must include in income the fair market value (FMV) of the facility provided, where it is provided. This will usually be the rent your employer pays. Situations when the FMV is not included in income are discussed in chapter 4 under Exclusion of Meals and Lodging.
5) My U.S. employer pays my salary into my U.S. bank account. Is this income considered earned in the United States or is it considered foreign earned income?
If you performed the services to earn this salary outside the United States, your salary is considered earned abroad. It does not matter that you are paid by a U.S. employer or that your salary is deposited in a U.S. bank account in the United States. The source of salary, wages, commissions, and other personal service income is the place where you perform the services.
6) What is considered a foreign country?
For the purposes of the foreign earned income exclusion and the foreign housing exclusion or deduction, any territory under the sovereignty of a country other than the United States is a foreign country. Possessions of the United States are not treated as foreign countries.
7) What is the source of earned income?
The source of earned income is the place where the work or personal services that produce the income are performed. In other words, income received for work in a foreign country has its source in that country. The foreign earned income exclusion and the foreign housing exclusion or deduction are limited to earned income from sources within foreign countries.

Foreign Earned 
Income Exclusion


rule
spacer

1) I qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion and earned more than $87,600 during 2008. Am I entitled to the maximum $87,600 exclusion?
Not necessarily. Although you qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion, you may not have met either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test for your entire tax year. If you did not meet either of these tests for your entire tax year, you must prorate the maximum exclusion based on the number of days that you did meet either test during the year.
2) How do I qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion?
To be eligible, you must have a tax home in a foreign country and be a U.S. citizen or resident alien. You must be either a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year, or you must be physically present in a foreign country or countries for at least 330 full days during any period of 12 consecutive months. U.S. citizens may qualify under either test. The physical presence test applies to all resident aliens, while the bona fide residence test applies to resident aliens who are citizens or nationals of a country with which the United States has an income tax treaty in effect.
Your tax home must be in the foreign country or countries throughout your period of residence or presence. For this purpose, your period of physical presence is the 330 full days during which you are present in a foreign country, not the 12 consecutive months during which those days occur.
3) Is it true that my foreign earned income exclusion cannot exceed my foreign earned income?
Yes. The amount of the exclusion is limited each year to the amount of your foreign earned income after reducing that income by the foreign housing exclusion. The foreign earned income must be earned during the part of the tax year that you have your tax home abroad and meet either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test.
4) My wife and I are both employed, reside together, and file a joint return. We meet the qualifications for claiming the foreign earned income exclusion. Do we each figure a separate foreign earned income exclusion and foreign housing exclusion?
You figure your foreign earned income exclusion separately since you both have foreign earned income. The amount of the exclusion for each of you cannot exceed your separate foreign earned incomes.
You must figure your housing exclusion jointly. See Married Couples in chapter 4 for further details.

Exemptions and 
Dependency Allowances


rule
spacer

1) I am a U.S. citizen married to a nonresident alien who has no income from U.S. sources. Can I claim an exemption for my spouse on my U.S. tax return?
Yes. If you file a joint return, you can claim an exemption for your nonresident alien spouse. If you do not file a joint return, you can claim an exemption for your nonresident alien spouse only if your spouse has no income from sources within the United States and is not the dependent of another U.S. taxpayer.
You must use the married filing separately column in the Tax Table or section C of the Tax Computation Worksheet, unless you qualify as a head of household. (Also see Question 12 under General Tax Questions, later.)
A U.S. citizen or resident alien married to a nonresident alien also can choose to treat the nonresident alien as a U.S. resident for all federal income tax purposes. This allows you to file a joint return, but also subjects the alien's worldwide income to U.S. income tax.
2) I support my parents who live in Italy. I am sure that I provide the bulk of their support. Can I claim exemptions for them?
It depends on whether they are U.S. citizens or U.S residents. If your parents are not U.S. citizens or U.S. residents, you cannot claim exemptions for them even if you provide most of their support. To qualify as a dependent, a person generally must be either a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, U.S. resident alien, or a resident of Canada or Mexico for some part of the tax year. The other tests of dependency also must be met.
3) Should I prorate my own personal exemption and the exemptions for my spouse and dependents, since I expect to exclude part of my income?
No. Do not prorate exemptions. Claim the full amount for each exemption permitted.

Social Security and  
Railroad Retirement Benefits


rule
spacer

1) Are U.S. social security benefits taxable?
Benefits received by U.S. citizens and resident aliens may be taxable, depending on the total amount of income and the filing status of the taxpayer. Under certain treaties, U.S. social security benefits are exempt from U.S. tax if taxed by the country of residence.
Benefits similar to social security received from other countries by U.S. citizens or residents may be taxable. (Refer to our tax treaties with various countries for any benefit granted by the treaty.)
2) As a U.S. citizen or resident alien, how do I figure the amount of my U.S. social security benefits to include in gross income?
See Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits, to figure if any of your benefits are includible in income.
3) How are railroad retirement benefits taxed?
The part of a tier 1 railroad retirement benefit that is equivalent to the social security benefit you would have been entitled to receive if the railroad employee's work had been covered under the social security system rather than the railroad retirement system is treated the same as a social security benefit, discussed above.
The other part of a tier 1 benefit that is not considered a social security equivalent benefit is treated like a private pension or annuity, as are tier 2 railroad retirement benefits. Pensions and annuities are explained in chapter 4 under Earned and Unearned Income. Vested dual benefits and supplemental annuities are also treated like private pensions, but are fully taxable.
The proper amounts of the social security equivalent part of tier 1 benefits and any special guaranty benefits are shown on the Form RRB-1099, Payments by the Railroad Retirement Board, that you receive from the Railroad Retirement Board. The taxable amounts of the non-social security equivalent part of tier 1, tier 2, vested dual benefits, and supplemental annuities are shown on the Form RRB-1099-R, Annuities or Pensions by the Railroad Retirement Board, that you receive from the Railroad Retirement Board.

Social Security Tax 
and Self-Employment Tax


rule
spacer

1) I am a minister with earned income from abroad and expect to qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion. How do I pay my self-employment tax?
File a Form 1040 with Schedule SE and Form 2555. Figure your self-employment tax on Schedule SE and enter it on Form 1040 as the tax due with the return.
2) Because I expect to qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion, I have requested and received an extension of time until January 30, 2010, to file my 2008 return. However, since I will be paying self-employment tax on my spouse's income, should I file a 2008 return when due, pay the self-employment tax, and then file another return when I qualify for the exclusion?
No. You do not need to file a 2008 Form 1040 (the regular income tax return) when due if you have received an extension. Instead, you should pay enough estimated tax to cover the self-employment tax and any income tax that would be due after taking out the amount of excludable income.

Income Tax Withholding


rule
spacer

1) How can I get my employer to stop withholding federal income taxes from wages while I am overseas and eligible for the foreign earned income exclusion?
File a statement in duplicate with your employer stating that withholding should be reduced because you meet the bona fide residence test or physical presence test. See also the following question.
2) Does the Internal Revenue Service provide forms to be used by employees requesting employers to stop withholding income tax from wages they expect to be excluded as income earned abroad?
Yes. Form 673 is a sample statement that can be used by individuals who expect to qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion under the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test. A copy of this form is displayed in chapter 2. You can get this form on the Internet at www.irs.gov or by writing to the Internal Revenue Service, International Section, P.O. Box 920, Bensalem, PA 19020-8518.
3) I am a U.S. citizen residing overseas, and I receive dividend and interest income from U.S. sources from which tax is being withheld at a rate of 30%. How can I have this situation corrected?
File Form W-9 (indicating that you are a U.S. citizen) with the withholding agents who are paying you the dividends and interest. This is their authority to stop withholding the 30% income tax at the source on payments due you.
4) As a U.S. citizen receiving dividend and interest income from the United States from which tax has been withheld, do I report the net dividend and interest income on my return, or do I report the gross amount and take credit for the tax withheld?
You must report the gross amount of the income received and take a tax credit for the tax withheld. This is to your advantage since the tax withheld is deducted in full from the tax due. It is also advisable to attach a statement to your return explaining this tax credit so there will be no question as to the amount of credit allowable.

Deductions


rule
spacer

1) Can I claim a foreign tax credit even though I do not itemize deductions?
Yes. You can claim the foreign tax credit even though you do not itemize deductions.
2) I had to pay customs duty on a few things I brought back with me from Europe last summer. Can I include customs fees with my other deductible taxes?
No. Customs duties, like federal excise taxes, are not deductible.
3) What types of foreign taxes are deductible?
Generally, real estate and foreign income taxes are deductible as itemized deductions. Foreign income taxes are deductible only if you do not claim the foreign tax credit. Foreign income taxes paid on excluded income are not deductible as an itemized deduction.
Note. Foreign income taxes are usually claimed under the credit provisions, if they apply, because this is more advantageous in most cases.
4) I rented an apartment in the United Kingdom and had to pay a local tax called a "general rates" tax, which is based on occupancy of the apartment. Can I deduct this tax as a foreign real estate tax?
No. This tax does not qualify as a real estate tax since it is levied on the occupant of the premises rather than on the owner of the property.

Scholarship and Fellowship Grantees


rule
spacer

1) I am a Fulbright grantee. What documentation must I attach to my return?
  a) There are no special tax forms for Fulbright grantees. File on a regular Form 1040.
b) If you claim exemption as a scholarship or fellowship grantee, submit brochures and correspondence describing the grant and your duties.
c) If you are located in a foreign country and wish to pay tax in foreign currency, you should submit a certified statement showing that you were a Fulbright grantee and at least 70% of the grant was paid in nonconvertible foreign currency.
2) I taught and lectured abroad under taxable grants. What expenses can I deduct?
You may be able to deduct your travel, meals, and lodging expenses if you are temporarily absent from your regular place of employment. For more information about deducting travel, meals, and lodging expenses, get Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses.

General Tax Questions


rule
spacer

1) Will the Internal Revenue Service representatives at the Embassies answer questions about tax laws of our home state and the laws of the foreign country where we reside as well as U.S. federal income tax laws?
No. The IRS representatives are authorized only to answer tax questions on U.S. federal income tax. You should write your home state's tax office for state tax information and contact the tax officials of the country where you reside for information regarding their taxes.
2) Can Internal Revenue Service personnel recommend tax practitioners who prepare returns?
No. IRS employees are not permitted to recommend tax practitioners who prepare income tax returns.
3) I just filed my return. How long will it take to get my refund?
It generally takes about 6 weeks (3 weeks if you filed electronically) to receive a refund.
An error on the return will delay the refund. Among the most common causes of delay in receiving refunds are unsigned returns and incorrect social security numbers.
4) I have not received my refund from last year's return. Can I claim the credit against this year's tax?
No. That would cause problems to both years' returns. If your last year's refund is overdue, contact the IRS and ask about the status of the refund. If you are outside the United States, call or write the nearest IRS office. Otherwise, call or write your local U.S. IRS office. If you write to the IRS, be sure to include your social security number (or individual taxpayer identification number) in the letter.
5) I forgot to include interest income when I filed my return last week. What should I do?
To correct a mistake of this sort, you should prepare Form 1040X. Include the omitted interest income, refigure the tax, and send the form as soon as possible along with any additional tax due to the Internal Revenue Service Center where you filed your return. Use Form 1040X to correct an individual Form 1040 income tax return filed for any year for which the period of limitation has not expired (usually 3 years after the due date of the return filed, or 2 years after the tax was paid, whichever is later).
6) I am a U.S. citizen and, because I expect to qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion, all my foreign income (which consists solely of salary) will be exempt from U.S. tax. Do I get any tax benefit from income tax I paid on this salary to a foreign country during the tax year?
No. You cannot take either a tax credit or a tax deduction for foreign income taxes paid on income that is exempt from U.S. tax because of the foreign earned income exclusion.
7) I am a U.S. citizen stationed abroad. I made a personal loan to a nonresident alien who later went bankrupt. Can I claim a bad debt loss for this money?
Yes. The loss should be reported as a short-term capital loss on Schedule D (Form 1040). You have the burden of proving the validity of the loan, the subsequent bankruptcy, and the recovery or nonrecovery from the loan.
8) With which countries does the United States have tax treaties?
Table 6-1, at the end of chapter 6, lists those countries with which the United States has income tax treaties.
9) I am a retired U.S. citizen living in Europe. My only income is from U.S. sources on which I pay U.S. taxes. I am taxed on the same income in the foreign country where I reside. How do I avoid double taxation?
If you reside in a country that has an income tax treaty with the United States, the treaty will generally contain provisions to eliminate double taxation. Many treaties will provide reduced rates for various types of income. Treaties often provide reciprocal credits in one country for the tax paid to the other country. Nontreaty countries, depending on their laws, may give the same type of credit.
If double taxation with a treaty country exists and you cannot resolve the problem with the tax authorities of the foreign country, you can contact the U.S. competent authority for assistance. See chapter 6 for information on requesting consideration.
10) My total income after claiming the foreign earned income and housing exclusions consists of $5,000 taxable wages. Am I entitled to claim the earned income credit?
No. If you claim the foreign earned income exclusion, the foreign housing exclusion, or the foreign housing deduction, you cannot claim the earned income credit.
11) Last May my employer transferred me to our office in Puerto Rico. I understand that my salary earned in Puerto Rico is tax exempt. Is this correct?
As long as your employer is not the U.S. Government, all income from sources within Puerto Rico is exempt from U.S. tax if you are a bona fide resident of Puerto Rico during the entire tax year. The income you received from Puerto Rican sources the year you moved to Puerto Rico is not exempt. The tax paid to Puerto Rico in the year you moved to Puerto Rico can be claimed as a foreign tax credit on Form 1116.
12) I am a U.S. citizen married to a nonresident alien. Can I qualify to use the head of household tax rates?
Yes. Although your nonresident alien spouse cannot qualify you as a head of household, you may qualify if you maintain a household for a qualifying child or other relative.
If your spouse was a nonresident alien at any time during the year and you do not choose to treat your nonresident alien spouse as a resident alien, then you are treated as unmarried for head of household purposes. You must have another qualifying person and meet the other tests to be eligible to file as head of household. You can use the head of household column in the Tax Table or Section D of the Tax Computation Worksheet.
It may be advantageous to choose to treat your nonresident alien spouse as a U.S. resident and file a joint income tax return. Once you make the choice, however, you must report the worldwide income of both yourself and your spouse.
For more information on head of household filing status, get Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.

Penalties and Interest


rule
spacer

1) Does the June 15 extended due date for filing my return because both my tax home and my abode are outside the United States and Puerto Rico on the regular due date relieve me from having to pay interest on tax not paid by April 15?
No. An extension, whether an automatic extension or one requested in writing, does not relieve you of the payment of interest on the tax due as of April 15 following the year for which the return is filed. The interest should be included in your payment.
2) If I wait to file my return until I qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion, I will be charged interest on the U.S. tax I will owe. To avoid being charged interest, can I file my return on time, reporting only my taxable income, excluding my salary for services abroad that will be exempt after I have met the qualifications?
No. If you file a return before you qualify for the exclusion, you must report all income, including all income for services performed abroad, and pay tax on all of it. After you meet the qualifications, you can file a claim for refund by excluding the income earned abroad. If you defer the filing of your return, you can avoid interest on tax due on your return to be filed by paying the tax you estimate you will owe with your request for an extension of time to file on Form 2350, or by paying enough estimated tax to cover any tax that you expect will be due on the return.
previous pagePrevious Page: Publication 54 - Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad - Obtaining Copies of Tax Treaties
next pageNext Page: Publication 541 - Partnerships - Partnerships
 Use previous pagenext page to find additional occurrences of topic items.Index for this Publication