Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About International Individual Tax Matters

 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has received the following frequently asked questions regarding Expatriation Tax, Reporting of Foreign Financial Accounts, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) Applications, and other general international federal tax matters impacting individual taxpayers. The answers to these questions provide responses to general inquiries and are not citable as legal authority.

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General FAQs

Yes, if you are a U.S. citizen or a resident alien living outside the United States, your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you live. However, you may qualify for certain foreign earned income exclusions and/or foreign income tax credits. Visit Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, for additional information.

You have to file a U.S. income tax return while working and living abroad unless you abandon your green card holder status by filing Form I-407, with the U.S. Citizen & Immigration Service, or you renounce your U.S. citizenship under certain circumstances described in the expatriation tax provisions. Visit Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, for more information.

The due date for filing a federal individual income tax return generally is April 15 of each calendar year. Your return is considered filed timely if the envelope is properly addressed and postmarked no later than April 15. Visit Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax (For Individuals), Part 1 – When do I have to file? for more information.

If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the due date is delayed until the next business day. If you cannot file by the due date of your return, you can request an extension of time to file. To receive an automatic 6-month extension of time to file your return, you should file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, by the due date of your return. Visit Form 4868 instructions, for more information.

However, if you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, who is either: 

  1. living outside of the United States and Puerto Rico and your main place of business or post of duty is outside of the United States and Puerto Rico; or
  2. in military or naval services on duty outside of the United States and Puerto Rico on the due date of your return, you are allowed an automatic 2-month extension until June 15 to file your return and pay any tax due.

If you use this automatic 2-month extension, you must attach a statement to your return explaining which of the two situations qualify you for the extension. Visit Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, for more details.

You, as U.S. citizen or resident alien, must file a federal income tax return for any tax year in which your gross income is equal to or greater than the standard deduction. For more details, refer to the “Do You Have to File?” section of the Form 1040 (and 1040-SR) Instructions for the corresponding tax year.

For nonresident aliens, refer to the “Who Must File” section of the Instructions for Form 1040-NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return for the corresponding tax year.

Generally, you need to file returns going back six years. This will depend on the facts and circumstances of your situation. Visit U.S. Taxpayers Residing Outside the United States and What to Do if You Haven’t Filed Your Return for more information.

You can check the status of any refund you expect as soon as 24 hours after you e-file a return or 4 weeks after you file a paper return. If you included Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, wait 11 weeks if you filed your return electronically or 14 weeks if you mailed a paper return.

Visit Refund Information for more information.

The IRS offers several payment options, and some may involve processing fees. Visit Pay Online for more information.

You can order copies of tax records including transcripts of past tax returns, tax account information, wage and income statements, and verification of non-filing letters. Visit Get Transcript for details.

Or

Access your individual account information including balance, payments, tax records and more. Visit Your Online Account for details.

Yes, there are multiple resources available focused on international individual tax matters for taxpayers living abroad. For example:

Mailing Addresses

Filing Status and Dependents

In general, if you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien married to a nonresident alien, you are considered “Married Filing Separately” unless you qualify for a different filing status. If you pay more than half the cost of keeping up a home for yourself and a qualifying child or other relative, you may qualify for the head of household filing status.

For more information on the filing status requirements, visit Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.
Note: For tax years beginning after December 31, 2017 and before January 1, 2026, refer to Repeal of Personal Exemptions.

In general, you can claim qualifying individuals as your dependents. To be your dependent, the qualifying individual must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, U.S. resident alien, or a resident of Canada or Mexico for some part of the calendar year in which your tax year begins.

Children usually are citizens or residents of the same country as their parents. If you were a U.S. citizen when your child was born, your child generally is a U.S. citizen. This is true even if the child's other parent is a nonresident alien, the child was born in a foreign country, and the child lives abroad with the other parent.

You must include on your return the Social Security number (SSN) of each dependent. If your dependent is a nonresident alien who is not eligible to get a Social Security number, you must list the dependent's individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) instead of an SSN.

Visit Whom May I Claim as a Dependent? and Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information, for more details.

Exchange Rates

The Internal Revenue Service has no official exchange rate. Generally, it accepts any posted exchange rate that is used consistently.

If you have a single transaction, such as the sale of a business that occurred on a single day, use the exchange rate for that day. However, if you receive income evenly throughout the tax year, you may translate the foreign currency to U.S. dollars using the yearly average currency exchange rate for the tax year.

If there is more than one exchange rate, use the one that applies to the facts and circumstances on a consistent basis. Visit the Foreign Currency and Currency Exchange Rates page for more information.

Notices

Call the phone number on the letter you received for specific information about your situation.

Examples of reasons why you may have received the letter include the following:

  • If you take the position that any item of income is exempt from U.S. tax or eligible for a lower tax rate under a U.S. income tax treaty (a treaty-based position), you generally must disclose that position on Form 8833 and attach it to your return.  For exceptions to the disclosure requirement, see the Instructions attached to Form 8833, Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure Under Section 6114 or 7701(b).
  • If you are a tax resident in both the United States and a foreign country based on each country’s laws, you must use the provisions of an income tax treaty to claim tax residence in only one country.  If you claim tax residence in a country where you are not eligible to claim residence, or the information on your tax return does not appear to support this position, your treaty-based position may be denied.

If you receive a letter or notice from the IRS, it will explain the reason for the correspondence and provide instructions. Many of these letters and notices can be dealt with simply, without having to call or visit an IRS office.

The notice you receive covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return. Generally, the IRS will send a notice if it believes you owe additional tax, are due a larger refund, if there is a question about your tax return or a need for additional information. For more information, go to Understanding Your IRS Notice or Letter.

Generally, interest is charged on any unpaid tax from the due date of the return (without extensions) until the date of payment. Visit Topic 653, IRS Notices and Bills, Penalties and Interest Charges, for more details.

There are different types of penalties and different methods to compute them. Please visit Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, for more information.

Green Card Holders

As a green card holder, you generally are required to file a U.S. income tax return and report worldwide income no matter where you live.

However, if you surrender your green card or the U.S. Citizen & Immigration Service (USCIS) determines that you have abandoned your green card and takes it away from you, you will need to follow the nonresident alien requirements for filing a Form 1040-NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. Visit Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, for more information.

You are a long-term resident for U.S. federal income tax purposes if you were a lawful permanent resident of the United States (green card holder) in at least 8 of the last 15 tax years ending with the year your residency ends. In determining if you meet the 8-year requirement, do not count any year that you are treated as a resident of a foreign country under a tax treaty and do not waive treaty benefits.

If you are a long-term resident who has surrendered your green card, you may be subject to the expatriation tax. Please refer to the expatriation tax provisions in Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, and in later questions.  In general, the expatriation tax provisions apply to U.S. citizens who have renounced their citizenship and long-term residents who have ended their residency. The rules that apply are based on the dates of expatriation.

You may also be a dual status alien if you have been both a resident alien and a nonresident alien in the same tax year. Dual status does not refer to your citizenship, only to your resident status for tax purposes in the United States.

  • For the Part of the Year that You are a Resident Alien, you are taxed on income from all sources: inside and outside of the United States.
  • For the Part from the Time that You Abandon Your Green Card, you are taxed on income from U.S. source only.

As a green card holder, you are a U.S. tax resident.  However, the definition of residency under U.S. tax laws does not override tax treaty definitions of residency. If you are a dual-resident taxpayer (a resident of both the United States and another country under each country's tax laws), you can still claim the benefits under an income tax treaty.

The income tax treaty between the two countries must contain a provision that provides for resolution of conflicting claims of residence (tie-breaker rule). If you would be treated as a resident of the other country under the tie-breaker rule and you claim treaty benefits as a resident of that country, you are treated as a nonresident alien in figuring your U.S. income tax. For purposes other than figuring your tax, you will be treated as a U.S. resident.

If you are a dual-resident taxpayer and you claim treaty benefits as a resident of the other country, you must file a return by the due date (including extensions) using Form 1040-NR and compute your tax as a nonresident alien. You must also attach a fully completed Form 8833 if you determine your residency under a tax treaty and receive payments or income items totaling more than $100,000. You may also have to attach Form 8938 as discussed in the “Other Forms You May Have to File” section under Chapter 7 of Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens. For more information on reporting treaty benefits, see "Reporting Treaty Benefits Claimed," in Chapter 9 of Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.

If you are a long-term resident and you claim treaty benefits as a resident of another country pursuant to a tax treaty, you may be subject to the expatriation tax. Please refer to the expatriation tax provisions in Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, and in later questions.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (Form 2555)

U.S. citizens and resident aliens living outside the United States generally are allowed the same deductions as citizens and residents living in the United States. If you paid or accrued foreign taxes to a foreign country on foreign source income and are subject to U.S. tax on the same income, you may be able to take either a foreign tax credit on foreign income taxes or an itemized deduction for eligible foreign taxes. However, if you take the foreign earned income exclusion your foreign tax credit or deduction will be reduced.

If eligible, you can claim a foreign tax credit on foreign income taxes owed and paid by filing Form 1116 with your U.S. income tax return. Visit Publication 514, Foreign Tax Credit for Individuals, for more details.

You may also be eligible for the foreign earned income exclusion.  See the “Foreign Earned Income and Housing: Exclusion – Deduction” section in Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, for more details. Please note that for purposes of the foreign earned income exclusion, the foreign housing exclusion, and the foreign housing deduction, foreign earned income does not include any amounts paid by the United States or any of its agencies to its employees. This includes amounts paid from both appropriated and non-appropriated funds.

Yes, since the foreign earned income exclusion is voluntary, you must file a tax return to claim the foreign earned income exclusion.  It does not matter if your foreign earnings are below the foreign earned income exclusion threshold.

There are specific requirements that you must satisfy to be eligible to claim the foreign earned income exclusion. See the “Foreign Earned Income and Housing: Exclusion – Deduction” section in Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, for more details.

Yes. To be eligible for the foreign earned income exclusion, you must have a tax home in a foreign country and be a U.S. citizen or resident alien. You must also 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 for the foreign income exclusion under either test. U.S. resident aliens must qualify under the physical presence test unless they are citizens or nationals of a country with which the United States has an income tax treaty in effect. In that case, U.S. resident aliens also may qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion under the bona fide residence test.

Your tax home must be in the foreign country or countries throughout your period of bona fide residence or physical presence. For this purpose, your period of physical presence is the 330 full days during which you are present in a foreign country or countries, not the 12 consecutive months during which those days occur.

Visit the “Foreign Earned Income and Housing: Exclusion – Deduction” section in Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, for more details.

To be eligible for the foreign earned income exclusion, you must have a tax home in a foreign country and be a U.S. citizen or resident alien. You must also be either a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year (Bona Fide Residence Test), 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 (Physical Presence Test).

U.S. citizens may qualify under either test but, there are specific definitions for U.S. resident aliens under each test.

Physical Presence Test

To meet this test, you must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien who is physically present in a foreign country or countries, for at least 330 full days during any period of 12 consecutive months. A full day means the 24-hour period that starts at midnight.

Bona Fide Residence Test

To meet this test, you must be one of the following:

  • A U.S. citizen who is a bona fide resident of a foreign country, or countries, for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year (January 1-December 31, if you file a calendar year return), or
  • A U.S. resident alien who is a citizen or national of a country with which the United States has an income tax treaty in effect and who is a bona fide resident of a foreign country, or countries, for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year (January 1-December 31, if you file a calendar year return).

Whether you are a bona fide resident of a foreign country depends on your intention about the length and nature of your stay.  Evidence of your intention may be your words and acts.  If these conflict, your acts carry more weight than your words.  Generally, if you go to a foreign country for a definite temporary purpose and return to the United States after you accomplish it, you are not a bona fide resident of the foreign country.

The two tests differ in that one is based exclusively on physical presence while the other is based on a taxpayer’s intentions.

Visit the “Foreign Earned Income and Housing: Exclusion – Deduction” section in Chapter 4 of Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad or the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion page for more information.

Foreign pensions cannot be excluded on Form 2555. Foreign earned income for purposes of the foreign earned income exclusion does not include pensions and annuity income (including Social Security benefits and railroad retirement benefits treated as Social Security). Visit the “Foreign Earned Income and Housing: Exclusion – Deduction” section in Chapter 4 of Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, for more information.

If you claimed the foreign earned income exclusion, housing exclusion, or housing deduction on Form 2555, you must calculate your tax liability using the Foreign Earned Income Tax Worksheet (for Line 16) in the Form 1040 and 1040-SR Instructions or your income tax preparation software.

Expatriation: Former Citizens and Long-term Permanent Residents

The expatriation tax provisions apply to U.S. citizens who have relinquished their citizenship and to long-term permanent residents (green card holders) who have ended their U.S. residency. Form 8854 is used by individuals who have expatriated to inform the IRS of their expatriation and certify they have complied with all federal tax obligations for the 5 tax years preceding the date of their expatriation. Visit About Form 8854, Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement for more information.

For more details regarding the expatriation tax provisions, see “Expatriation Tax” in the “How Income of Aliens is Taxed” section of Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.

If you are a U.S. resident alien, the rules for filing income, estate, and gift tax returns and for paying estimated tax are generally the same whether you are in the United States or abroad. If you are a nonresident alien, you are usually subject to U.S. income tax only on U.S. source income. Under limited circumstances, certain foreign source income is subject to U.S. tax.  Please refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.

For income tax requirements and procedures related to the termination of your U.S. resident status, see “Expatriation Tax” in the “How Income of Aliens is Taxed” section of Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, and the Instructions to Form 8854, Initial and Annual Expatriation Information Statement, for more details.

Application for IRS Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) – Form W-7

You need an ITIN if you are not eligible to get a Social Security number but must provide a taxpayer identification number on a U.S. tax return or information return. Visit Individual Taxpayer Identification Number for more information.

You need an ITIN as soon as you are ready to file your federal income tax return, since you need to attach the return to your application. To apply for an ITIN, complete Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. See the related Instructions for Form W-7 for documents needed and where the application is to be submitted. Visit Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) page for specific information.

There are exceptions to the requirement to include a U.S. tax return with the Form W-7. For example, if you are a nonresident alien individual eligible to get the benefit of reduced withholding under an income tax treaty, you can apply for an ITIN without having to attach a federal income tax return. For a complete list of exceptions to the requirement to attach an income tax return, refer to the Exceptions Tables in the Instructions for Form W-7.

U.S. source royalty income paid to a nonresident alien generally is subject to a 30% U.S. federal income tax. If you are claiming a reduced rate of U.S. federal income tax on U.S. source royalty income under a tax treaty, you should obtain an ITIN and provide it to the withholding agent on a Form W-8 BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding. The Form W-8 BEN is not filed with the IRS.

The Exceptions Tables in the Instructions for Form W-7, specifically Exception 1(d), Third Party Withholding on Passive Income, individuals who are receiving royalty distributions during the current tax year and are required to provide an ITIN to the withholding agent for the purposes of tax withholding and/or reporting requirements, must submit a signed letter or document from the withholding agent verifying that an ITIN is required to make distributions during the current tax year that are subject to IRS information reporting or federal tax withholding. For a sample signed letter, see Sample Letter from Withholding Agent in Publication 1915, Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)PDF.

No. The executor is required to include a Schedule K-1 (Form 1041) for each beneficiary when filing Form 1041, U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts, for a decedent’s estate.  The Schedule K-1 must provide the beneficiary’s tax identification number.

Additionally, a nonresident alien heir or beneficiary who wishes to claim applicable reduced rates of U.S. federal income tax on distributions from the estate under a tax treaty should file with the executor of the estate a Form W-8 BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding, which must provide the individual’s tax identification number (ITIN). Please refer to Income Tax Return of an Estate — Form 1041 in Publication 559, Survivors, Executors, and Administrators. The Form W-8 BEN is not filed with the IRS.

If the heir or beneficiary does not have a Social Security number, he/she must apply for an ITIN from the IRS. Please refer to Form W-7 and Instructions for information on applying for an ITIN.

The IRS has updated procedures that affect the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) application process. Taxpayers and their representatives should review these changes, which are further explained in Revised Application Standards for ITINs.

You may be able to request a certified copy of documents at an embassy or consulate. However, services may vary between countries, so we recommend that you contact the appropriate consulate or embassy for specific information.

 

Withholding on Income from U.S. Sources

Foreign persons are generally subject to U.S. withholding tax at a 30% rate on the gross amount of certain income they receive from U.S. sources. By providing a completed Form W-8 BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding, to the U.S. payer (also known as the U.S. withholding agent) before or at the time income is paid or credited, you are:

  • Establishing that you are not a U.S. person,
  • Claiming that you are the beneficial owner of the income for which Form W-8 BEN is being provided, and
  • If applicable, claiming a reduced rate of, or exemption from, withholding as a resident of a foreign country with which the United States has an income tax treaty. In order to claim a reduced rate or exemption from tax under an income tax treaty, the Form W-8 BEN must include a valid U.S. taxpayer identification number.

The completed Form W-8 BEN is provided to the U.S. payer (also known as the U.S. withholding agent) before or at the time income is paid or credited. This form is not filed with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Visit Form W-8 BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding, for more information.

Generally, you give Form W-8 BEN to the withholding agent or payer if you are a foreign person and you are the beneficial owner of an amount subject to withholding.

Submit Form W-8 BEN when requested by the withholding agent or payer whether or not you are claiming a reduced rate of, or exemption from, withholding.

Visit Form W-8 BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting, for more information.

Since you are a U.S. citizen, regardless of where you live, you should provide your U.S. bank or payer with a completed Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification, to:

  • Certify that the tax identification number you are giving is correct (or you are waiting for a number to be issued),
  • Certify that you are not subject to backup withholding, or
  • Claim exemption from backup withholding applicable to payees that do not provide a valid TIN tax identification number or are U.S. exempt payees.

Please refer to the Form W-9 Instructions for more details.

In general, the buyer (transferee) of U.S. real property must withhold tax on the sales proceeds when the buyer acquires the U.S. property from a foreign person. This withholding serves to collect U.S. tax that may be owed by the foreign person. See FIRPTA Withholding.

Form 8288-A, Statement of Withholding on Dispositions by Foreign Persons of U.S. Real Property Interests, is used to report details of the sale, including the amount of U.S. tax withheld, and transmit the information to the seller (transferor) and the IRS.

Form 8288-B, Application for Withholding Certificate for Dispositions, by Foreign Persons of U.S. Real Property Interests, is used by foreign persons to apply for a withholding certificate to reduce or eliminate withholding on dispositions of U.S. real property interests. See Applications for FIRPTA Withholding Certificates.

The gain or loss on the sale of your U.S. real property must be reported on Form 1040-NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. The amount of U.S. federal income tax withheld that is listed on your Form 8288-A must be entered in the Payments section on page 2 of Form 1040-NR for you to receive credit for the tax withheld.

If the property you sold was owned by both you and your spouse, two Form 1040-NR tax returns will need to be filed. You will need to complete your own individual Form 1040-NR each separately. Include a schedule D with your Form 1040-NR and divide all amounts equally when completing the various forms.

Visit Reporting and Paying Tax on U.S. Real Property Interests for more information.

In general, nonresident aliens are subject to a 30% tax on the gross proceeds from gambling winnings in the United States if that income is not effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business and is not exempted by an income tax treaty. However, no tax is imposed on nonbusiness gambling income a nonresident alien wins playing blackjack, baccarat, craps, roulette, or big-6 wheel in the United States. The tax withheld, along with the gross gambling winnings, are reported to the nonresident alien on the Form 1042-S, Foreign Person's U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding. For withholding purposes on gambling winnings, gross winnings are those gambling winnings that are equal to or in excess of the threshold amounts for the specific types of gambling games.

Also, check income tax treaties between the U.S. and a particular foreign country for a reduced rate of, or possibly a complete exemption from, U.S. income tax for residents of that particular country. Visit United States Income Tax Treaties -A to Z for a complete list and text of current treaties.

To claim any applicable treaty benefits, you must provide the payer a valid Form W-8 BEN — with a U.S. taxpayer identification number — if the gambling income is not effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business. The Form W-8 BEN is not filed with the IRS.

Visit Publication 515, Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Entities and Publication 901, U.S. Tax Treaties for more information.

Reporting of Foreign Financial Accounts

If you have a financial interest in or signature authority over a foreign financial account, including a bank account, brokerage account, mutual fund, trust, or other type of foreign financial account, the Bank Secrecy Act may require you to report the account yearly to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by filing FinCEN Report 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) (formerly TD F 90-22.1).

In addition, U.S. citizens and residents with specified foreign financial assets with an aggregate value exceeding $50,000 must report them to the IRS on Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets, attached to their federal income tax return. For further information related to this statement of specified foreign financial assets, see FATCA Information for Individuals.

The Form 8938 filing requirement does not replace or otherwise affect a taxpayer’s obligation to file FinCEN Report 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) (formerly TD F 90-22.1). For a comparison table of these two foreign account reporting requirements, see the Comparison of Form 8938 and FBAR Requirements.

Effective July 1, 2013, filers must electronically file the FBAR through the BSA E-File System. If unable to e-file, filers may contact the FinCEN Regulatory Helpline to request an exemption at 800-949-2732 or 313-234-6146 (not toll-free, for callers outside the U.S.).

Help in completing the FBAR is available Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time, at 866-270-0733 (toll-free inside the U.S.) or 313-234-6146 (not toll-free, for callers outside the U.S.). Questions regarding the FBAR can be sent to fbarquestions@irs.gov. Filers residing abroad may also contact U.S. embassies and consulates for assistance.

For e-filing system questions, call the BSA E-filing Help Desk at 866-346-9478, option 1 (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time) or email at bsaefilinghelp@fincen.gov.

Visit Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), and FATCA Information for Individuals for more information.

Top Frequently Asked Questions for U.S. Aliens and Citizens Living Abroad

As a U.S. citizen living in Canada you:

For more details, please refer to Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, and Publication 597, Information on the United States-Canada Income Tax Treaty.

The taxation of payments received from Canadian retirement programs that are similar to the U.S. Social Security system receive special tax treatment due to an income tax treaty between the United States and Canadian governments. The way this income is taxed depends on the recipient’s residence.
The special tax treatment applies to payments receive from the following Canadian retirement programs: Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Quebec Pension Plan (QPP), and Old Age Security (OAS).

If the recipient is a resident of the United States, the benefits:

  • are taxable only in the United States,
  • are treated as U.S. Social Security benefits for U.S. tax purposes, and
  • are reported on Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (or Form 1040-SR) on the line on which U.S. Social Security benefits would be reported.

If the recipient is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder) who is a resident of Canada, the benefits are taxable only in Canada.

Note: Refer to Tax Topic 423, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits, for information about determining the taxable amount of your benefits.

For more details, please refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, Publication 597, Information on the United States-Canada Income Tax Treaty, and Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.

Earned income is pay for personal services performed, such as wages, salaries, or professional fees. Foreign earned income is income you receive for services you perform in a foreign country or countries.
To qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion:

  • Your tax home must be in a foreign country; and
  • You must meet either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test.
  • It does not matter whether earned income is paid by a U.S. employer or a foreign employer.

Visit Foreign Earned Income Exclusion-What is Foreign Earned Income and Form 2555, Foreign Earned Income for more information.

You will need to contact the Social Security Administration, as the IRS does not issue Social Security Numbers (SSNs). Use Form SS-5FS, Application For A Social Security CardPDF, which may be obtained from and filed with the Social Security Administration.

If Social Security tax and Medicare were withheld in error from pay received that was not subject to the taxes, you must first contact the employer for reimbursement.

If you are unable to get a refund from the employer, file a claim for refund with the Internal Revenue Service on Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement.

Visit the “Social Security and Medicare Taxes” section under Chapter 8 of Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, for more information.

An employer may be required to withhold federal income taxes from the paycheck. Wages and other compensation paid to a nonresident alien for services performed as an employee are usually subject to graduated withholding at the same rates as resident aliens and U.S. citizens, unless specifically excluded from the term "wages" by law or exempt from tax by treaty.

Nonresident aliens must follow modified instructions when completing Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate. Please refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, for directions on completing Form W-4.

Nonresident aliens claiming a tax treaty withholding exemption for compensation should file Form 8233, Exemption From Withholding on Compensation for Independent (and Certain Dependent) Personal Services of a Nonresident Alien Individual.

For more details, please refer to Publication 515, Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Entities.

In preparing your U.S. income tax return, U.S. citizens and residents working abroad must correctly report their income and calculate their deductions and credits.

U.S. citizens and resident aliens are taxed on their worldwide income.

  • You must report your wages and other earned income on the correct lines of your Form 1040.

Some taxpayers may qualify to exclude a limited amount of their foreign earned income and either claim the housing exclusion or deduction. To qualify:

  • Their tax home must be in a foreign country, and either:
    • They must be U.S. citizens who are a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year;
    • They must be U.S. resident aliens who are a citizen or national of a country with which the United States has an income tax treaty and who is a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year; or
    • They must be U.S. citizens and resident aliens who are physically present in a foreign country or countries for at least 330 full days during any period of 12 consecutive months.

Taxpayers may be able to claim a foreign tax credit if required to pay a foreign income tax to the foreign country if he or she has not elected the foreign earned income exclusion with respect to that income.

Taxpayers may also qualify to deduct away from home expenses (for travel, meals, and lodging), but not against excluded income.

For more details, please refer to Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift and Car Expenses, and Publication 514, Foreign Tax Credit for Individuals.

The IRS makes available the list of countries with which the U.S. currently has income tax treaties in force. Refer to Publication 901, U.S. Tax Treaties, for more information regarding United States tax treaties.

You can also locate a complete list and text of the current treaties on the United States Income Tax Treaties - A to Z page.

To claim the foreign earned income exclusion and either the foreign housing exclusion or the foreign housing deduction:

  • You must have foreign earned income,
  • Your tax home must be in a foreign country, and
  • You must be one of the following:
    • A U.S. citizen who is a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year,
    • A U.S. resident alien who is a citizen or national of a country with which the United States has an income tax treaty and who is a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year, or
    • A U.S. citizen or resident alien who is physically present in a foreign country or countries for at least 330 full days during any period of 12 consecutive months.

U.S. tax law does not specifically require a foreign resident visa or work visa for this purpose, but you should comply with the foreign country's laws.

Visit Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, and Form 2555, Foreign Earned Income, for more information.

The Internal Revenue Service has no official exchange rate internet site. Generally, it accepts any posted exchange rate that is used consistently. Visit Foreign Currency and Currency Exchange Rates and Yearly Average Currency Exchange Rates for more information.