WASHINGTON — With the June 15 filing deadline for Americans abroad fast approaching, the Internal Revenue Service is launching three new online videos and expanding other online resources designed to help taxpayers, especially those living abroad, meet their U.S. tax obligations.
By law, Americans living abroad, as well as many non-U.S. citizens, must file a U.S. income tax return. In addition, key tax benefits, such as the foreign earned income exclusion, are only available to those who file a U.S. return. These online resources are designed to help affected taxpayers understand how these rules apply to them.
Three new videos are now available on the IRS YouTube page, and several more of interest to taxpayers abroad will be released in coming weeks. Now available are:
• International Taxpayers–Filing Requirements. Learn about the requirements for filing an individual income tax return including income limits while living abroad.
• International Taxpayers–Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. Find out who is eligible, what income qualifies and how to claim the exclusion.
• International Taxpayers–Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). This video helps non-U.S. citizens determine if they need an IRS-issued tax reporting number, known as an ITIN, and how to apply for one.
Upcoming videos will deal with the foreign tax credit, filing status for a U.S. taxpayer married to a foreign spouse and an introduction to the IRS web site for international taxpayers.
The IRS has also added two new international tax topics to Tax Trails, the agency’s interactive online tool that helps taxpayers get answers to their general tax questions.
The new topics are:
• Am I Required to File a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (for U.S. Citizens/Resident Aliens Living Abroad and Nonresident Aliens)?
• Filing Status of a U.S. Citizen or Resident Alien Married to a Nonresident Alien.
The International Taxpayers page on IRS.gov is packed with information designed to help taxpayers living abroad, resident aliens, nonresident aliens, residents of U.S. territories and foreign students. Among other things, the web site features a directory of overseas tax preparers.
In addition, the IRS uses a variety of social media tools to share the latest tax information with interested taxpayers both in the United States and around the world. These include the IRS2Go phone application, YouTube, Tumblr and Twitter. A listing of IRS social media tools is available on IRS.gov.
To protect taxpayer privacy, the IRS only uses social media tools to share public information, not to answer personal tax or account questions. It advises taxpayers to never post confidential information, like a Social Security number, on social media sites.
Federal law requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report any worldwide income, including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts. In most cases, affected taxpayers need to complete and attach Schedule B to their tax return. Part III of Schedule B asks about the existence of foreign accounts, such as bank and securities accounts, and usually requires U.S. citizens to report the country in which each account is located.
In addition, certain taxpayers may also have to complete and attach to their return Form 8938, Statement of Foreign Financial Assets. Generally, U.S. citizens, resident aliens and certain non-resident aliens must report specified foreign financial assets on this form if the aggregate value of those assets exceeds certain thresholds. See the instructions for Form 8938.
Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) certain U.S. taxpayers holding financial assets outside the United States must report those assets to the IRS on Form 8938. Reporting thresholds vary based on whether a taxpayer files a joint income tax return or lives abroad. See Form 8938 instructions for more.
Prepare for a Disaster – Plan to Keep Your Tax Records Safe
To mark the start of the hurricane season, the IRS urges you to make a plan to keep your tax records safe. Plans made before a disaster strikes can help you recover from the destruction left in its wake. The following tips can help you make that plan:
• Use Electronic Records. You may have access to bank and other financial statements online. If so, your statements are already securely stored there. You can also keep an additional set of records electronically. One way is to scan tax records and insurance policies onto an electronic format. You may want to download important records to an external hard drive, USB flash drive or burn them onto CD or DVD. Be sure you keep duplicates of your records in a safe place. For example store them in a waterproof container away from the originals. If a disaster strikes your home, it may also affect a wide area. If that happens you may not be able to retrieve the records that are stored in that area.
• Document Valuables. Take photos or videos of the contents of your home or business. These visual records can help you prove the value of your lost items. They may help with insurance claims or casualty loss deductions on your tax return. You should also store these in a safe place. For example, you might store them with a friend or relative who lives out of the area.
• Count on the IRS for Help. If you fall victim to a disaster, know that the IRS stands ready to help. You can call the IRS disaster hotline at 866-562-5227 for special help with disaster-related tax issues.
• Get Copies of Prior Year Tax Records. If you need a copy of your tax return you should file Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. The usual fee per copy is $50. However, the IRS will waive this fee if you are a victim of a federally declared disaster. If you just need information that shows most line items from your tax return, you can call 1-800-908-9946 to request a free transcript. You can also get it if you file Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.
Visit IRS.gov for more information about disaster assistance. Click on the “Disaster Relief” link in the lower left section of the home page. You can also type “disaster” in the search box. Get IRS tax forms and publications on IRS.gov/forms at any time.