If you are not aware by now, Americans are taxed on their worldwide income, meaning your income from abroad is considered taxable income to the U.S. government. Through several exclusions, many expats usually end up paying no taxes to the IRS, but the “filing” portion of a tax return is required of most all expat individuals – unless your income is less than the standard deduction which is $6,300 for single and $12,600 for joint filing. To simply put, even though you live outside the U.S., you still need to file for taxes even though you may not owe any tax. Expats also are required to disclose international financial holdings which could range from a day-to-day bank account to a retirement fund.
The IRS collects around 55 billion USD in addition to tax revenue from back taxes and penalties through rigorous policing, and the discovery, auditing, and prosecution of delinquent expat taxpayers are made much easier through enforcement laws such as FBAR and FATCA. It’s becoming harder and harder to “lay low.” When caught with the delinquent status, the U.S. government will take drastic measures to force you to come current and make you pay what you owe. Till you comply with the strict rules set out by the IRS, the following consequences may make your life unnecessarily difficult.
- Withheld paychecks
- Possible imprisonment
- Denied application for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
- Penalties and interest accruement
- Liens placed on physical properties
- Seizure or freezing of financial accounts often without prior notice
- Increased statute of limitation for audit
- Loss of unclaimed tax refunds
- Passport revocation or denied renewal
- Automatic imposition of 30 percent withholding on transfers between financial institutions
- Non-dischargeable IRS-assessed taxes in case of bankruptcy
- Automatic tax filing by the IRS with an unfair calculation for owed taxes
- Massive time and energy loss to remedy
The system may seem unfair, but rules are rules. The consequences for the delinquent status can be severe. It has become far more difficult to escape the IRS’ reach, and it is encouraged that all expats to consult with international tax experts to figure out the filing requirements and deduction opportunities.