As a New Year’s resolution, you may want to consider starting now to plan for your expat tax returns. There’s never a better time than the present to start gathering, organizing, and preparing your important expat tax documents. By starting the process now, you can stay ahead of the curb, opt to file early, and minimize the burden of having to do everything at once. Plus, you can take the steps to properly back up all of your important papers and make requests for copies of tax returns ahead of time.
To help you identify which documents you may need for this year’s return, we’ve made it a little easier for you. Take a look at our Expat Tax Document Checklist to review an extensive list of tax documents and records you should start to consider for your 2012 expat tax returns. These documents include past and previous years’ expat tax returns, records of wages such as W-9s or W-2s, mortgage interest records, and pension, Social Security, and interest and/or dividends records to name a several.
Back Up Your Important Expat Tax Documents
While you consider which expat tax documents to start gathering, you should also start to think about how to make back-up copies of everything at the same time. The best solution to keeping copies of important expat tax documents is digitally. Properly saved digitally, you can avoid losing documents that are buried in files, destroyed, or lost.
The first thing you should do with any expat tax document is to scan it. Consider scanning paper copies of bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies, birth certificates, and documents related to citizenship as well as your current host country. Scanning these important documents will allow you to easily save them onto your computer, and provide you with immediate access to what you need, when you need it. If you worked with us last year, you know that all of your important documents already went through this process and are safely stored on our secure data portal. Once your expat tax documents are in electronic form, you can download them to a backup storage device, such as an external hard drive, or burn them to a CD or DVD.
Since you’ve taken the steps to saving your documents digitally, why not create two back ups? We recommend storing your back ups in your home (again in the form of a CD, DVD, or in an external hard drive) and one in a remote location in case you suddenly need to evacuate your home. This can be in a safety deposit box or other external location deemed secure.
What You Can Request Regarding Your Federal Expat Tax Returns
During the process of gathering and backing up your documents, you may find that you are missing a few pieces. If you need copies of last year’s or previous years’ federal expat tax returns, thankfully, the IRS makes it easy. You can request free tax return transcripts for current, and up to the past three tax years of, expat tax returns. The transcripts will show most line items from your tax return as it was originally filed, including any accompanying forms and schedules. It does not reflect any changes made after the return was filed.
You can also request tax account transcripts, which will show more details, including later adjustments made after you filed your expat tax returns. Requesting actual copies of past year, and previous years’, tax returns is also an option, and will cost you $57 for each tax year you order. You can read more information about obtaining copies in here or by using the IRS’ online tool called Order A Transcript.
Need More Help Organizing and Saving Your Expat Tax Documents?
If you would like even more helpful tips and suggestions on how to gather and save your tax documentation, take a moment to view a recent video blog we posted. Special attention is paid to tax-free countries, where extra steps are needed in order to adequately keep records of important documents needed to file US expat tax returns.
Need Help Filing Your Expat Tax Return?
We also have a blog post that details how to manage your documents after you file your expat tax return. If you would like expatriate tax assistance or need help filing your expat tax returns, please contact us.