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Every year, Greenback surveys US expats on key aspects of life abroad. This year, over 3,200 US citizens living in 121 countries shared their opinions on US expat taxes, foreign financial reporting, the Coronavirus pandemic, remote work, and more.
The majority of expats choose to live abroad for their career, significant other, or their love of adventure and travel.
Because the majority of the world’s nations use a system of residence-based taxation, most US expats are required to pay taxes in their host country. Despite this, most also have to pay taxes to the US government on the same income due to the US’s practice of citizenship-based taxation. This taxation method has caused the expat community to feel extremely excluded. 86% feel like their concerns are less likely to be addressed by the US government than US citizens living in the USA.
The US government has put several measures in place to help avoid double taxation, but all expats must still file an annual return—and many still have to pay a US tax bill.
The US also has rules in place that require Americans to report on foreign financial accounts. The rules were designed to safeguard against tax cheats hiding money in offshore accounts. However, these regulations disproportionately impact expats since they are more likely to have overseas accounts.
This year’s survey indicates that millions of American expats may be unfamiliar with the two main financial reporting requirements. This puts them at risk of noncompliance, which could result in steep penalties from the IRS.
For those who are aware of the regulation, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) has created additional filing requirements and banking challenges for 41% of expats. In addition to requirements for individuals, FATCA requires foreign banks that work with Americans to report their accounts to the US government. Rather than face the burden of these requirements, many banks (both US based and foreign) have decided not to work with US citizens.
For expats who are unaware of their tax and financial reporting requirements, the IRS offers a simplified path to compliance called the Streamlined Filing Procedures. Unfortunately, 40% of the expats surveyed had never heard of the IRS’s Streamlined Filing Procedures.
When asked about the number one tax change they would like to see, most expats indicated that they’d like to repeal citizenship-based taxation or to simplify expats’ tax-filing obligations.
As a consequence of not feeling fairly represented by the US government, many expats have considered renouncing their citizenship. In 2021, the US saw 2,426 Americans renounce their citizenship. A sharp drop after a record breaking 2020 when 6,705 renounced. Some believe we would have seen larger numbers again this year but expats may be having a hard time with Covid-19 closing US Embassies in many countries.
Survey respondents cited taxes as the top reason for considering citizenship renunciation—followed by a variety of other personal and political factors.
We are seeing Covid-19 still impacting how expats are working and how they are feeling about how the US handled the pandemic.
When asked how the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the way expats will work going forward, the majority indicated that they plan to work remotely at least some of the time post-pandemic.
Most of those surveyed do not have plans to return to the US permanently. Some indicated they were unsure due to the uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic, future employment opportunities, and personal ties in the US and abroad.