Top Reasons to File a Zero Income Expat Tax Return

Top Reasons to File a Zero Income Expat Tax Return
May 22, 2017

Let’s face it – US expat taxes can be downright complicated, so if you have the opportunity to skip filing by falling below the income threshold, why in the world would you go through the hassle? As it turns out, there are several convincing reasons why you’d want to file your expat tax return annually, despite the fact you may not be required to do so. Read on for details.

Filing Requirements for US Expats

As a US citizen, you’ll be required to file a US Tax Return each year if your income exceeds the minimum threshold. This is true no matter where your earned income originated – since the US requires its citizens and Green Card holders to report worldwide income, even if you aren’t living in the US at the time. The income reporting thresholds for the 2016 tax filing year are:

  • Single with income over $10,300
  • Married filing jointly with income over $20,600
  • Married filing separately with income over $4,000
  • Self-employed individual with income over $400

While you aren’t technically required to file if you fall below the threshold for your filing status, below are several reasons why you’d want to consider it.

1. It Can Be Used for Future Tax Deductions

US expats often have a number of tax deductions that they’re eligible for, but typically the IRS limits the amount you can claim. If you have your own business, for example, you can take a home office deduction – but if it makes your income negative on your expat tax return, you won’t be able to claim it. In this instance, you’d claim zero income for your business and carry the leftover deduction over into next year. In order to carry this over, you’d need to file your expat taxes, of course!

2. It Can Help You Qualify for Certain Programs

Are you a student – or perhaps you have children who are? If you wanted to apply for financial aid to help with tuition, you will want to file an expat tax return. While some Federal financial aid programs require you to file your taxes, even if you aren’t required to do so, having a completed tax return makes it easier to estimate your financial information for the financial aid application. You can learn more about financial aid and expat taxes here. You’ll also find that some other government programs require you to show a tax return, and large purchases, like buying a home are easier with one as well.

3. You Can Get Refunds from Tax Credits

Certain tax credits are taken directly off your owed taxes rather than your income – so if the credit happens to be more than what you owe, you could receive a refund when filing your taxes. In this case, filing an expat tax return can pay off quite literally! Things like the first-time homebuyer credit and the additional child tax credit fall into this category. Learn more about expat tax credits here.

4. It Can Help You In the Event of an Audit

Technically speaking, the IRS could audit anyone, but as an expat, your risk increases due to the intricacies of your taxes (learn about the top 5 audit risks here). If you file an expat tax return, there is a Statute of Limitations on how long the IRS has to request an audit – currently a period of six years. However, if you don’t file at all, the IRS can actually audit you at any time! In either scenario, it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong – but the process of an audit is very tedious and you’ll want to have accurate financial records at hand in case it happens to you!

Filing your expat tax return doesn’t have to be complex – and working with a tax professional for expat tax advice can help ease the process. Also, be sure to download a US expat tax guide for helpful tips and ways to save money on your taxes.

Need Help Filing Your Zero Income Expat Tax Return?

Our team of expat-expert accountants can provide a hassle-free tax experience for you. Get started with us today and gain unbeatable peace of mind knowing your expat taxes are done correctly and on time.

The IRS tax code is 7,000 pages. Want the cliff notes version for expats? Let us help.
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