Taxes for Expats: How to Estimate Payments

Whether you are moving outside the US to start a new job overseas, getting a pay raise as a US citizen working abroad for a foreign company, or working in a foreign country and receiving foreign sourced self-employment income, you may be wondering if you are going to owe any extra US income or self-employment taxes during the current calendar year. In some cases, you will be able to exclude your foreign earned income under the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, be able to claim a Foreign Tax Credit, or avoid double taxation of self-employment taxes under a Totalization Agreement. These exclusions may allow your US tax liability on foreign-sourced income to be eliminated or offset, and you would owe no US income or self-employment taxes when the April filing deadline occurs.

However, if you do not qualify for the above-listed exclusions, you may be subject to paying US taxes on your foreign sourced income. Depending how much is owed when taxes are due in April, you may have an underpayment penalty. Below, we’ve answered common questions about how to estimate payments on taxes for expats.

How Do I Avoid the Underpayment Penalty?

This question is difficult to answer with certainty because an estimate is just that: an estimate. You are expected to know what to pay the IRS for the current tax year without knowing the full amount of your taxable income for the current tax year. Adding to the burden is that the IRS may assess an underestimated tax penalty if you do not pay enough US income taxes in a timely manner either through withholding or making estimated tax payments for the current tax year. (Please refer to IRS Publication 505 – Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax for a detailed discussion about both the underpayment penalty and any exceptions to this penalty.)

Sound impossible? Don’t worry; it’s not. The IRS has provided some guidelines on how much and when estimated tax payments need to be made. You will need to be proactive in determining whether or not you will have to make estimated tax payments for the current tax year. Generally, the IRS requires you to make quarterly estimated tax payments for the current calendar tax year if both of the following apply:

  • You expect to owe at least $1,000 in federal tax for the current tax filing year, after subtracting federal tax withholding and refundable credits
  • You expect federal withholding and refundable credits to be less than the smaller of:
    • 90% of the tax to be shown on your current filing year’s federal tax return, or
    • 100% of the tax shown on your prior tax year’s federal return (please note that this only applies if your prior year’s return covered 12 months (a full calendar year) – otherwise refer to 90% rule above only).

How Do I Calculate the Correct Amount for Federal Quarterly Payments?

According to the IRS, your estimated tax will be based on your expected adjusted gross income, taxable income, taxes, deductions, and credits for the current calendar tax year. Form 1040-ES includes an estimated tax worksheet to help you calculate your federal estimated tax payments.

When Are Estimated Tax Payments Due?

The IRS provides filing dates when your quarterly estimated tax payments are due. 2018 calendar tax year payments are due as follows:

Payment PeriodDue Date
January 1 – March 31, 2018April 17, 2018
April 1 – May 31, 2018June 15, 2018
June 1 – August 31, 2018September 15, 2018
September 1 – December 31, 2018January 15, 2019

You do not have to make the payment due on January 15, 2019, if you file your 2018 tax return by January 31, 2019 and pay the entire balance due with your return.

How Do I Make Estimated Tax Payments?

The IRS maintains a list of accepted methods for making 2018 quarterly estimated tax payments which include:

Questions About Taxes for Expats or Estimated Tax Payments?

Greenback accountants specialize in taxes for expats. If you have questions about your estimated tax payments, please contact us!

Free Guide: The 25 Things Every Expat Needs to Know About Taxes

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