Do you know 10 most common mistakes expats make?

  • Joanna

    I wonder about a case where a US citizen works for 10 years (collects 40 SS credits) in the US and then goes to work and retire in a foreign country. How would the SS benefit be calculated ? Will the earnings from the 10 years be spread out over the 35 years currently used for calculations? Or it will be 10y of earnings divided over 10 years of residency? Thank you

    • Greenback

      Hello Joanna,

      Thank you for your question. We are pleased to have you here on our website and hope you are finding the information useful! With regards to your message, as this depends on many factors (including which country you are currently living, etc) this question would best be answered by the SSA or a firm specializing in Social Security issues. We have found this calculator to be particularly useful:

      Tabitha Paddock
      Greenback Customer Champion

  • Susan Harper

    If I retire and move to UK and do not work in that country what taxes am I required to pay while living there ?

    • Hello Susan,

      Thank you for getting in touch, we hope you are enjoying the website! With regards to your message, it actually depends on a number of factors, including the type of retirement income you receive and also what your domicile is in the UK.

      If you can email me a bit more information about yourself (including info on the above), I will have one of our UK accountants take a look and get back to you.

      I can be reached at info(at)greenbacktaxservices(dot)com.


      Tabitha Paddock
      Customer Champion

  • Dana Lavery

    I was an expat working for an American registered NGO for 2014. I was there the entire year and paid taxes to Cambodia. Will I still have to pay Social Security taxes in the United States?

    • Hello Dana,

      Thank you for getting in touch! With regards to your message, in most cases, if you are not considered self employed or a contractor, then you are NOT liable for SE taxes in the USA.

      I hope this clarifies!

      Tabitha Paddock

  • David

    Hello Tabatha

    On the 25th of November, 19 days for now I will be relocating to the Republic of Georgia. I am a retiree age 62 recently collecting Social Security. My automatic SS deposit goes into my Minnesota bank checking account that I have linked up to my Charles Schwab checking account. Charles Schwab reimburses all ATM withdrawals both here (US) and abroad. My concern is this. From the pdf I read on page 12:

    “Social Security restrictions

    Generally, Social Security cannot
    send payments to individuals
    in Azerbaijan, Belarus, GEORGIA,
    Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova,
    Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine,
    Uzbekistan and Vietnam. Also,
    we cannot send your payments to
    anyone else for you. However, we
    make exceptions for some eligible
    beneficiaries in countries with Social
    Security restrictions in place.

    To qualify for an exception, you
    must agree to the conditions of
    payment. One of the conditions is
    that you must appear in person at the
    U.S. Embassy each month to pick up
    your benefit payments. Contact your
    nearest U.S. Social Security office,
    U.S. Embassy or consulate for more
    information about these conditions ”

    The question I have with my present arraignment do I have anything to worry about from SS? Or do I have to notify the SS department and show up at the embassy every month? I am not asking to pick up my payment as that is directly deposited into my US bank account. The problem of showing up to the embassy every month is I may decide to live along the Black Sea coast and the US embassy is hundreds of miles away.

    Thank you in advance.

    • Hello David,

      Thank you for contacting Greenback Expat Tax Services, we hope you are enjoying our website!

      I have received your message, and while I would recommend confirming directly with the SSA, it does seem that you can continue to use direct deposit while abroad. You just need to be sure it is deposited to an approved financial institution.

      Please see the excerpt below for more detail:

      “You may use direct deposit to
      a U.S. financial institution while you are in any country except one where we cannot send payments (see page 12). If you are living outside the United States and you are in a country where we cannot send payments, you may use direct deposit to a financial institution in any country with an international direct deposit agreement with the United States.
      Countries where direct deposit payments are available include:
      • Anguilla
      • Antigua &
      • Australia
      • Austria
      • Bahama Islands
      • Barbados
      • Belgium
      • British Virgin
      • Canada
      • Cayman Islands
      • Cyprus
      • Denmark
      • Dominican
      • Egypt
      • Estonia
      • Finland
      • France
      • Germany
      • Greece
      • Grenada
      • Haiti
      • Hong Kong • Hungary

      • Iceland
      • India
      • Ireland
      • Israel
      • Italy
      • Jamaica
      • Japan
      • Lithuania
      • Luxembourg
      • Malta
      • Mexico
      • Netherlands
      • New Zealand
      • Norway
      • Panama
      • Poland
      • Portugal
      • St. Kitts and Nevis
      • St. Lucia
      • St. Vincent and
      the Grenadines
      • Samoa
      • Singapore
      • Saint Maarten
      • Slovakia
      • Slovenia
      • South Africa
      • Spain
      • Sweden
      • Switzerland
      • Trinidad-Tobago • Turkey
      • United Kingdom
      (This list of countries is subject to change. For the latest information, visit international/countrylist6.htm or contact your nearest U.S. Social Security office, U.S. Embassy
      or consulate.)”

      I hope this helps!

      Best of luck,

      Tabitha Paddock

      • David

        Thank you Tabitha for your prompt reply! The SS deposits my payments into a US bank in America. While in Georgia I am going to open a local bank account to pay utility bills, rent and so on. I’ll transfer the US bank funds into my Charles Schwab account (no fees) and then into this local bank. This way I can provide a paper trail of where the funds came from. I will be using ATM cards from C.S. to access cash for my other day-to-day expenses.

        Thanks again for your help. It helped me see the details.

  • Philip Kirkland

    I am an ordained pastor (missionary) ministering in Greece, and I am getting a lot of different advice on how to handle my personal taxes. I am a US citizen (FL resident), but I have a “residency permit” to live and work for the church here. I have been here for 3 years now, and I receive a W-2 from my mission organization in Georgia (USA). I am married, filing jointly, and for tax purposes I am self-employed. I don’t have a Greek bank account and I don’t receive any income from any Greek source. I have been taking the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (thus paying no income tax), but paying SECA with estimated taxes. Many people have told me that I need to return to the US for 6 months consecutively within my first 5 years away in order to maintain my US Social Security benefits. I cannot sort out whether this is true, and if so, should I actually be paying SECA and taking the Foreign Income Exclusion? Does the tax totalization treaty with Greece mean that I should be paying taxes here in Greece? If I pay here, do I drop the SECA payments? Can I still take the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion if I pay Greek taxes? If I pay Greek taxes, then what is the purpose of returning for 6 months to the US (or is that missionary legend?)?? Thank you so much for any help you can offer on the situation!

  • Steve

    Quick question: I have a terminal illness and my wife who is a US citizen and we have been married 9 and 1/2 years wants to live back in the Ukraine when I die. I have been the sole breadwinner and she is eligible for survivor benefits when she gets to be 62. My question is : she will live in the Ukraine and they do not have a direct deposit relationship set up with the US currently, will she be able to go to the US embassy and make arrangement to get her social security benefit checks when I die and she becomes eligible. she will have no other source of income except my small pension and some life insurance. Is there anything she will have to do or I can do while I am still alive? Your input is greatly appreciated

    • Hello Steve,

      Thank you for getting in touch, we hope you are enjoying our website! You are correct that the SSA cannot send payments to the Ukraine. They also cannot send your payments to anyone else for you. However, in rare cases they may make exceptions. To qualify for an exception, you must agree to the conditions of payment, including that you (your wife) will appear in person at the US Embassy each month to pick up your benefit payments.

      In order to make an exact plan for your wife collecting the benefits, you will need to contact the SSA directly.

      More details can be found here as well.

      I hope this helps!

      Tabitha Paddock

  • TrulyBlue

    I am contemplating moving to Spain. I receive Social Security and a pension, but would like to teach English there part-time to pay my rent there. As a result, I should be able to maintain my bank accounts here with the automatic deposits already set up. I can transfer funds only as needed.
    My questions are:
    If I work in Spain, I will be paying into the Social Security system there and receive free health services. Can I drop my Medicare, thereby saving the Part B payments each mont?
    More importantly, will I be taxed in the US for my income in Spain. I read that Spain’s income tax is 24%. If so, what is the tax rate? Also, my pension is non-taxable in the US. Will I pay taxes in Spain for my pension and Social Security if I am not receiving them into a Spanish bank?
    Thank you so much for your time.

    • Hello,

      Thanks for reaching out, we hope you are enjoying the site!

      With regards to your message, although we have many clients living in Spain, we only file the US side of their requirement. Thus, I am uncertain how you would be taxed by the Spanish government. That being said, the article below may give you a good starting point.

      For your US taxes, thanks to the FEIE and the FTC, it is unlikely you will owe taxes again to the USA. As long as you qualify for these deductions, your US liability should be limited.

      Do let us know if you have further questions.

      I hope this helps!