At Greenback, our goal is to make sure the process of filing your US expat tax return is clear, simple and straightforward. Although we can’t promise that taxes will be fun, we do our very best to make it as hassle-free as possible!
Take a moment to read through the information on this page, which will help you gain a better understanding of the expat tax process. In addition, check out the handy checklists and tips that can help make your tax preparation a breeze!
The US Expat Tax Process
If you are a new Greenback customer, you probably want to know how things work. Getting started and completing your Federal Tax Return is simple!
- Step 1 – Meet Your Accountant: If you are ready to get started, simply register here. Within 1 business day, your personal CPA or IRS Enrolled Agent will contact you to answer your questions and explain the process.
- Step 2 – Set Up Your Box Account: See next section below for more details on how to create a unique login and access your secure folder.
- Step 3 – Upload Tax Documents: Simply upload your questionnaire and tax documents through our safe and secure data portal.
- Step 4 – Hassle-Free Tax Prep: Your accountant will work with you to ensure your tax return is accurate and uncovers all the best opportunities for savings and deductions.
- Step 5 – Draft Complete & Payment: Your accountant completes your draft tax return and sends it to you to review. You only pay us after your draft tax return is complete.
For more specific questions, please visit our FAQs about the expat tax filing process to learn more about how we work with our clients.
Using Our Secure Data Portal
Collaboration is an essential part of the US expat tax prep process, which is why we establish a private online folder for each customer using our secure data portal. These folders are used by our customers and accountants to exchange personal financial and tax information. We use 256-bit encryption (the same standard that most online banking sites use) to ensure that your data is fully secure.
Please review our one-page PDF that explains how to securely share documents with us.
To gain access to your new folder and upload documents, please take the following actions:
- Step 1 – Set Up Your New Box Account: After registering with us, look out for an email invitation from Box. The email will come from email@example.com with the subject line “Greenback Expat Tax Services has added you to a collaborated folder on Box.” You will be receiving this email shortly after registering with us for the first time. Open the email and click on the green “accept invite” button. You will be prompted to enter your name and password for your new secure folder.
- Step 2 – Scan Your Paper Documents: If your tax documents are still in paper form, use a scanner to save them as PDF files on your computer. You should have also received a customer questionnaire to fill out, so your accountant has all the necessary information to get started.
- Step 3 – Log In to Your Secure Folder: Once you have completed your customer questionnaire and saved other tax-related documents as PDFs, go to the Client Page on our website and click “Log In To Your Secure Folder Now.”
- Step 4 – Upload Your Documents: To upload new documents, click on your folder with your ‘Last Name, First Name’ and upload documents inside the folder. Unfortunately, if you upload them outside of your shared folder, your accountant will not be able to access them. Next, simply select the files on your computer you’d like to upload. You can log in anytime from our client page.
- Step 5 – Your Accountant Gets to Work: When all the files have been uploaded, you’ll continue to work with your accountant to finalize your return — making this tax preparation your most hassle-free yet!
Experiencing an issue or confusion that we haven’t covered here? Get in touch! We’re always here to help.
Collecting Your Tax Documents
Do you have questions about what documents you need to share with your accountant? Watch our video below where Greenback co-founder David explains how to collect your tax documents for your US expat tax return.
We have also prepared an in-depth article explaining those documents.
Getting and Staying Organized
To make things even easier, we have prepared a number of templates to help you collect important information throughout the year. Having all this information to provide your accountant at tax time is not only more efficient, it may save you money, too!
As an American living abroad, you may be able to deduct some of your housing expenses. However, to know if you qualify, you need to make sure you have detailed records of what they are! Here is a housing expense Excel template to help you track, so you can best take advantage of that deduction.
In order to take advantage of most expat tax deductions, you must qualify as an expat through the Bona Fide Residence Test or Physical Presence Test. To evaluate your residency status, your accountant may need detailed records of your time spent in the US. This template helps you to keep an ongoing record of that travel, so you don’t have to dig through travel itineraries come tax time!
Finalizing Your Return
Once you have a draft of your return to review, your next question may be, “What should I look for?” Here is a blog post that helps you understand what to check on your US expat tax return.
Reporting Your Foreign Bank Accounts
In addition to filing taxes each year, Americans living abroad are now required to also disclose their foreign bank accounts. There are two separate reporting requirements that you need to be aware of.
The first is Form 8938 (related to FATCA). Form 8938 is required by the IRS and is filed as part of your US Federal Tax Return. We can file Form 8938 for you for $100 (up to 5 bank or brokerage accounts).
The second is the FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Reporting, now known as Form FinCEN 114). FBAR must be filed if you have foreign bank accounts that have a total balance of more than $10,000 at any point during the year. This form is due to the Treasury (not the IRS) by June 30th each year. Greenback offers FBAR filing services for our customers for as little as $95. Please contact your accountant if you would like us to help.
Looking for more?
Personal US Expat Tax Information — A series of articles and videos that explain the basics of tax requirements for Americans living abroad.
American Expat Country Specific Posts — In-depth articles and videos that walk you through individual countries’ tax rates, deadlines, treaties and retirement savings programs and how they impact the taxes of American expats living there.
Expat Tax Dictionary — Provides a clear alphabetical list of commonly used US expat tax terms and their meanings as well as an explanation of some of the forms you will encounter.
Your Tax Obligations FAQ — A series of questions and answers to explain US expat tax requirements for Americans who have not filed expat taxes in the past.
Late Expat Tax Filing FAQ — A series of questions and answers to explain what happens if you have failed to submit US expat tax returns in this or any other tax year.