Required

Retiring Overseas? What You Need to Know about IRS Penalties

Retirees living abroad have to take special care with their tax returns. If you forget to check it off this box on Schedule B when you live overseas, it could mean big trouble with the IRS.

It’s something you don’t hear discussed often, but there are people who like to hide money overseas. Others just love the idea of retiring to a European country where they can live out a life-long dream. However, according to a recent article from CNBC titled “How to retire overseas and avoid IRS penalties,” Congress enacted the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, in 2010 expressly to increase tax compliance by Americans, who keep financial assets outside of the U.S.

FATCA works through what is called “dual reporting.” Other countries agree to report on assets owned by American account holders. Those living outside of the U.S. must report honestly what they have in those foreign bank accounts every year, when they file their income taxes.

For people who are not big-time tax evaders hiding large amounts of money offshore and make an honest mistake, it can become a nightmare.

One client forgot to tell his accountant about an account with $3,500 that he owned in a foreign bank. The penalties were stiff. An attorney who was experienced in tax situations faced by people living outside of the U.S. had to be retained.

Here’s the thing: most automated tax preparation programs default to answering “No” on Schedule B, where the person filling out the form is asked if they have a bank account in a foreign country.

Who has to file? All Americans living overseas are required to file a tax return. It doesn’t matter if you pay foreign taxes, or even if the U.S. has a tax treaty with the country.

In addition to a 1040 form, you must file additional forms for the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign tax credit form.

The only exception might be if you receive Social Security benefits and have no other income sources. That is a “might,” though—check with your CPA!

Some people choose to retire outside of the U.S., in the hope of keeping healthcare costs manageable.  However, any gains from having lower healthcare costs would evaporate quickly in the face of tax penalties from the IRS.

Be certain to work with a CPA who has experience in overseas tax requirements and FBAR rules (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts).

Remember that the form is very specific: if you have any overseas accounts, you must report them to the IRS. It doesn’t matter how large or small they are.

Reference: CNBC (Aug. 25, 2018) “How to retire overseas and avoid IRS penalties”

Hear From Our Clients
tes-prev
tes-next

I heard Cindy’s presentation at a Senior Luncheon at my church, and was very impressed. She helped my daughter and me understand many aspects of elder law. Josh has also been very helpful in my planning to enter an independent living situation . I have told many friends about them.

- Charlotte

The very best elder law attorney and staff anyone could ever ask for! I have referred a number of clients to Cindy and she never disappoints. She is kind, caring, and extremely thorough in making sure everything is completed as it should be. I highly recommend Cindy for anyone needing lawyer services; she truly goes above and beyond for every client she helps and has had a huge impact in so many peoples’ lives. Thank you, Cindy and staff, for everything that you do- I’m so glad to know you!

- Kerri

Cindy and the Nelson Elder Care Law team are trustworthy and helpful. They are the experts in elder care law. At Leaf Cremation, we entrust our families to the care of the Nelson team when their services are needed.

- Pierce

Josh Nelson, and his staff, have been amazingly helpful to our family. The ins and outs of nursing homes, the rules and regulations that govern Medicare and Medicaid are daunting and the folks at Nelson Elder Care Law have been informative, responsive, and above all, empathetic. I cannot emphasize enough how their service has taken a weight off of our shoulders especially during a world pandemic that has targeted nursing homes across our country. I highly recommend retaining Josh and his firm!

- Marcia

I had a simple legal question to them that I needed answered and they very helpful in giving me the information I needed. I highly recommend them and will reach out to them if I need more advice or assistance. Thank you for taking your time to just answer a couple of questions I had!

- Ben