Streamlined ProcedureUS expat tax. To file or not to file.
Until around a year ago, many honest, law-abiding US expats felt a real disincentive to file their historic tax returns as a result of pending and serious IRS penalties. Another large group of expats believed that as they didn't owe taxes in the US, having paid higher tax rates abroad, they didn't have to file (particularly in Canada, where there are over a million US expats). For once the IRS listened and responded sensibly, declaring an amnesty and introducing the Streamlined Procedure.

Since it came into force in June 2014, tens of thousands of expats have come forward and filed using the Streamlined Procedure, however there are still millions of US expats out there who haven't.



 
 
Young Americans AbroadYoung Americans opting to live overseas
The following is an extract from 'Survey says: 35% of Americans would expatriate' published on CNBC.com. 

As sultry summer weekends loom and Americans prep their grills and ready their ongoing outdoor activities, some citizens are packing their bags.

A recent online poll of more than 2,000 adults by TransferWise, a peer-to-peer money transfer service based in the United Kingdom, revealed that 35 percent of American-born residents and emigrants would consider leaving the United States to live in another country.



 
 
American ExpatsToby and Lauren Cleaver

Lauren and her husband both worked as criminal defense lawyers in Colorado before they decided to move abroad. In 1999, they loaded up their truck and drove south to their new home, Iguana Lodge in Costa Rica, which they have turned into an eco friendly, beach-side, tropical paradise, complete with two restaurants, yoga classes, a weekly salsa night, and strictly no TV! We asked them what inspires them, as well as about their experience with Bright!Tax.

What inspired you to leave the US to live abroad?

We were attorneys in the US with three children. We worked hard and had the American Dream, but we were looking to have more time with our children, and for an adventure. We moved down here and now have an ex-pat dream of owning a tropical beach hotel.


 
 
A lot has been written in the media about the effects that FATCA and FBAR requirements and the necessity of filing US taxes have had on expats, ranging from bewilderment and frustration at the extra paperwork and perceived government overreach, to individuals being denied opening or keeping local bank accounts, and individuals being unable to obtain mortgages due to their US citizenship.

We recently carried out an exercise to better understand our clients' attitudes towards their tax obligations before and after the filing process that yielded fascinating results. I'm not normally a fan of word clouds, however in this case they illustrate the point beautifully.

 
 
PictureOh God my wife is German
Here's our rundown of 5 of the best US expat blogs in 2015. Do you agree?

One - Banker in the sun http://www.bankerinthesun.com

After being robbed at gunpoint outside his home in Florida, Banker in the Sun re-evaluated his priorities in life and decided to pack in the bank job and follow his childhood dream of exploring exotic lands and Arabian kingdoms. He moved to Saudi Arabia, and then Thailand, no longer a banker, but now a self-proclaimed 'digital nomad'. The blog is a blend of his experiences, interviews with other expats, and advice for other would be adventurers. Boasting a massive social media following, the unusual back story alone is enough to merit inclusion on our list.

Two - Oh God my wife is German http://www.ohgodmywifeisgerman.com/

A graphic designer from Portland, Oregan, married to a German who is smarter and better looking than him, responds by blogging about her foibles and English bloopers alongside his general perplexity about German life.



 
 
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One - Know your responsibilities and filing dates

If you're a US citizen or green card holder, even if you're living abroad, you have to declare your worldwide income, savings, and assets and you might need to pay taxes to Uncle Sam. Any tax due must be paid by April 15th, just like in the US, however the filing date for expats is two months later, on June 15th. 

Furthermore, alongside your return, and if you meet a certain dollar threshold (about $10 thousand at any time during the year in total accounts outside the States), you must also submit an FBAR, Foreign Bank Account Report, declaring any overseas bank accounts, and FATCA, Foreign Asset Tax Compliance Act, declaring any overseas assets, (typically starting at around $50 thousand in net value).


 
 
Expat CPA

Since the FATCA law was passed in 2010, US expats are obliged to declare their foreign earnings and assets, along with their foreign bank accounts. So how should you set about choosing your expat tax preparer? Firstly, go with a specialist. Expat taxes can be convoluted sometimes, especially if there are several years' worth to catch up with for example, and including FATCA and FBAR, compliance can be troublesome. There are a number of online firms that deal solely with expat taxes though, and it makes sense to go with an expert rather than a group with limited experience in this area.


 
 
American Expats Living Abroad
Following the fantastic response to our recent 'Top Five and a Half Things that American Expats Miss from Home' post, and a quick online straw poll, here are our Top Five Things that American Expats definitely DON'T Miss from Home at all.

One - Political Correctness

While Political Correctness might have started out aiming to prevent offence, it got lost, with some people now able to find offence in almost anything. What happened to freedom of speech? Worse still, you have to constantly keep up, as a word that replaced another word that had become offensive becomes offensive itself sometimes almost overnight. It's a minefield, and it's a minefield that most of the world wisely avoids.



 
 
FATCAAverage Americans abroad are getting slammed


The following is an excerpt from 'An American Tax Nightmare', published in the New York Times.

No one likes tax cheats. They should be pursued and punished wherever they are hiding. But recent efforts by the United States Congress to capture tax revenues on unreported revenues and assets held in foreign accounts are having disastrous effects on a growing number of average Americans living abroad ...



 
 
PictureMexico offers personal freedom, low taxes, a relaxed culture
Mexico is the number one destination for US expats. The US State department estimates that there are over 1 million American citizens living in Mexico, and it's easy to understand why. A heady combination of high levels of personal freedom, low taxes, a relaxed culture and a friendly people gives Mexico a wide appeal. Factor in that it's within driving distance of the US, has a lower cost of living (which has a particular appeal to retired Americans, letting their pensions go further), a year-round warm climate, delicious food, and there are lots of other Americans already there, and you may start to wonder why we haven't all moved there.