Expat taxes seem to be a fast-moving target these days. For US citizens, the IRS is making changes and imposing absurdly punitive penalties if you don’t dot every I and cross every T properly.
Since this is the time every year when Americans at home and abroad have to pull together their financial information for the previous year and prepare their tax returns, I thought I’d offer a little assistance.
Americans file with the IRS on April 15 every year. As an expat, you’re entitled to an automatic extension. However, as the parent of a college student I have to get mine done ASAP in order to fill out the financial aid forms for my daughter.
This year, for the first time since about 1980, I will not be preparing my own tax return. I’m doing this for two reasons:
- This is my first year filing as an expat, so I want to be sure it’s done right and I understand the process
- I want to be absolutely sure all the forms are completed properly. I’m just not in the mood for a $10,000 penalty if I don’t fill out a form correctly
If you’re concerned about the rapidly changing demands of the IRS on expat tax filers, handing your expat tax preparation off to a professional might be the cheapest way to go in the long run.
If you decide to do so, here’s a list of tax preparers who specialize in handling tax preparation for expats. Please note that this is not an endorsement — to date, I’ve not used any of them. It’s simply a list I put together — in no particular order — in hopes it might help some of you.
Some of their websites include blogs with useful information as well.
Expatriate Tax Returns (includes blog). Company owner Diane Siriani has written a couple of guest posts here and here. If you decide to use her service, please use coupon code EXPAT2-Future!
Artio Partners (includes blog)
Bright Tax (includes blog, and they also offer a moderately priced review service if you want to prepare your own taxes but have an expert look them over)
Taxes for Expats (includes blog, and this handy guide)
And would you do something for me? If you decide to use any of these CPAs, let me know how you like them so I’ll have a better idea who to recommend in future.
Help other expats out by sharing this list. It’s easy to share on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites — just scroll down and click the appropriate icon under “Sharing is Caring.”
Edward Moreno says
Just wanted to add one more to your list – taxplannercpa.com. Comprehensive tax info on both the site itself, and the blog, and you can get a free online quote from a real person (response within 48 hours). Check it out!
Thanks for this informative article and the links to tax preparers. It’s good to know that I’m not alone in being worried about filing taxes as an overseas foreign resident. It’s easy to just give up and get behind on taxes. From what I’ve researched, US expat tax law changes often and is difficult to navigate through. Like you, I’ve also decided to go with a professional during my time abroad instead of filing my own taxes. The IRS has several programs specifically for citizens residing abroad, but it’s not always clear which one is most suitable. I’m familiar with some of the preparers on your list, like Taxes for Expats. I’ll definitely be taking a closer look at the list and going with one of these tax professionals. I have no desire to take up this task on my own; as you mentioned, one or two mistakes can literally cost you.
Thank you for your informative article. I read it some time ago when researching how to catch up on US tax filing for myself and my father. I chose Greenback Tax Services but was very disappointed, especially after having read so many good reviews. From signing up on May 7th. I had a brief chat with my assigned CPA on the 16th but it wasn’t until the 22nd that she was back from vacation and ready to get to work. “Yes, no problem” answers to questions I had asked of Greenback before signing up then turned out to be different after signing up. Communication was then patchy with my CPA to the point where I lost confidence and became anxious that time was getting short unless I wanted to file an extension, which I wanted to avoid. In the end I stopped the process and had to take the work elsewhere. I am guessing that this year they were particularly bombarded by anxious expats wanting to take advantage of the Streamlined Disclosure Program. Understandable. But they should have been up front about that instead of saying whatever to get me on board for anything but a hassle-free process.
Sorry to hear about your bad experience. Can you recommend the company you switched to?
Also wondering who you wound up working with? Are you happy with them?
I used Expatriate Tax Returns and was very happy with them.
I use http://www.Tax-Masters.com which is DC area based, as they speak 4 languages and have over 30 years of dealing with Expat tax issues and needs.
Thanks, Macarena. Nice to have some input from an experienced expat businesswoman!
Has anyone had any experience with H&R Block expat services? I know H&R Block has been around a long time, but don’t know how they do with expat stuff.
Terry, expat taxes and filing requirements are complicated. I would look for a true specialist. I’ve used Expatriate Tax Returns twice now, and been extremely happy with them. If you use the coupon code EXPAT2-Future you’ll get a discount.
H&R Block has an expat site with professionals who work remotely.
I can’t comment on the quality but these are different people than you find at a local H&R block. They are specialists in expat returns.
When choosing an accountant remember the person preparing the return might not always same person listed on the website or blog. It is common to utilize inexperienced staff or subcontractors for actual completion of the returns. The website and blog might lure you in with a tax guru but then your actual accountant is someone unknown lacking even a bio on the website. This isn’t always the case but it is something to take into consideration.
If the site is not owner operated it is better to give recommendations or reviews of specific preparers rather than the companies. Jane at Xzy company might be stellar but John at Xzy is mediocre. So if we hear Jane is great we can request her. If we hear Xzy is great we will probably get assigned to John.
I would recommend contacting as many preparers as you can. Request quotes or compare prices if they use flat fees. Fees can vary greatly depending on the preparer you choose and your tax situation. Some specialize in difficult or complex tax situations while others focus on more routine expat returns and can offer substantial discounts. Review the professional qualifications of the person actually preparing the return. Then speak to them about your tax situation to see if it is someone you are comfortable working with.
I am an expat and tax preparer so my recommendations might have some bias.
I used H&R Block expat services, which handled my case, though I live in Australia, through their office located in Missouri. Guess who ended up being the one to stay up until 10 and 11pm to reach the other party on the telephone during daytime, office hours? Guess who also ended up paying the penalty imposed by the IRS for not paying the precise amount on my taxes (late fees and incorrect payment fees were those incurred), though the amount I was told by H&R Block was incorrect? Yes, I had to bear the burden of the communication as well as paid the additional fees as a result of their incomplete and poor advice. Please do not give them your business.
I contacted Expatriate Tax Returns and was impressed with their prompt reply (within 12 hours on a weekend), as well as answers to my questions.
Jim Sanderson says
I’ve used Bright!Tax the last couple of years, and they’ve been great. I’d definitely recommend them.
I also had not such a great with Greenback Tax Services last year, so am trying a local accountant in Sydney, Australia (where I live) who is an American expat herself. I feel like she will (hopefully) have a good grasp of both the U.S. expat filing requirements and the Australian filing requirements so she can better marry the two systems where needed. I’ll report back after filing this year to let other expats living in Australia know how we go.
Hi AMY…would you give me the name of the accountant in Sydney? I have to file under the streamlined program (UGH) so need someone experienced with that procedure. How is it going?
Jim Baird says
Could anyone recommend a tax accountant in or around Niagara on the Lake, ON Canada? Buffalo or Niagara Falls (US or Canada) would be great. Thanks in advance.