One of the challenges for US expats involves taxes.
You see, good old Uncle Sam taxes its citizens and green-card holders on worldwide income.
Yes, if you structure your financial life properly you can get an exemption for earnings abroad, up to $102,100 for an individual in 2017. But you still have to file with the IRS every year, and you have to submit special forms to get your foreign income exclusion.
In other words, it can become a big PITA.
Last December, I received an email from a company called Taxes for Expats. They offered me a deal — they would give me a credit of $350 toward tax preparation if I would write about my experience with them on the website.
How could I refuse?
Now, you might be wondering why I’m publishing this article now, after tax filing deadline is long past. . . .
Well, it’s not past if you’re an expat — expats get an automatic filing extension (did you know that)? So if you’re living abroad and you haven’t filed your US taxes yet, there’s still time.
Organizing My Tax Information
They set me up with a username and password to log into their online portal, where I could enter my information.
While it was straightforward, there were areas that weren’t entirely intuitive. I felt like it took more of my time than it should have.
Since I’m dealing with income and expenses from self-employment, I typically use my accounting software (I use QuickBooks Self Employed) to generate spreadsheets that show total business income and categorize my business expenses.
My previous tax preparer was fine with that. My assigned preparer at Taxes for Expats still wanted me to fill in everything on their online forms.
They offered an initial phone consultation, which I did not take advantage of.
After I signed up, I received several emails reminding me to start inputting my information. While the information they sent me about getting started was helpful, it got to feel a little bit naggy since I was also waiting to receive some necessary information (end-of-year statements and the like).
When I had a question, my preparer responded quickly. At the bottom of each email was a notice inviting me to contact her supervisor if I didn’t receive a timely (within 24 hours) response on weekdays. I never needed to do that, but it was nice to have the option available.
Their fee structure is simple, and is based on your income. If you earn less than $100,000 for the year, the fee is $350. Over that, it’s $450.
A state return is another $100.
Filing the FATCA is $100, and the FBAR is $75 (for up to 5 accounts).
If you file a Schedule C, as I do, that’s another $100. Corporate returns are more.
They also have a few add-ons. For example, if you make a change after you’ve given your initial approval — even if it’s to fix their error — they charge $25.
Would I Use Them Again?
If I didn’t already have a preparer I really like, I probably would. I don’t have any problem recommending them.
And they’ve given me this special link, which gives you a $25 discount when you use their services. If you decide to try them out, let me know how you like them.
Photo by donkeyhotey on flickr