Stephen C. Fox, retired
U.S. International Tax
Steve Fox has retired
   International Tax      Expatriate Tax      Do I Need to File?
Do You Need to File a U.S. Tax Return?

U.S. citizens and permanent residents (green card holders and others) MUST file a U.S. Federal income tax return every year if their total income exceeds about $10,000. You must do this even if you live outside the U.S. and have no U.S. income.  Further, you should file a return every year you want to keep the foreign earned income exclusion active. Filing a return does not mean there is tax due.  Not filing, though, guarantees that you lose benefits, maybe even tax refunds.  See IRS Publication 54 for the gory details.

U.S. expats may also need to file an income tax return in the country in which they work.. Local country rules vary.

People receiving U.S. source income may need to file U.S. Federal and/or state income tax returns. If the income is only from interest, dividends, royalties, or capital gains, no return is required if you got a Form 1042-S. If the income is from wages for U.S. services or from a business in the U.S., you must file a Federal and/or state income tax return to report these. See U.S. IRS guidance for nonresident aliens.

If you are not a U.S. citizen or resident and you did not have U.S. source income, you probably do not need to file a U.S. return. Examples of people who do not need to file include: non-U.S. people working for an American company outside the U.S.; non-U.S. people who receive interest from a foreign branch of an American bank; non-U.S. people who work for a contractor to the U.S. government outside the U.S.

Filing requirements for American expats can be complex. Call or e-mail Steve Fox if you're an American living outside the U.S. to get personal, professional tax help.