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Expat IRS Tax Form Checklist

Expat IRS Tax Form Checklist

It’s that time again and beyond. Undoubtedly you’ve already received your 1099’s from US banks and brokers, and you’ve started compiling all the paperwork you will need to file your 2011 taxes. Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning of your tax filing journey.

You will be required to file multiple forms with your US overseas taxes for 2011, and we’ve put together a checklist to which you can refer to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

Bear in mind that although the following forms can lessen the taxes you owe to the United States, there is no method of removing your need to file altogether. As an expat living abroad, you are required to still pay US taxes – despite whatever treaty is in effect.

This checklist has been established to act as a starting guide on your filing 2011 taxes. For more information on expat filing, please refer to

1. Statement of Foreign Financial Assets - NEW

The new tax Form 8938, Statement of Foreign Financial Assets (to which we will refer as SFFA) is a required form for the 2011 US Tax year and is applicable to some residents living in a foreign country. If you are an expat who had $200,000 in total foreign assets on the last day of the taxable year or you had $300,000 or more at any time throughout the year AND you are filing Single, Head of Household, or Married Filing Separately you will need to file SFFA. If you are Married Filing Jointly your threshold for having to file Form 8938 is $400,000 on the final day of the taxable year and $600,000 at any point throughout the year.


Form 8621, Passive Foreign Investment Company, is a form which – as its name suggests – has to do with passive foreign investments, such as an offshore investment plan, a foreign-domiciled mutual fund, or a tax-deferred fund in a foreign country. You will be required to file Form 8621 any year which you receive distribution.

It will behoove you, however, to file Form 8621 every year. Why? Because if you file for the years in which you have not realized any gain whatsoever, you can choose the method of taxations on your PFIC gains for future years. If you wait to file Form 8621 until you have gains on such investments, you will be subject to the default calculation method appointed automatically by the IRS, which may not be in your best interest. If you need help figuring out which calculation method would best suit your individual circumstances, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

3. Foreign Earned Income

For those who qualify by the rules and regulations of Form 2555, up to $92,900 can be excluded from foreign earned income for 2011 US taxes. You may also deduct certain housing costs using Form 2555.

4. Foreign Tax Credit

If you haven’t excluded foreign earned income from your US taxes and you were required to pay foreign taxes, you may file Form 1116 to claim a credit for such a payment on your 2011 US tax return.

5. Certain Foreign Corporation (CDC) Shareholder Form 5471

If you own stock in a CDC you must file form 5471. The definition of CDC is a foreign owned corporation for which you hold 10% of the total shares available to stockholders or you have control over at least 10% of the corporation’s voting rights. If you have sizable investments in bars, restaurants, or any other public establishment, you may also need to file Form 5471.

6. Transfer of Property to a Foreign Corporation

If you own a significant portion of a foreign corporation and you transferred cash, property, or other assets in 2011, you will be required to file Form 926. Whether you invested this tangible or intangible property to a start up foreign business for capital or you are just adding new assets to an already established foreign establishment you will need to file Form 926.

7. Foreign Partnerships

Are you involved in a foreign partnership with 5 or less stateside partners? If so, you may need to file Form 8865. If you and your group of US partners hold at least 50% of the total partnership and each hold at least 10% interest, you will be required to report all income and transactions betwixt yourself and the partnership.

8. Foreign Trusts and Certain Foreign Gifts

If you have received a gift from a foreign person in excess of $100,000 in value or you have been involved with transactions in foreign trusts, you may be required to file Form 3520. You also may be required to file if you earned at least $14,375 USD from any foreign corporation or partnership.

9. Foreign Trust with a U.S. Owner.

If you are either a sole or partial owner of a foreign trust you need to file Form 3520A. On this form you will list all information regarding the foreign trust, as well as all owners of the trust and US beneficiaries.

10. Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).

Do you have authority over or own a foreign bank account, mutual fund, brokerage account, unit trust, or any other type of foreign financial account in excess of $10,000?

If the answer is, “Yes,” you need to file FBAR Form TD F 90-22.1. Even if your accounts do not total $10,000 at the end of the taxable year but the total amount exceeded $10,000 at any time during the taxable year you still need to file this form.

You must report each account to the US Department of Treasury. Keep in mind that this form is still required in conjunction with the new Form 8938 mentioned first on this list.

Ines Zemelman, EA
Founder of TFX