20 Questions About US Expat Tax Answered for U.S. Citizens in New Zealand

US Expat Tax Demystified: Answers to Common Expat Tax Questions For Americans Abroad

Navigating the complexities of US expat tax can be daunting for Americans living abroad. As expats, managing your tax obligations requires understanding not just the basics of income tax but also the nuances of filing US tax returns while living overseas. For many US citizens living abroad, tax season brings a myriad of questions about how to accurately file taxes, claim tax credits, and ensure compliance with both US tax law and tax treaties. Every tax year presents unique challenges and opportunities for expats, especially in understanding the implications of foreign earned income exclusion, state taxes while living abroad, and the intricate process of claiming the foreign tax credit.

Filing a US tax return is a mandatory responsibility for US expats, irrespective of whether they pay tax or earn income in their host country. This includes dealing with tax forms that address income from both US and foreign sources. Tax deadlines are also critical, as missing them can lead to penalties. For those who have self-employment income, understanding how to calculate self-employment taxes and tax due is crucial. Fortunately, there are tax professionals who specialize in taxes for expats, providing guidance to ensure that you meet your tax obligations while maximizing potential tax benefits. Whether it’s about how to file your US tax return or if you need to pay state taxes while living abroad, these professionals can offer invaluable assistance, making the process smoother and more manageable for US citizens living overseas.

Residency Status: What determines my tax residency status in the U.S. while living in New Zealand?

Your tax residency status as a US citizen living abroad is determined by the IRS’s Substantial Presence Test or your declaration of residency in another country. Even as an expat, you’re required to file a US tax return if you meet the minimum income thresholds, as the US taxes its citizens on worldwide income.

Income Reporting: Do I need to report my New Zealand income on my U.S. tax return?

As a US expat living in New Zealand, you must report all income, including earnings from New Zealand, on your US tax return. This is because US citizens are taxed on their global income, regardless of where they live and work.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion: How do I qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, and what are its limits?

To qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, you must pass either the Bona Fide Residence Test or the Physical Presence Test. This exclusion allows you to exclude a certain amount of foreign earned income from US tax, but it doesn’t exempt you from filing a US tax return.

Foreign Tax Credit: Am I eligible for the Foreign Tax Credit, and how does it work?

The Foreign Tax Credit helps reduce your US tax liability by crediting the taxes you pay in New Zealand. This credit is beneficial for expats who pay foreign taxes, preventing double taxation on the same income.

Filing Deadlines: What are the tax filing deadlines for U.S. expats in New Zealand?

For US expats, the federal tax return filing deadline is automatically extended to June 15th. However, if you owe tax, interest may accrue from the regular April deadline. It’s important to be aware of these tax deadlines to avoid penalties.

FBAR Requirements: Do I need to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)?

If you have foreign financial accounts exceeding $10,000 at any time during the tax year, you’re required to file an FBAR. This is separate from your tax return and is part of US tax compliance for citizens living abroad.

FATCA Compliance: What are my obligations under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)?

Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), US expats with foreign assets exceeding certain thresholds must report these on Form 8938, filed with their income tax return. This is to ensure tax compliance by Americans living overseas.

State Taxes: Do I still need to file state taxes if I reside in New Zealand?

Whether you need to file state taxes while living abroad depends on your last state of residence in the US. Some states still require expats to file state taxes, so it’s important to understand your tax obligations based on state laws.

Self-Employment Tax: How does living abroad affect my U.S. self-employment tax obligations?

Living in New Zealand doesn’t exempt you from US self-employment taxes. As an expat, you’re still subject to the self-employment tax rate of 15.3%, which covers social security and Medicare taxes.

Retirement Accounts: How are contributions and distributions to/from U.S. retirement accounts handled while living abroad?

Contributions and distributions to/from US retirement accounts are subject to US tax law. Expats must report these on their US tax return, and different rules may apply for tax benefits or liabilities.

Rental Income: How do I report rental income from U.S. properties while living in New Zealand?

Rental income from US properties must be reported on your US tax return, even if you live and work in New Zealand. You may be eligible for certain deductions related to the property.

Investment Income: What are the tax implications of U.S. and foreign investment income?

Investment income, whether from US or foreign sources, must be reported on your US income tax return. Understanding the tax implications of various investments is crucial for expats to manage their tax liability effectively.

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Foreign Currency Transactions: How should I report income and expenses in foreign currency?

Report income and expenses in US dollars on your US tax return. Use the yearly average exchange rate for the tax year for conversion, ensuring accurate and compliant reporting of foreign transactions.

Social Security Benefits: Will receiving U.S. Social Security benefits affect my tax situation?

Receiving US Social Security benefits can impact your tax situation as an expat. These benefits may be taxable on your US tax return, depending on your total income and filing status.

Healthcare and Insurance: Are there any tax implications for healthcare or insurance plans in New Zealand?

Certain healthcare and insurance plans in New Zealand may have tax implications on your US tax return. It’s important to understand how these can affect your overall tax liability as an expat.

Marital Status and Filing: How does my marital status affect my U.S. tax filing, especially if my spouse is not a U.S. citizen?

Your marital status and whether your spouse is a US citizen impact your filing status and tax obligations. Options include filing jointly or separately, and each has different implications for your income tax return.

Dependents: How do I claim dependents living in New Zealand on my U.S. tax return?

Claiming dependents living in New Zealand on your US tax return can provide tax benefits, like the Child Tax Credit. However, they must meet IRS criteria to be eligible as dependents for tax purposes.

Education Expenses: Are there any tax deductions or credits for education expenses incurred in New Zealand?

You may be eligible for certain US tax deductions or credits for education expenses incurred in New Zealand. It’s important to keep records and understand which expenses qualify under US tax law.

Charitable Contributions: Can I claim deductions for charitable contributions made in New Zealand?

Charitable contributions made in New Zealand can be deductible on your US tax return if they’re made to a qualifying US-based organization. Contributions to foreign charities typically do not qualify for a tax deduction.

Tax Planning and Advice: Should I consult with a tax professional experienced in expat tax issues for specific advice and planning?

Consulting with a tax professional experienced in US expat tax issues is highly recommended for specific advice and planning. They can help navigate the complexities of tax laws for Americans living abroad and ensure compliance with filing requirements.


In conclusion, understanding expat tax is crucial for US citizens living abroad. The intricacies of US tax laws, combined with the responsibilities of living overseas, make tax season a particularly challenging time for expats. From navigating various tax forms to understanding the foreign earned income exclusion, expats must be diligent in fulfilling their tax obligations. The complexities of state taxes and the need to file a US tax return, regardless of where they live, often require the expertise of a tax professional. For US expats, the benefits of tax credits, such as the foreign tax credit, can significantly reduce their tax due, but only if properly claimed.

Staying informed about tax deadlines is vital to avoid penalties, and understanding the specific requirements of taxes for expats, including self-employment taxes and the need to pay state taxes, is part of responsible financial management. The process of tax filing for Americans abroad can be streamlined with the help of experienced professionals like US Tax Pros, ensuring that all aspects of US expat tax are addressed. As we navigate each tax season, it’s important for expats to stay updated and seek guidance when needed to ensure compliance and optimize their tax benefits. Remember, meeting your tax return obligations as a US citizen living overseas is not just about compliance; it’s about managing your financial health while embracing the expatriate lifestyle.

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