As a US citizen abroad, you may be required to file several tax forms disclosing your foreign income and assets, such as filing an FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) or Form 8938 (Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets). American citizens living abroad are also required to file a federal income tax return, or Form 1040. However, the familiar April 15 filing deadline has been changed for the 2016 tax season.
April 18 Tax Deadline, Automatic 2-Month Extension for American Citizens Abroad
Under typical circumstances, April 15 is the annual deadline to file a federal income tax return. However, this year’s deadline falls a few days later than normal. Because Emancipation Day will be celebrated on Friday, April 15, the 2016 deadline to file taxes will be pushed back to Monday, April 18, three days later than the standard due date. That’s good news for taxpayers, who’ll get a handy extra weekend to get any last-minute paperwork together.
If the three extra days don’t give you enough time, don’t panic: as a citizen abroad, two extensions are available to you.
The first extension normally pushes the deadline back to June 15, giving taxpayers an additional 60 days. However, due to this year’s changes to the April deadline, the two-month extension will instead last until June 18, 2016.
Generally speaking, citizens abroad do not need to file any special paperwork in order to obtain the June 18 deadline extension. You qualify automatically as long as you meet both of the following criteria:
- You are a US citizen or resident alien.
- You were living and working outside the US and Puerto Rico on the date your return was due (April 18, 2016).
- This also applies to people on naval or military service outside the US and Puerto Rico.
While the two-month time extension is automatic, you should file Form 2350 (Application for Extension of Time to File US Income Tax Return) if both of the following statements are true:
- You are a resident alien or US citizen living abroad.
- You anticipate qualifying for special tax treatment, meaning you anticipate filing Form 2555/Form 2555EZ (Foreign Earned Income) to claim the foreign earned income exclusion, foreign housing deduction, or foreign housing exclusion, and need additional time for the purpose of meeting the physical presence test or bona fide residence test.
Need More Time to File Your Income Tax Return? Get 6 Extra Months with Form 4868
If the two-month extension is insufficient, you can apply instead for a six-month extension, bringing the deadline to October 17 (not October 18), 2016.
To apply for the October 17 deadline extension, taxpayers should file Form 4868 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File US Individual Income Tax Return).
You may use Form 4868 if you are using any of the following to file your return:
- Form 1040 — The standard US individual income tax return. Form 1040 is more complicated than Form 1040EZ or 1040A, but features tax breaks which aren’t included on the simplified alternatives.
- Form 1040EZ — A simplified version of Form 1040 only available to certain taxpayers. For instance, you cannot use Form 1040EZ if your taxable income is more than $100,000.
- Form 1040A — Simpler than Form 1040, but more complex than Form 1040EZ. Even if you are ineligible to use Form 1040EZ, you may be able to use Form 1040A.
- Form 1040NR — “NR” indicates nonresident. This return is meant for US nonresident aliens.
- Form 1040NR-EZ — The simplified version of Form 1040NR.
- Form 1040SS — The US self-employment tax return. Includes the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) for bona fide residents of Puerto Rico (i.e. individuals who meet the Internal Revenue Service’s bona fide residence test).
- Form 1040PR — “PR” indicates Puerto Rico. This return, which is the Spanish language equivalent of Form 1040SS, is meant for residents of Puerto Rico.
You do not need to file Form 4868 if you intend to pay your estimated income tax due using the IRS’ electronic payment system, in which case your extension will be automatically processed. However, if you intend to pay using a check or money order, you should file Form 4868.
If you’re a US citizen abroad who needs help filing your income tax return, turn to the trusted tax experts at US Tax Help. CPA Ted Kleinman has more than 20 years of experience helping US citizens and American expatriates around the globe efficiently handle a range of international tax matters. Whether you have questions about claiming credits and deductions, are worried about a notice you received from the IRS, or simply need advice about which tax forms to use, Ted can provide you with personalized assistance. To get started in a free and confidential consultation, call US Tax Help at (800) 810-9312.