May 22, 2024

For U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad, understanding the tax implications of foreign income is essential to stay compliant with U.S. tax laws. The United States taxes its citizens and residents on their worldwide income, regardless of where they live. Derren Joseph who deals with US tax UAE on daily basis, possesses extensive expertise in assisting expatriates and businesses with their US tax obligations in the UAE. In this guide, we will explore what expats need to know about foreign income and U.S. taxes.

Tax Residency Status

The first step in understanding the tax obligations of expats is to determine their tax residency status. U.S. citizens are generally considered tax residents, even if they live abroad. Additionally, some non-citizens may be classified as resident aliens for tax purposes based on the substantial presence test or other factors.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

To avoid double taxation, expats may be eligible for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE). This exclusion allows qualifying individuals to exclude a portion of their foreign earned income from U.S. taxation. As of the 2023 tax year, the maximum exclusion amount is $112,000 per qualifying individual.

Foreign Tax Credit

If expats pay foreign taxes on their foreign income, they may be able to claim a Foreign Tax Credit (FTC) on their U.S. tax return. The FTC reduces U.S. tax liability by the amount of foreign taxes paid on income that is also subject to U.S. taxation.

Filing Requirements

U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad must still file U.S. tax returns, reporting their worldwide income, even if they qualify for the FEIE or FTC. The filing deadline is typically extended for expats until June 15th, with the option to request an additional extension until October 15th.

Reporting Foreign Accounts

Expats with foreign financial accounts exceeding certain thresholds are required to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Additionally, certain expats may need to file Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets, to report foreign assets.

Social Security and Medicare Taxes

Expats who are employed or self-employed abroad may still be subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes. However, the Totalization Agreements between the U.S. and certain countries can provide exemptions or reductions in these taxes in specific circumstances.

Tax Treaties

The United States has tax treaties with many countries, aiming to prevent double taxation and resolve tax issues for individuals and businesses. Expats should review the tax treaty between the U.S. and their host country to understand its provisions and benefits.

State Tax Obligations

Expats may still have state tax obligations, depending on their state of residence before moving abroad. Some states impose taxes on residents’ worldwide income, while others may offer exclusions or credits for income earned abroad.

Reporting Requirements for Foreign Businesses

Expats operating foreign businesses may have additional reporting obligations, such as filing information returns for foreign corporations, partnerships, or trusts they own or have financial interest in.

Seeking Professional Advice

Navigating the complexities of foreign income and U.S. taxes can be challenging. Expats are encouraged to seek advice from tax professionals with expertise in international tax matters to ensure accurate and compliant tax filings.


For U.S. expats with foreign income, understanding their tax obligations is crucial to avoid penalties and stay on the right side of U.S. tax laws. Utilizing the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, Foreign Tax Credit, and other tax provisions can help reduce tax liabilities while complying with reporting requirements. Expats are encouraged to stay informed about tax law changes and seek professional assistance to manage their tax responsibilities effectively.

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