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October 31, 2015


By. Don D. Nelson, International Tax Attorney

  • Though most foreign assets are reportable on various specialized forms filed with your US tax return,. If you own foreign real estate and title is in your own name (or a Fideicomiso) and do not rent out the property, there is no reporting required on your US tax return or for that matter any other reporting due the US Government.
  • Foreign mutual funds (and most foreign money market funds) require filing of another special form with your tax return. If you do not file this form and make elections to report the income each year, you are penalized with higher taxes and interest when you finally sell your foreign mutual fund. These rules were put in many years when Congress was convinced by US Mutual Fund companies that there business would be hurt unless investment in foreign mutual funds was made unfavorable for tax purposes.
  • The 2015 the $100,800 US foreign earned income exclusion applies to earned income (wages or self employment) income earned abroad if you meed the physical presence test or bonafide resident test. You can see if you qualify in IRS Publication 54. It is not automatic and can only be claimed on your US tax return. The IRS can deny this exclusion if you file your return more than 18 months late. This exclusion does not apply to rental income, dividends, interest or capital gains or any income other than earned income.
  • You must report your rental net income in from your Mexican real estate on your US return and you may also owe taxes on it in the country in which it is located  even if you are not a resident. The Mexican income tax can be claimed as a credit directly offsetting any US income tax you owe on the rental income. 
  • If you own 10% or more of a foreign corporation you may have to file form 5471 with your US tax return if required by the rules governing that form. Failure to file that form in a timely manner may result in the IRS assessing a $10,000 US penalty for failure to file even if you owe no taxes.
  • The US has a tax treaty with approximately 66 countries. It also has in the past year entered into an OECD agreements with over 36 countries who have agreed to exchange income tax information with the other. At some point in the future what you do offshore  will not stay in offshore and visa versa due to these new OCED agreements.
  • If as a US Citizen you have lived and worked in abroad for a while and not filed your US tax return, the IRS currently has a “streamlined program” that may allow you to catch up by filing only the past 3 years US tax returns and past six year FBAR (foreign bank account reports). They will not penalize you under that program for failing to file FBAR forms or other foreign reporting forms. They have stated they may discontinue this program at any time. Now is the time to surface with the IRS and avoid potentially huge penalties.
  • FBAR (foreign bank account reporting forms) must be filed each year with US Treasury if at any time during the calendar year your combined highest balances in your foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 US. This form must be filed on line. Foreign accounts include foreign pension plans, cash surrender value in foreign insurance, foreign brokers accounts, and even gold if held for you in a foreign country a custodian. Failure to file this form or filing it late can result in penalties of $10,000 US or more.

Don D. Nelson is a US tax attorney who has been assisting Americans everywhere in the World for over 25 years with their US tax returns and tax planning. He is also a partner in Kauffman Nelson LLP, Certified Public Accountants. His website is located at His tax blog has the lastest tax developments of interest to those abroad at email address is He can be reached at his US phone number 949-480-1235.   

October 26, 2015

Expatriate Foreign Earned Income Exclusion for 2016 Increased

The foreign earned-income exclusion amount under tax code Section 911(b)(2)(D)(i) will increase in 2016 to $101,300 from $100,800, the International Revenue Service said Oct. 21 (Rev. Proc. 2015-53).
Section 911 allows qualified U.S. citizens and residents who work abroad to exclude a certain amount of their foreign-earned income and a portion of their foreign housing expenses from their gross income for U.S. tax purposes. They must meet either a physical presence test or a bona fide residence test. Taxpayers may elect the Section 911 income and housing exclusions even if no foreign taxes were paid on their foreign earnings.
Although employers generally must withhold U.S. federal income taxes from taxable wages paid to U.S. citizens and residents working abroad, the withholding requirements do not apply to wage payments subject to the foreign earned-income and housing cost exclusions claimed by expatriate employees that file Form 673, Statement for Claiming Exemption From Withholding on Foreign Earned Income Eligible for the Exclusion(s) Provided by Section 911, with the employer.

October 18, 2015

IRS Collecting $8 Billion from Offshore Tax Compliance Push

Read in Accounting Today how the IRS is collecting taxes from expatriate taxpayers.  They have over 54,000 taxpayers that have come forward in the Offshore Disclosure Programs or Streamlined Programs.  That still leaves a lot of taxpayers out there who have not yet complied with the US tax rules because there are approximately 8.3 million Americans living abroad.  Do not wait until they catch you through FATCA or through the over 36 signed OECD agreements where the US and other countries have agreed to mutually exchange tax information on their residents.

The IRS  has stressed that it remains committed to stopping offshore tax evasion wherever it occurs, and even though the agency has faced several years of budget reductions, the IRS continues to pursue cases throughout the world.


October 4, 2015

IRS Begins Sending Individual Account Information to Foreign Countries

The Internal Revenue Service has kicked off a new program under which it shares large amounts of individuals’ financial-account information with certain foreign countries, the agency said Friday.
The IRS said it received digital information about U.S. taxpayers’ foreign accounts from governments and firms around the world, and it sent information on foreigners’ U.S. accounts to government authorities in as many as 34 countries. While governments have exchanged such information in the past, the sharing wasn’t automatic and the scope was often far narrower. The deadline for the exchange to begin was Sept. 30.  Read more in the wall street journal and find out if your resident country is on the list!

September 18, 2015

IRS Going After Belize Bank Accounts and Secret Belize Corporations

Dept of Justice announces here that a district court authorized the IRS "to serve a 'John Doe'” summons seeking information about U.S. taxpayers who may hold offshore accounts at Belize Bank International Limited (BBIL) or Belize Bank Limited (BBL)."  The petition, memorandum in support and declaration of the agent are here.

September 17, 2015


If you are a US Citizen you already have the right citizenship.  You need to make PR your full time residence (over 183 days a year). Then under the laws (unless changed in the future should the US Congress notice this amazing tax break) your interest income, dividend income and capital gains are tax free.  If you business is a service business that can be conducted from Puerto Rico you can pay a  4% tax on your corporate net profit and the dividends from that corporation are tax free. 

You can do all of this without surrendering your US Citizenship or getting a special visa. Puerto Rico is a great tropical place to live and not that far from the USA.

September 10, 2015

IRS Makes it More Difficult for Taxpayers - They will not accept Checks for $100 million US or more soon!

So the IRS will stop accepting checks of more than $99,999,999 effective Jan. 1, 2016. After that date, you'll have to send in at least 2 checks to cover your big tax bill. This is really true!

Or, says the IRS, you can still send 1 large payment if you electronically wire it to the appropriate Federal Reserve bank.

In announcing the upcoming limit on big checks in the Sept. 7 Internal Revenue Bulletin, the IRS cited an earlier memo from the Treasury's Bureau of the Fiscal Service that noted the risks of manually processing checks of $100 million or more.

"Fraudulent activity, processing errors and uncollectible funds are more likely when checks over these amounts are accepted by TGA (Treasury General Account) depositaries," wrote David M. Metler, director, over-the-counter division of the Treasury Bureau of the Fiscal Service. "No check processing equipment can handle amounts over a million dollars."
Although the manual processing kicks in at $1 million, the IRS still will take checks up to $99,999,999 million, for now.

September 9, 2015

List of Foreign Banks Filing Reports with US Treasury of Foreign Bank Accounts (FATCA Bank)

Wonder if your bank will be reporting your foreign account to the US Treasury.   The link below will allow you to check up to see if they are participating. New banks are joining up daily so the fact it is not there now may not mean if will not be there tomorrow.

If the IRS discovers you have foreign accounts and are not filing form 114 (FBAR) form by June 30 following the end of each fiscal year they can assess civil penalties of $10,000 US or more for each year you failed to file that form.  There is still time to file this form late but avoid penalties under certain circumstances. Contact us if you wish to know more or want help filing your forms late.

You must go back six years due to the statute of limitations governing that form.  If you did not file a correct one in past years, best to amend also to avoid potential problems.  Write us at or visit our website at 


September 5, 2015


September 4, 2015

Link To IRS Publications Covering Almost Everything

Click here to get to the publication you need.  Can't understand what the publications says, then we can help. We offer mini consultations where you can talk with an Attorney CPA with over 30 years international and expatriate tax experience to answer you specific questions on your specific situation. Email us at  to make an appointment by skype, phone or email.

You can also learn more about your tax questions at our website at 


August 16, 2015

Are You Guilty of Tax Perjury on your US Tax Return?


Any person who -  

(1) Declarations under penalties of perjury (this is what you sign when you sign your form 1040 tax return on page 2)

Willfully makes and subscribes any return, statement, or other document, which contains or is verified by a written declaration that it is made under the penalties  of perjury, and which  he or she does not believe to be true and correct as to every material  matter...

   shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than    $100,000   ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than 3 years, or       both, together    with the costs of prosecution.
   If you may have violated this tax law and want to discuss your exposure with an Attorney/CPA   under the protection of Attorney - client privilege email Don at to set   up a consultation.

US Expats Can Still Vote for President - Here is How

The following US State Department site has all rules and forms to register to vote when you live abroad.  There is still time....over 500 days before the next Presidential election.

August 14, 2015

Arbitration Laws Are Great in Mexico and its Less Costly and Much Faster than the Mexican Court System

Mexico has  excellent arbitration laws.  If you live and work in Mexico, you should consider putting an arbitration clause in your next contract or agreement. Such a clause in the event of a dispute may save you untold amounts of legal fees and time.  It is a fact that in many parts of Mexico the courts are so backlogged that  can take 5 to 18 years to get a decision and during the entire period attorneys are charging additional fees.

If you have an arbitration clause in your agreement you can usually get a decision within 6 months to a year and have that arbitration decision entered with the court as a judgment very quickly.  It is also possible to remove legal disputes from the Mexican Courts and have them resolved with arbitration if both parties agree.  The parties may agree just so they both get a quicker decision and possibly a more knowledgeable decision.

When parties arbitrate they can pick the arbitrator with experience in the particular area of law governing the dispute. Often when disputes are litigated in Court, the judge has little or no background in the governing law and therefore the final decision can be arbitrary and not predictable.

Arbitration decisions in most situations cannot be appealed. But if you have chose a knowledgeable arbitrator (1 or 3 arbitrators can be used ), and it saves you waiting 5,10 or more years for a decision, that disadvantage may be worth ignoring

In lieu of arbitration of disputes, consider mediation.  When parties mediate a neutral mediator with experience in the applicable laws works with the two opposing parties to help them reach a mutually satisfactory resolution.  Statistics show that mediation has a 30 to 50 percent chance of success and it is significantly less expensive than arbitration or litigation in Court.

Want to know more about Arbitration or Mediation in Mexico?  Want the proper provisions included in your legal agreements and  wish to know how to arbitrate your legal dispute in Mexico?  To learn more email us at   Don D. Nelson, Attorney at Law, CPA.

August 2, 2015


The due date of Form 114 (FBAR) will now be April 15th following the end of each calendar year.

The due date of Form 1065 partnership returns is not March 15th for Calendar year partnerships

The due date of Corporate return form 1120 will not be April 15th for Calendar year corporations.

These changed due dates start after 2015.

Read more in this Forbes Article

July 21, 2015

Five Tax Tips about Hobbies that Earn Income

Millions of people enjoy hobbies. They can also be a source of income. Some of these types of hobbies include stamp or coin collecting, craft making and horse breeding. You must report any income you get from a hobby on your tax return. How you report the income is different than how you report income from a business. There are special rules and limits for deductions you can claim for a hobby. Here are five basic tax tips you should know if you get income from your hobby:
  1. Business versus Hobby.  A key feature of a business is that you do the activity to make a profit. This differs from a hobby that you may do for sport or recreation. There are nine factors to consider when you determine if you do the activity to make a profit. Make sure you base your decision on all the facts and circumstances of your situation. Refer to Publication 535, Business Expenses to learn more. You can also visit and type “not-for-profit” in the search box.
  2. Allowable Hobby Deductions.  You may be able to deduct ordinary and necessary hobby expenses. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted for the activity. A necessary expense is one that is helpful or appropriate. See Publication 535 for more on these rules.
  3. Limits on Expenses.  As a general rule, you can only deduct your hobby expenses up to the amount of your hobby income. If your expenses are more than your income, you have a loss from the activity. You can’t deduct that loss from your other income.
  4. How to Deduct Expenses.  You must itemize deductions on your tax return in order to deduct hobby expenses. Your costs may fall into three types of expenses. Special rules apply to each type. SeePublication 535 for how you should report them on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.
  5. Use IRS Free File.  Hobby rules can be complex. IRS Free File can make filing your tax return easier. IRS Free File is available until Oct. 15. If you make $60,000 or less, you can use brand-name tax software. If you earn more, you can use Free File Fillable Forms, an electronic version of IRS paper forms. You can only access Free File through
You can get Publication 535 on at any time. Have questions. Go to 

July 2, 2015


See Forbes article for list of Swiss Banks Included

June 26, 2015


Form BE 10 and its many  sub variations is not a tax form, but is now required by by another Branch of the Government and not the IRS.

As a courtesy, we are making you aware of the potential requirement. It is a survey that is required whenever a U.S. person owns 10% or more of any business enterprise overseas. The form is due June 30th. Read more about it in the following link:

Our firm does  not plan to get involved in these filings as a rule; however, if any of you need help we can see what we can do. If you are conservatively minded you should file the form to avoid any exposure to possible penalties.

June 25, 2015

IRS Videos For US Internatonal Taxpayers, expatriates and nonresidents

The following videos are now available on the IRS YouTube page for expatriates, US international taxpayers and nonresidents.
International Taxpayers-Introduction to the International Taxpayers Web Page   [Text]
Learn about the International Taxpayers section on and the helpful resources available to you.
International Taxpayers-Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)   [Text]
This video helps non-U.S. citizens determine if they need an IRS-issued tax reporting number, known as an ITIN, and how to apply for one.
International Taxpayers-Filing Requirements   [Text]
Learn about the requirements for filing an individual income tax return, including income limits while living abroad.
International Taxpayers-Filing Status If Married to a Nonresident Alien   [Text]
Find out different filing status options if you are married to a nonresident alien.
International Taxpayers-Foreign Earned Income Exclusion   [Text]
Find out who is eligible, what income qualifies and how to claim the exclusion.
International Taxpayers-Foreign Tax Credit   [Text]
Find out if you can claim a foreign tax credit for the foreign tax you paid.
If you need individual assistance on any of these matters go to and for attorneys and CPAs with specialized expertise in all of these matters. Email us at 
 References/Related Topics