My Taxes For Expats Review For Americans Living Abroad: Are They Legit?

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Here’s my in-depth and honest review of Taxes For Expats services and a step-by-step explanation of how the whole process works —remotely. Plus, Video of what their web portal tax questionnaire looks like. 

**Updated for 2021

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My Personal Review of Taxes For Expats (the tax experts for Americans living abroad)

If you’re an American living abroad, a retiree living overseas, or a digital nomad travelling the globe looking for an expat tax preparation service, don’t ignore your US tax filing obligations.

US taxes are complicated enough but living abroad makes it that much more difficult.

My husband and I have lived in France since 2011 but didn’t start using Taxes for Expats until 2017. I’m not exaggerating when I say, it was one of the best decisions we ever made.

At first, we filed our own taxes and submitted them electronically to the IRS, but our tax situation became more and more complicated with each year that passed due to our investments and work situation.  

We dreaded tax time and were never really 100% sure if we were doing them correctly.

This is precisely why we decided to hire a professional to do our expatriate taxes for us.

Not only do we have peace of mind that our taxes are done correctly, but we also no longer have to waste our precious time hunt the internet for answers to our tax questions. We just contact one of the knowledgeable expat tax accountants at TaxesForExpats.

Do American Expats Living Abroad Have to Submit A  US tax filing Or Pay US Taxes?

“If you’re a US citizen or US green card holder living abroad, you are required to file a US Tax return” But that doesn’t mean you’ll owe any taxes to the United States.

When I first moved to France with my husband and three children, I wasn’t sure if we had to file and pay taxes to the US since neither myself nor my husband worked for a US company. 

It turns out it’s a little more complicated than just a simple yes or no answer.

Yes, we had to file US taxes because, according to the IRS, American citizens and resident aliens living abroad are still subject to US taxation based on WORLDWIDE INCOME, even if you live overseas and pay taxes overseas. 

However, that doesn’t mean you’ll owe taxes to the US. Whether or not you owe anything depends on your situation.

You probably won’t owe any US Taxes.

One of the things I worried most about was double taxation. The last thing my husband and I wanted was to get into a situation of double taxation where we owed taxes in both the US and France on the same source of income.

Luckily, there are tax treaties (with certain countries) to prevent double taxation, Foreign tax credits and tax exclusions to offset, reduce and exclude some or all of your foreign earned income from your US tax liability.

Most countries do have tax treaties with the US, but some countries, such as Vietnam, Mongolia, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Brazil, and Algeria, to name a few, DON’T.

You can see the complete list of countries that have a tax treaty with the US here.

Examples of ways US Expats and Green card holders living abroad can reduce or exclude some of their income from US taxation. 

FOREIGN EARNED INCOME EXCLUSION:

You can claim the Foreign Tax Credit and exclude your foreign earned income from being taxed in the US if you have already been taxed in your host country. But there’s a catch; you can only exclude up to an amount that is adjusted annually for inflation ($103,900 for 2018, $105,900 for 2019, $107,600 for 2020, and $108,700 for 2021).

FOREIGN TAX CREDIT: (FEIE)

( foreign earned income exclusion)

You can use the foreign income tax you paid abroad as a foreign tax credit against the US taxes owed.

  • You must pass the physical presence test and be a bona fide resident of a foreign country for an entire tax year to take the FEIE
    Physical presence test
  • Or be physically present in a foreign country or countries for 330 days.

FOREIGN HOUSING EXCLUSION:

If you qualify, you can reduce your foreign earned income with housing expenses paid throughout the year toward your FEIE . This increases the exclusion amount, lowering your income. 

Taxes For Expats Review: 

What is “TAXES FOR EXPATS”?

They are a full-service tax firm that handles personal and business tax returns for Americans (and resident aliens) who are living abroad. This includes retirees and expatriates living abroad as well as digital nomads with no fixed address.

TFX is based out of New York and, according to the BBB, was founded in 2007 by Ines Zemelman. They have clients in 175 countries worldwide, and the founder has been filing taxes for almost 30 years since 1991.

Taxes for expats can also take care of other tax issues such as:

  • Back taxes (if you haven’t been compliant for several years
  • Applying for the IRS amnesty program if you have delinquent taxes. 3 Tax returns + 6 FBARs with NO penalties
  • Tax planning
  • Review your self-prepared expat tax return if you prefer to do them yourself
  • Help you file an amended tax return if you made a mistake on a previously filed tax return. 

$25 discount for my readers

Readers at AnnieAndre.com get a special $25 discount if you’re a new client. 

Discount Code
$25 Discount For TaxesForExpats.com

Or use code annie during checkout to get the discount.

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Everything is done remotely:

You don’t need to run to your accountant with binders full of documents or shoeboxes full of receipts.

The entire process is done remotely: —communication with your assigned tax preparer, questions and exchange of documents is handled via email and their client portal dashboard.

If you’ve ever worked with Basecamp or other project management and team communication software, you know how powerful and efficient this is.

If you haven’t worked with any project management software, you’ll love the dashboard because all of your information, documents and communication are centrally organized, so you know which documents to provide each step of the way. 

Quicken and Quickbooks

If you happen to use QuickBooks or Quicken like me, things are even more streamlined. You can create reports in the Quicken software and upload them to your portal dashboard for your assigned tax preparer… You’ll still have to input most of your data, but it helps to have a second set of eyes to make sure everything adds up. 

Important tax deadlines for Americans:

Before we jump into the review, here are some important dates and deadlines regarding filing and making your tax payment to the IRS. 

April 15th deadline

Deadline for American citizens and resident aliens living in the US to file and pay taxes 

  • For those living abroad, you must pay any taxes due by April 15 to avoid any interest and penalties, even if you are filing using the June 15th extension date.

June 15: Automatic 2 month extension date

Most American citizens and resident aliens living outside the US qualify for an automatic two-month extension to file their US tax returns. 

  • If you live abroad, you may put off paying any federal income tax that was due on April 15 until June 15th without penalty; however, you’ll be charged interest.  (Link to US IRS)

October 15th

You can request an additional four-month extension from June 15.

  1. If you qualify for the 2-month June extension but cannot file your return by the June 15th extension date, you may request an additional extension to October 15.
  2. Use Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File US Individual Income Tax Return.
  3. Make sure you file the extension before the June 15 2-month extension date.

How It Works: Working with Taxes for Expats-Step by step

Although their site is self-explanatory and easy to navigate, I think it’s helpful to walk you through how you actually provide your information and supporting documents to them so that they can properly prepare your tax return. Their Tax portal is what I think sets them apart from other expat tax accountants. 

1) Go to the site and sign up for an account:

Obviously, you’ll need to sign up on their website. Don’t worry; you pay nothing upfront.

Once you’re signed up, you’ll receive an email with instructions and the next steps to create your account. This gives you access to your very own secure tax portal. This tax portal is where you’ll input all your personal and financial data and upload all your supporting documents.

Taxes for expats sign up for a free 30 minute consultation

2) Optional:  Schedule a 30-minute consultation:

You can skip this step altogether and go straight to the tax questionnaire in the next step. 

However, if you have questions, you can book a 30-minute consultation which you may be charged a 50 USD retainer fee.

If you end up using TaxesForExpats services, that fee gets deducted from your total bill. 

3) Tax questionnaire: Inside the portal

The client portal area is where you’ll fill out the interactive tax questionnaire.

Unlike other companies, you don’t have to fill out outdated PDF or Word documents.

TFX has a built-in ‘smart’ tax questionnaire (TQ) that works inside your browser.

Taxes for expats web portal helps you keep the whole process organized

Convenient FAQ section:

If you have any questions or you’re not sure how to answer something, there’s a faq section to help you.

Assigned Tax Preparer:

Alternatively, if you’re unsure how to answer something or can’t find the answer in their FAQ section, you can email your assigned tax preparer directly from within the portal.

(All correspondence with your assigned tax preparer is conveniently saved in your portal, even if you send emails outside the portal).

The tax preparer assigned to us was very knowledgeable and responded within a few hours. She even helped us adjust our previous years’ tax returns to correct mistakes made by an international accountant we used before TFX.

All the information you input into the questionnaire and all the documents you upload are saved so you can access them for future tax years. Huge time saver.

I made a video showing you what it looks like inside their client tax portal.

4) Upload Supporting Tax Documents:

At the end of the questionnaire, you’ll see a document checklist where you can begin uploading documents.

Your assigned tax preparer will see them in the portal and use them to complete your expatriate tax return.

taxes for expats document checklist

5) Wait up to 2 weeks for your tax return to be completed:

Once you complete the questionnaire and upload all the necessary documents, you mark your questionnaire as complete and wait for your assigned tax preparer to analyze your situation.

If you’re in a rush, TFX offers a rush service for a fee.

5) Review and sign Engagement letter:

Once your tax preparer finishes analyzing your tax situation, she’ll draft an electronic engagement letter (EL) for you to review from within the portal.

The letter will show you the job scope and total cost to prepare your taxes. If all looks good, sign the engagement letter.

taxes for expats engagement letter

 

7) Pay for your tax preparation service:

Once you’re notified that you’re tax return is complete, log in to your portal, and you’ll see a link to your completed tax return, but you won’t be able to download and review your tax return or see it in its entirety until you make a payment.

(They accept all credit cards, PayPal, and wire transfers).

8) File your tax returns:

After you’ve reviewed your completed tax return, you can choose to download it and mail it to the IRS yourself, or you can have TFX e-file for you. We chose the latter.

How to pay the IRS if you owe money

If you choose e-file and owe money to the IRS, make sure you send a check directly to the IRS (NOT TAXES FOR EXPATS). Complete instructions on how to pay your taxes are available in your client portal.

That’s it—the whole process.

How much does Taxes For Expats charge for their tax services?

image of taxes for expats packages and flat fee structure

They offer three transparent flat-fee packages

  1. premier $450
  2. core $350
  3. streamlined procedure $1 200. (For anyone who hasn’t filed for a few years and wants to be compliant)

Most of you will fall under the premier and core plans, which will include all the forms you will need. 

If you have a more complicated tax return, have a business or more than one rental property, for example, you’ll probably need some additional tax forms not included in one of the three flat-fee packages.

If that’s the case, you’re charged per additional form, similar to an a la carte menu. 

Here are some examples of additional forms you might need to purchase because they are not included in one of the flat fee packages.

  • FBAR form: An additional $75.
  • State tax return: An additional $150 per state return.
  • Schedule C: An additional $100

1) CORE PACKAGE $350

If you earn under 100k per year

This package includes 30+ Tax Forms; below is a sample:

  • US and Foreign Wages
  • Foreign Tax Credit Form 1116
  • Qualified IRA or ROTH contributions
  • Health Care Coverage Exemption
  • Alternative Minimum Tax Calculations
  • Estimated Payment Vouchers
  • US Retirement and Social Security income
  • Interest and Dividends (10 transactions included)
  • Foreign Earned Income Exclusion Form 2555
  • Child & Dependent Credits & Deductions

2) PREMIER PACKAGE: $450

If you gross over 100k per year.

3) STREAMLINED PROCEDURE PACKAGE: $1,200

Amnesty program (for delinquent taxpayers living abroad)

For anyone who hasn’t filed their US taxes for 3 or more years while living abroad and wants to become compliant, this is for you. 

In 2014, the IRS announced the streamlined procedure, which gives you amnesty from penalties and fees you might be liable for. There are several programs under the streamlined procedure umbrella. Once your situation and documents are reviewed, TFX will determine which one is best for you. 

  • consists of 3 tax returns
  • 6 years FBAR (Foreign bank accounts report)
  • Optional: personal affidavit (certification letter) *additional 300 dollars* but I recommend writing this yourself. 

Online reviews of Taxes for expat: They have thousands of positive reviews

I was initially hesitant to use TFX because of a bad experience with an international tax accountant based out of Florida. This accountant was recommended to me by someone who used them. 

With Taxes for Expats, you don’t have to rely on one person’s recommendation because there are thousands of reviews on trust pilot and shopper approved (two well-respected consumer review sites).

Some negative reviews are expected, but the ratio of positive reviews outweighed the negative reviews by a longshot. And reading why people gave bad reviews was very helpful. imagetrust pilot review for taxes for expats

The BBB (Better Business Bureau) gave TFX an “A” rating.

BBB rating for TaxesForExpats.com

TaxesForExpats has excellent Quality Control.

Something I really liked is the fact that every tax return is checked by a second and third set of eyes (a quality control check by a CPA or EA (enrolled agent) along with a senior supervisor who double-checks their work.

You don’t always get that when you hire a self-employed expat or international tax accountant. 

An enrolled agent (or EA) is a tax advisor who is a federally authorized tax practitioner empowered by the US Department of the Treasury. Enrolled agents represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax issues, including audits, collections and appeals. (source)

Will I use Taxes For Expats again?

Yes, I’ll definitely continue using them. 

US Taxes are complicated enough as it is, but even more so if you’re a US resident living or working abroad.

Working with qualified professionals like the ones I encountered at TFX will save you time and help you avoid costly mistakes. If nothing else, you won’t have to anguish or wonder if your taxes are prepared correctly.

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