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Tax rules are the same for citizens, Green Card holders

Wednesday, March 12, 2014    

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Q: I am a United States citizen currently living in Jamaica. Do I have to file a US federal tax return?

A: If you are a US citizen or a Green Card Holder, the rules for filing income, estate, and gift tax returns and paying estimated tax are generally the same whether you are in the United States or in Jamaica. Your worldwide income is subject to US income tax, regardless of where you reside.

Income taxes are managed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is an arm of the US Treasury Department. There is no IRS representative at the US Embassy in Kingston, nor is there a Treasury representative. All authoritative information regarding US taxation can be found on the website managed by the IRS, www.irs.gov.

When to file

US taxes are due annually on April 15. However, if you have US tax liabilities and you are residing overseas, you are allowed an automatic two-month extension to file your return. You are liable for interest on any amount that you owe after April 15, but you will not face a penalty for using the automatic extension — only the interest on the amount owed. To use this automatic two-month extension, you must attach a statement to your return explaining how you qualify for the extension. (Simply state, for example, that you reside abroad and you wish to take advantage of the 60-day extension available to you.) For a calendar year return, the automatic two-month extension is to June 15.

If you are unable to file your return by the automatic two-month extension date, you can request an additional extension to October 15 by filing Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File US Individual Income Tax Return, before the automatic two-month extension date. Remember, though, the interest will continue to accrue on your debt, and if your extension request is not approved, you may face a failure-to-pay penalty.

All IRS forms are available at www.irs.gov. Please note that the US Embassy does not provide individuals with tax return forms. The website is also a very useful source of information, and it includes a contact email for personal queries.

Where to file

If you are a US citizen or a Green Card Holder and you live in a foreign country, mail your US tax return to:

Department of the Treasury

Internal Revenue Service Center

Austin, TX 73301-0215

USA

Estimated tax payments should be mailed with form 1040-ES to:

Internal Revenue Service

P.O. Box 1300

Charlotte, NC 28201-1300

USA

Taxpayers with an AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) of $58,000 or less can file their tax return electronically for free using "free file"programmes that are available through www.irs.gov. Taxpayers with an AGI greater than $58,000 can either use the Free File Fillable Forms or efile by purchasing commercial software.

The US Embassy does not mail tax return forms on behalf of individuals.

Tax help

For more information, please visit: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/U.S.-Citizens-and-Resident-Aliens-Abroad.

The IRS Office in Philadelphia provides international tax assistance. This office is open Monday through Friday from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm.

The Embassy staff in Kingston will answer questions you may have regarding the US Mission, including consular law, regulations and/or practice. In order to respect privacy, staff will not answer questions about specific visa applications. The embassy employs a visa appointment system, so it is only necessary for visa applicants to arrive 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment.

Send your questions to: editorial@jamaicaobserver. com and we will send them to the embassy.

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