General information on filing your tax returns

Ask the US Embassy

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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Q: I heard that it's the start of the tax season in the United States. How do I know if I should file taxes and what should I do?

A: Officials at the US Embassy are not tax experts, but we can share some general information. All US citizens and green card holders must file a US individual income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), even if they live outside the United States and may not owe any taxes. The rules for filing income, estate, and gift tax returns are generally the same for US citizens and legal permanent residents whether you reside in the United States or abroad. The IRS website (www.irs.gov) has a wealth of information, forms, and links to guide you through the process.

US income tax returns are due on April 15. If you reside overseas, however, you qualify for an automatic two-month extension to file. Any tax due, however, must be paid by April 15 to avoid paying interest and, possibly, penalties. Please note, payments are not considered received until the date of actual receipt by the IRS, not the postmark date.

Many taxpayers abroad choose to file their return electronically using e-file. It's quick, easy, and secure. There are links on how to use e-file on the IRS homepage under the File header. If you choose to use paper returns and to send in any payments, you can find the IRS mailing address by clicking on How to File under the File header, and then clicking on the Mailing Addresses button.

You must report all income in US dollar equivalents. Taxpayers generally use the yearly average exchange rate. The daily rate, however, may be used for specific transactions. Yearly exchange rates can be found searching for the phrase “Yearly Average Currency Exchange Rates” in the search tab of the IRS website.

You must list the Social Security Number (SSN) of any person for whom you claim an exemption on your individual income tax return. If your spouse or other dependent is not eligible to have an SSN, you must list an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead. You can apply for an SSN for a dependent at a Social Security Office or visit the US Embassy's website for information on how to contact the Social Security Administration's Federal Benefits Unit in the Dominican Republic. To apply, you must provide original and certified copies of documents verifying the dependent's age, identity, and citizenship. To apply for an ITIN, you must file Form W-7 and supporting documents with the IRS.

Tax forms as well as tax guides and publications can be downloaded from the Forms and Instructions tab on the IRS main webpage. One potentially useful guide is Publication 54, “Tax Guide for US Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad”, which details special tax rules for those who work abroad or who have income earned in foreign countries. Another potentially helpful guide is Publication 514, “Foreign Tax Credit for Individuals,” which describes how you may be able to claim a tax credit or income deduction for taxes paid or accrued to a foreign country on a foreign income source. Further general tax information for those living abroad can be found at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/taxpayers-living-abroad.

Good luck on completing your taxes!

You can find more information about how to travel to the US on our website, jm.usembassy.gov Keep on top of embassy news on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/US-Embassy-Jamaica and by following @USEmbassyJA on Twitter. We also answer general visa questions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.


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