These frequently asked questions are drawn from emails and other messages and sent to ACA and to this Directory. Get in touch to let us know your questions and comments.
The 'Sign me in automatically' is optional, it saves your username and password on your computer and every time you access the page you will be automatically logged in.
If you forget your password, please click on the 'Forgot your Password?' link of the front of the directory or on the sponsor login page. The password recovery email will be sent to the email address provided from your Contact Information. The email will contain a link which will redirect the user to the 'Manage Account' section, where the password can be updated.
After you are logged in, click on 'Account Settings' link, you will see the 'Current Password' field, type your current password in this field and your new password on the fields 'Password' and 'Retype Password', then hit the submit button.
Yes, you can do that by going to 'Manage account' > 'Account Settings' and typing your new e-mail.
Yes, you can. After your item is expired you can choose the level and pay for it.
No, you cannot. (Let us know if you think the general list of categories should be expanded.)
Yes. In order to add any item to the Directory you must have an account.
To sign up as a Lister go to the 'Advertise With Us' link at top menu, select an item and level and click in 'SIGN UP' button. Fill out all fields, write down your username and password for future reference, choose the best payment gateway for you and follow the steps to finish the process. To sign up as a visitor go to 'Sign up | Login' link at top menu, fill out all fields and click in 'Create Account'.
If you attempt to access your account and type in an incorrect password 5 times the account will lock for 1 hour. This is for security reasons.
Created in 2014 and re-launched in 2019, the ACA Expat Tax Services Directory is a first‐of‐its‐kind / one‐of‐a‐kind online Directory. With it anyone, not just Americans abroad, can find help with preparation and filing of the widest range of returns and other forms, including Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBARs). Categories of services include not only return preparation, but also now legal and financial services. Users can discover where providers are located, what they do, what they charge, and more. ACA, the publisher of this Directory, as the leading voice for over 40 years for US citizens overseas, receives hundreds of inquiries about return preparers, attorneys, financial advisors, other service providers. It does not recommend any particular firm or individual. Rather, with this Directory, it makes available, free of charge, an enormous amount of information. Users need not be a member of ACA. ACA does not recommend or in any way “vouch for” persons listed. Information about a listed party was provided by that party. Users should ask a prospective service provider to verity all information, including information about credentials, etc. Listers are charged a fee to list and, thereby, advertise their services.
Choosing a tax return preparer is a decision that can have far-reaching consequences in terms of expats’ tax liability and overall financial (and mental!) well-being. We, therefore, recommend that expats take great care when choosing a tax preparer to ensure that their preparer is sufficiently qualified, trustworthy, and experienced to fulfil their needs. A good place to start is with the ACA Expat Tax Services Directory. Shop around and investigate the possibilities. On top of this, the IRS has listed 10 tips for taxpayers to remember when selecting a preparer. https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/ten-things-for-taxpayers-to-think-about-when-choosing-a-tax-preparer. Also, we recommend you interview not just one but several return preparers. Below, we provide guidance regarding different types of preparers, as well as questions to ask a potential preparer to ascertain whether the firm or person is a good match for your circumstances.
Say you want to understand everything – to be “proactive”. Agree terms of the engagement in writing. What will the preparer do? What will you be charged? Get a calendar/schedule of what needs to be done, when, by whom. How will you and the preparer communicate? How is privacy safeguarded? How are payments made? Agree that the entire file, including the preparer’s workpapers, belongs to you and you are entitled to a complete copy. Get a comprehensive “tax information organizer”. Will the preparer be authorized to deal with the IRS, as a credentialed preparer or by written mandate or power of attorney or otherwise? Importantly, the preparer must deliver draft complete returns and FBARs by a date certain, well in advance of the filing deadline.
Form 2848 (Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative) is the official document authorizing an individual to represent a person before the IRS and perhaps to do other things, such as, in limited circumstances, sign a return. The form is signed by both the taxpayer and the appointed representative (attorney-in-fact). The individual authorized must be eligible to practice before the IRS and typically will be an attorney, a Certified Public Accountant or an Enrolled Agent. A representative will provide contact information and a CAF number (Centralized Authorization File Number). A CAF number is a unique nine-digit identification number, which is assigned the first time a representative files a third-party authorization with the IRS. It’s different from the third party's TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number), EIN (Employer Identification Number) or PTIN (Preparer Identification Number). Normally you want to check the box permitting copies of all notices and communications to be sent to the representative. (Originals always go to the taxpayer.) The representative, in general, is authorized to receive and inspect confidential tax information and to perform the widest range of acts with respect to specifically described tax matters. It’s important to describe specifically all matters you want to be covered. Form 2848 is not routinely provided by a taxpayer to his/her return preparer because the preparer has limited representation rights, having prepared and signed, as preparer, the return. See http://en-tcj3ffj.edirectorycloud.com/article/form 2848 – a brief overview.
Expats who have only missed a year or two can normally just back file. Interest can’t be waived, but in a low-interest world, it’s not the worst thing. The worst is any FBAR penalties, and these need to be handled carefully. For expats who need to catch up with more prior years US tax and FBAR filings, the IRS has a program called the Streamlined Procedure that lets expats catch up without facing penalties. The Streamlined Procedure requires expats to file their last 3 tax returns and their last six FBARs (required for any year an American has at least $10,000 in foreign accounts at any time), and to self-certify that their previous non-compliance was non-willful. There are many wrinkles and “curveballs” to this, and taxpayers will need to pay close attention to the details. If you are not 100% comfortable, consult a professional with experience in this field.
A tax return preparer is anyone who is paid to prepare a return. Any preparer with an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) is authorized to prepare federal tax returns. A PTIN is issued only to individuals, not to organizations. The holder of a PTIN is not necessarily a US citizen or resident alien. Preparers have different levels of skills, education and experience. Different preparers are entitled to different “representation rights”. Those with unlimited representation rights before the IRS are: (a) Enrolled Agents, who are licensed by the IRS, been subjected to a suitability check and passed an examination. (b) Certified Public Accountants, licensed by state boards of accountancy, the District of Columbia or US territories. (c) Attorneys, licensed by the state courts, the District of Columbia or their designees, such as a state bar. These individuals, can represent persons on any matters, including audits, IRS appeals, and collection matters. Again, assuming they have a PTIN, and if additionally they are registered with the FinCEN BSA E-File system, they can be authorized to file FBARs as well. Some other preparers, who do not have the above credentials, have limited representation rights, enabling them to represent clients whose returns they prepared and signed, but only before revenue agents, customer service representatives, and similar IRS employees. They cannot represent clients regarding appeals or collection matters. These preparers include (a) preparers who have successfully completed the relevant Annual Filing Season Program and (b) preparers who have an active PTIN but no professional credentials and did not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program (they can only prepare returns – not represent clients before the IRS). See https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/understanding-tax-return-preparer-credentials-and-qualifications.
Expats should ask tax preparers a series of questions (see this article - http://en-tu2u6w.edirectorycloud.com/article/top-23-questions-to-ask-your-us-expat-tax-preparer.html) to ensure that they are a good match. Expats should also do independent research to verify the credentials and credibility of potential preparers.
First, and most importantly, you need not jump out the window. If you can’t pay, you can enter into a form of “workout” with IRS Collections. You will need to provide a great deal of information and be prepared to go back-and-forth several times. You might enter into a form of installment payment agreement. Many people do this and proceed along that path for some period of time. Then you might make an offer-in-compromise, in order to bring the matter to a final conclusion. You will need to be patient. End of day, it is not unusual to close the matter with a reasonable, relatively modest, final payment. No guarantees on this subject. Best, probably, to take counsel from a provider who is not just a little experienced.
We recommend that expats familiarize themselves with their US filing obligations, identify a suitable tax preparer – if you’re not going to do your own return, and gather the necessary paperwork as early as possible in the calendar year to ensure that they file on time. Get organized in December or early January, when recuperating from the holidays. Nail down your return preparer, if you are going to go this route. Start completing the tax information organizer, which, hopefully, the preparer has given to you. Proceed from there. The bad news is that this is an enormous headache. The good news is that if you do it correctly one year, it is many times easier the next year and each year thereafter. The only people who are seriously hurt are those that stick their head in the sand or procrastinate beyond belief.
Yes. For further information see: https://www.irs.gov/faqs/electronic-filing-e-file https://directpay.irs.gov/directpay/payment?execution=e1s1 https://www.irs.gov/refunds/get-your-refund-faster-tell-irs-to-direct-deposit-your-refund-to-one-two-or-three-accounts https://www.ssa.gov/deposit/howtosign.htm. In today’s world, it is slightly crazy to deal with paper checks and hard-copy communications. Also, just about every American abroad should seriously consider opening a US-based bank account, and ACA strongly recommends doing this with the State Department Federal Credit Union. It costs only $70 – $55 if you are a senior – to join ACA, which entitles you to open an SDFCU account. Opening the account can be done in less than 15 minutes. It can be done entirely online using a scanned copy of your US passport and a form of identification, such as a utility bill showing your name and address. You don’t have to have any physical presence in the US – you could, but this is not necessary. Go to https://www.americansabroad.org/sdfcu-account/ to get started.
The IRS has made significant strides in providing useful information for Americans abroad. A good place to start is the “landing page” called “Taxpayers Living Abroad”. https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/taxpayers-living-abroad. This makes broad points about when to file, where to file, and electronic filing. It links to 9 locations on the website dealing with filing requirements, 3 locations dealing with US residency status, 3 links to tools and updates, 8 links taking you to related content, such as report of foreign bank and financial accounts (FBAR), streamlined filing compliance procedures, and revocation or denial of passport in case of certain unpaid taxes. With any luck, a lot of this will be irrelevant for you. There are dozens of other useful links as well as a portal leading to “International Tax Topic Index”. Simply put, if you click your way around the website, you will find a ton of information. On top of this, Publication 54 (Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad; 37 pages) is a comprehensive overview. Unfortunately, the information, when you put your mind to it for many hours, is far from easy-peasy. And compiling the information and completing the returns and forms, many would say, is torture.
Expats have an automatic extension until June 15th to file, although if they owe any US tax it’s still due by April 15th. Expats can also request a further filing extension until October 15th if they need additional time. The FBAR filing deadline meanwhile is April 15th with an automatic extension until October 15th, so most expats choose to file their IRS tax return and FBAR at the same time. For more information, see discussion of extensions, immediately below.
Yes. The normal filing deadline is April 15. If living outside the U.S., you automatically get an extra 2 months – pushing the April 15 date to June 15 – to file your return and pay any amount due without having to request an extension. This is “automatic” in the sense that you don’t have to file a form (application). Interest will be charged, however, on payments after April 15, without regard to the extension of the April 15 filing deadline. On top of this, if you file a Form 4868 by the extended due date, June 15, you can extend for an additional 4 months, to October 15, the due date to file your return. But you have to file the form. Again, this does not extend the date for paying your tax and interest will be running on any tax liability or penalties. Separate from the extensions rules related to income tax filings, you must file Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBARs) if the aggregate value of your foreign financial accounts – bank accounts, brokerage accounts and the like – exceeded $10,000 at any time during the calendar year in question. This is done using FinCEN Form 114, and you are pressed to do this electronically. Obviously, almost every American living abroad will need to file this form. The due date is April 15, but there is an automatic extension to October 15. This due date nicely matches up with the extended due date that many Americans abroad avail themselves of for regular tax filings.
Yes. Tens of thousands of US expats living around the world use remote tax preparation services every year. It is important to research remote firms before using them to ensure that they are an authentic, trustworthy, established firm.
No, in addition to US citizens, anyone who is a US taxpayer by virtue of being a so-called resident alien, needs to file a US return and pay tax on his/her worldwide income. In addition, non-resident aliens, who may have very little in the way of connections with the US, might need to file US returns if, for example, treated as engaged in a US trade or business. They will also pay US tax if they have US source income subject to the various forms of withholding tax – the regular withholding tax on interest, dividends, royalties, and the like, or FATCA withholding tax on US-source withholdable amounts. FATCA is a world unto itself and cannot be easily summarized here. In general, non-resident aliens are not subject on US-source capital gains. The big exception is gains from the sale of US real property interests, which are subject to the FIRPTA (Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980) rules. Non-resident aliens and foreign corporations will also want to pay attention to the reporting requirements applicable to US corporations, partnerships (US-and non-US), and other entities with a US connection.
Good question. Opinions vary. ACA’s answer is yes, and ACA is actively working towards realizing this goal. The United States is out of sync with the rest of the world; it is the only country, other than Eritrea, that taxes individuals on the basis of their citizenship. There is strong support for switching to residency-based taxation. It has bipartisan support. ACA believes that if legislation can be made revenue neutral (and it can), tight against abuse (this is definitely possible) and no one would be worse off under RBT than under citizenship-based taxation, this change can and will be made. Because things don’t happen of their own accord, Americans abroad must actively, fervently support this effort. Join ACA today to get involved - https://www.americansabroad.org/memberships/applications/membership-application/.
Unfortunately, there are dozens and dozens of scams and schemes to steal your identity. Many of these are aimed at the taxpayer. Others target tax professionals including return preparers. The list of dirty practices is constantly growing and the practices themselves are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Some examples are: “Ghost” tax return preparer. The preparer might ask for payment upfront and in cash. He might not provide a receipt. He might invent income to wrongly qualify the client for tax credits or claim fake deductions to boost the client’s refund. Refunds might be directed into the preparer’s own bank account. The preparer might refuse to sign the return and provide a Prepare Tax Identification Number (PTIN) as required. IRS-impersonation schemes. A caller might claim to be an IRS employee, using a fake name and bogus IRS identification badge number. The victim is told that they owe money to the IRS and this must be paid promptly through a gift card or wire transfer. Or the victim might be told that they are due a tax refund and the victim is asked to share private financial information. Aiming to steal information from a tax return preparer, phishing scams attempt to steal taxpayer information, such as Social Security numbers, or Electronic Filing Identification Numbers and e-Service passwords, which can be used to file fraudulent returns. Taxpayers and return preparers, alike, must be on guard and, with any hint of irregularity, don’t proceed and report the matter to the IRS. A good source of information is: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts. This information is continually updated. Always check your tax preparer's credentials using online research before working with them.
Yes, please see https://acareturnpreparerdirectory.com/terms and https://acareturnpreparerdirectory.com/privacy.
For attorneys who list in the Directory, ACA’s leadership, including its Executive Director and Legal Counsels, will give regular briefings on developments affecting attorneys who advise Americans abroad and non-American individuals and corporations affected by the US tax, FBAR and similar regimes. Briefings will include developments relating to residency-based taxation. No one outside of the US government is more acquainted with this subject than ACA. This is due to ACA’s presence in Washington, DC and its relentless advocacy, meetings with members and staffs, exchanges with other interested parties, and communications with leading newspapers and journals. Additionally, ACA attends and frequently testifies at Congressional and Treasury Department hearings on a wide range of subjects, such as FATCA regulations and citizenship-related issues. Briefings will be in the form of live webcasts . Only listing attorneys will receive an invite to attend. Webcasts will be recorded and can be listened to at a later time.
ACA has a 40 year history of educating, advocating and providing results to the US Citizens overseas community. Listers' clients can join ACA for an annual fee of $35. Regular fee is $70 ($55 for senior). This discount is available for new or existing clients after the Lister introduces and verifies the client to ACA. You can read about the full benefits of ACA membership at https://www.americansabroad.org/aca-membership/
Clients of any Lister in the Directory can apply to open an account with State Department Federal Credit Union simply by joining ACA – for discounted fee of $35 per annum – and, as explained on the ACA website, proceed to open an SDFCU US account. Everything can be done online, and the application process can take less than 15 minutes. You can find further details at https://www.americansabroad.org/aca/sdfcuaccounts-description-and-faqs/.
There are three editors who oversee the Directory, Charles Bruce, Glen Frost, Julie Sanford. They are the only ones that see and work with the backend of the Directory. Nobody else at ACA or elsewhere has access to the backend.