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How many years back should I mention an expired or relinquished Green Card?

You should report it as far as 10 years back (i.e. up to 2007).

I do not have a Social Security number. What should I do?

In most cases, you should apply for a Social Security Number ASAP. If you are a U.S. citizen but were never issued (or no longer have) a Social Security Number, you may apply for or obtain a replacement SS Card on the Social Security Administration’s website. If you were issued a Social Security number at birth, the U.S. Social Security Administration will restore your number using your birth certificate at your request.

While your request is being processed (it may take a few months), you should work with us to prepare your return.  Meanwhile, put 000-00-0000 in the field for your SS#. 

When once you receive your Social Security Number, we will be able to add it to the prepared returns quickly instead of starting the whole process from scratch. This method is generally more efficient than doing one process at a time. 

How to obtain a Social Security Number

  1. Fill out an application for a Social Security card.
  2. Visit the Social Security Administration website to find out where you can apply for a SSN in person.

You can generally apply in person at the U.S. consulate in your resident country. Make sure to complete the application before your trip to the consulate, this way you will know exactly which documents you’re required to present along with the application so that everything can be processed on the first attempt (and you avoid having to make a second trip to the consulate).

I filed my last U.S. (or state) tax return years ago. Do you still need to see it?

We only need the tax return if it's  not older than 4 years old (status of limitations + 1 year).

If it's older than that, you don't have to upload it.

Reporting US visits

Why do I need to list my trips to the US?

They are necessary to demonstrate to the IRS that you are still an expat, i.e. spending most of the year outside of the United States.

We also need them to make sure you can qualify for the expat deduction - called Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (where roughly the first $100k of your salary are tax-free).

I do not plan to use the Physical Presence test. Should I still provide details about U.S. visits?

Yes.

Please provide the dates of your visits to the U.S. They are required whether you use the Bona Fide residence or Physical Presence test.

If you should be eligible to make a treaty-based return position disclosure, they will be utilized.

I spent a few hours in the US during a flight transfer. Should this be reported?

Yes.

If you land down in the US for a flight transfer, that day is considered having been spent in the US and should be reported as such.

When answering the question about visits to the US, do I have to list members of my family who traveled with me?

You only have to list U.S. visits of the individuals who are filing the tax return; i.e. taxpayer and spouse if filing jointly.

Children or any other relatives who visited  the U.S.  as well do not have to be listed.

The name I use now is not the same as shown on my Social Security card (i.e. I'm using my married name now). Which name should I provide to you on the Tax Questionnaire?

Please provide your name exactly as it is shown on your Social Security card.

Even if you change your name (for example during marriage), this is how IRS identifies you until you get a new Social Security card with the married name.

For instructions on how to do that, please see the  IRS instructions.

Who is a “U.S. person” in the eyes of the IRS?

According to the IRS website, a U.S. person  is any of the following:

  • A U.S. Citizen, which is anyone with a U.S. passport,
  • A Green Card holder, or
  • A U.S. resident – U.S. resident is a term used to describe someone who spends more than 183 days in the U.S. under the Substantial Presence Test. U.S. residents are also commonly referred to as resident aliens.

My children don’t have U.S. Social Security numbers. Should I apply for Social Security numbers for them before filing?

If your children are U.S. citizens

If your children are U.S. citizens, you should obtain a Social Security number for your children. You will be able to deduct personal exemptions from your taxable income ($4K per child), deduct childcare expenses, and receive the child tax credit if you qualify (it depends on your income). Going forward, you’ll also be able to receive credits/deductions for higher education expenses when your children start college.

None of this is possible if your children do not have Social Security numbers.

There’s also another difference which you’ll notice immediately. If you were previously required to file using paper forms, you’ll now be eligible for e-Filing.

If your children are not U.S. Citizens and do not have U.S. Social Security numbers or ITINs

If your children are not U.S. citizens and do not have Social Security numbers of ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers), you can still file as Head of Household.

  • Filing as Head of Household means that you’ll be subject to lower tax rates than if you filed as married filing separately (MFS). However, you will not be eligible for the same exemptions and tax credits that you would be if your children had either U.S. Social Security numbers or ITINs.
  • You will not qualify for e-Filing and will need to mail your return in when you file. In order to qualify for e-Filing, at least one of your dependent children must have a U.S. Social Security number or an ITIN.
  • If your children have at least one U.S. parent, they will most likely qualify for a U.S. Social Security number. If this is the case, you cannot apply for an ITIN and should apply for Social Security numbers for them instead. You are not required to apply for either number on behalf of your children. This decision remains yours for as long as your children are minors.

Handling a Death in the Family

In the unfortunate event that your spouse or family member passes away, you should contact the IRS, the Social Security Administration, and major credit bureaus and inform them of this change in order to prevent identity theft.

  • Send the IRS a copy of the death certificate, this will be used to flag the deceased person’s account.
  • Send copies of the death certificate to each credit reporting bureau and ask them to put a “deceased alert” on the deceased person’s credit report.
  • Review the deceased person’s credit report for questionable credit card activity.

Avoid including too many personal details in the obituary, such as the deceased date of birth, address, mother’s maiden name or other information that could be useful to identity thieves.

For additional information about filing the final (Deceased) return, please see: https://www.taxesforexpats.com/articles/family-matters/deceased-taxpayers.html

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