May 18

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Do Digital Nomads Have to Pay U.S. Taxes Working Abroad?

By Brett Farmiloe

May 18, 2021

Being a digital nomad frees you from many of the obligations and ties of a more settled life. You don’t have to be anywhere you don’t want to be. You don’t have a mortgage or even a long-term lease. The digital nomad life may free you from a lot of things, but it doesn’t free you from paying United States taxes.

Whether you are considering becoming a digital nomad or already are one, you have tax obligations to attend to if you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

When you are working remotely abroad, taxes may not be high on your list of priorities. That is understandable, and it’s a big reason why many digital nomads turn to an international tax professional like Jason Kovan, Managing Partner at Tax Law Expats. Read on for more information on digital nomad taxes, and get in touch with Tax Law Expats to discuss your unique tax situation.

Tax Obligations as a U.S. Digital Nomad 

You may assume that because you are working remotely abroad, taxes only matter in the country you currently live in. But that assumption is incorrect. Below, we explore U.S. digital nomad taxes and the factors that can affect them.

Do Digital Nomads Pay Taxes While Living Abroad?

There is a simple answer to this question: yes. You almost certainly have to file U.S. taxes as a digital nomad. And you may also need to pay taxes in the country or countries you have lived in over the past year, but this will depend on the specific country.

The tax obligations you face as a digital nomad from the U.S. depend on a variety of factors, including the following:

  • Whether your U.S. home state requires you to file taxes as a digital nomad living overseas
  • Whether you deduct various expenses as part of your work, such as your laptop and internet bill
  • Whether you work as an independent contractor or a salaried employee of a company

None of the above requirements change the fact that you have to file federal U.S. taxes, but they can change which tax forms you file and how much you may owe.

If you are worried about paying digital nomad taxes, there is some good news. As a digital nomad, you may be eligible for several tax credits and exclusions that could significantly reduce your tax bill. Here are some examples:

The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. With this exclusion, you may be able to avoid paying U.S. taxes on a portion of the income you earned in a foreign country.

Foreign Housing Exclusion. If you happen to be a digital nomad who has paid a certain amount for foreign housing, you may be able to lower the amount of your income that is taxable in the U.S. by a proportionate amount.

Foreign Tax Credit. If you are working remotely abroad, taxes may be one of your obligations to your host country. With the Foreign Tax Credit, you may be able to exclude the amount of tax money you pay to a foreign government from your taxable income in the U.S.

Check in with an international tax professional to ensure you have a full understanding of how you may be eligible for these tax credits and exclusions.

Tax Residence - Working Remotely Abroad Tax Obligations

Keep in mind that you may be required to pay taxes to certain foreign countries if you live and work there for even a short time. To determine whether you owe taxes in a foreign country, you will need to understand whether you are considered a tax resident there.

How you do that varies by country. For example, if you spend more than six consecutive months in Germany or 183 days during the same calendar year in Russia, you are considered a tax resident and are required to pay taxes on your income. In some other countries, you may be required to pay taxes if you have a permanent residence inside the country — even if you are not in the country for the whole year.

Your tax residence is different from your tax home. Your tax home, according to the IRS, is the general area of your main place of work or employment. To claim the foreign-earned income exclusion and foreign housing exclusion, you have to have a tax home in a foreign country.

Some digital nomads do not have a regular place of residence or employment, which complicates the tax home question. In such cases, the IRS considers you an “itinerant” and places your tax home wherever you happen to work. This can be a confusing part of paying digital nomad taxes, which is why it can be so helpful to call an international tax consultant.

Tax Treaties

Another important consideration for digital nomads who may owe U.S. taxes is whether the country in which you are a tax resident has a tax treaty with the U.S. These agreements are meant to keep digital nomads and expats from being taxed on their income two times — once by each country. Such a treaty can drastically reduce the tax burden you may face as a digital nomad.

While a tax treaty can be hugely helpful to digital nomads, not every country has a tax treaty with the United States. To find out whether a tax treaty may apply to your tax situation, reach out to a trusted tax professional.

Consult with an Experienced International Tax Attorney

When you are working remotely abroad, taxes can quickly become stressful. At Tax Law Expats, we understand that, and we are here to help you. We can not only offer world-class international tax services, but we can also offer attorney-client privilege protection. Your first point of contact with us will be an attorney, so your tax information is privileged and cannot be shared with anyone.

Offering full-service tax and CPA services, Tax Law Expats helps digital nomads avoid the risks of filing taxes on their own. If you file without help — and without deep knowledge of foreign tax laws — you risk mistakes that could get you into serious tax trouble.

To avoid all of that, contact Jason Kovan International Tax Attorney and CPA, Managing Partner at Tax Law Expats, to schedule a consultation. Call (305) 600-5924 or contact us online.

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