The tax code is somewhat fluid in nature, with Congress updating, changing, and adding laws on an annual basis.
See below for a list of the top US expat income tax changes and how they will affect your US expat tax returns.
Please note that these changes take effect for the 2016 tax year beginning tomorrow January 1st, 2016.
Increase in Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, used by many expats to reduce their taxable income, has been increased from $100,800 in 2015 to $101,300 in 2016. This increase in the FEIE will help lower your expat income tax!
Increase in the Standard Deduction
The standard deduction is a standardized figure that lowers your taxable income. The standard deductions for “Single” and “Married Filing Jointly” filers stay the same at $6,300 and $12,600 respectively. But, the standard deduction for “Head of Household” filers increases to $9,300 from $9,250 in 2015. US expats who have dependent children and a spouse who does not have a US filing requirement (such as a non-resident alien) can generally file as head of household and take the higher standard deduction!
Increase in Exemptions
An exemption is a reduction in taxable income for each person claimed on the tax return. This includes yourself and your spouse (personal exemptions) and all dependents claimed on your return (dependent exemptions). In 2015, the exemption amount for each person was $4,000. In 2016 that number increases to $4,050 per person. As a US expat, the reduction in taxable income can help to reduce your overall taxes, and help you retain higher foreign tax credit to be used at a later tax year.
Change in FBAR Filing Deadlines
FinCen form 114, also known as the FBAR form, has been due on June 30 for years. In 2016, Congress has changed that date to April 15 to coincide with the tax return filing deadline. This change also allows for a 6-month extension to file the FBAR form which has not been available in the past! The FBAR extension is similar to the regular tax return extension for expats. If you live outside the US on April 15, you receive an automatic 2-month extension to file the FBAR form, extending it to June 15. If you need additional time past June 15 you can file an extension and postpone your due date to October 15. This goes into effect for the 2016 FBAR form due April 15, 2017.
Three Extra Days For Tax Day In 2016
Normally, the US tax deadline is April 15, but this year it is pushed to April 18, 2016. This is due to the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington DC on April 16. Since the holiday falls on Saturday in 2016, it will be observed on Friday April 15. Hence, the US tax deadline is pushed to Monday April 18. This gives 3 extra days to complete US taxes.
Additionally, US expats get an automatic 2-month extension to file, but any taxes due need to be paid by April 18 in order to avoid interest charges. Not only is the tax day pushed for 2016, but we get an extra day due to the leap year! This year you will get 4 extra days to file your taxes or pay your taxes due if you are extending your return.
Change in Tax Brackets
Congress has approved an increase in the tax brackets for 2016, to account for inflation. The US tax system is a progressive tax system. This means that as you earn money, and your yearly income gets larger, the next portion of your income is taxed at a higher tax rate. This goes on until you reach the highest tax bracket of 39.6%. It is important to note for expats that tax income which is not excluded by the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion is taxed at your highest tax bracket, even if it falls into a lower bracket. Here are the tax brackets for each filing status for 2016:
Increased Obamacare Penalties
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was designed to bring affordable health care to all US persons. Everyone must have some form of healthcare or face a penalty in the form of extra taxes. These penalties are increasing in 2016! The per-person penalty increases from $325 per adult to $695 per adult, and $162 per child to $347 per child. If you are an expat, you most likely will qualify for an exemption from these penalties, but if you are moving into or out of the US in 2016, you will need to make sure that you have health coverage in order to avoid paying more in expat income taxes!
While this list is not exhaustive, it does reflect some of the most important changes to the tax code, which in turn will affect your US expat income tax!
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