It begins with the feeling of freedom. Freedom from the constraints of the West, the long winters, the corporate drudgery.
But as the months pass and we near April, freedom turns into the grim reminder that no matter how far we fling ourselves from America, we’re prisoners of the IRS.
We have this joke back home—us Americans—that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes.
When I first moved to Thailand I was much less experienced and much more ignorant to how things worked in the country.
I assumed that because I didn’t live in America anymore, I wouldn’t have to file taxes.
I never took into consideration that I’d still be at the mercy of the IRS while living in Thailand.
This guide shows you if you have to file taxes as an American expat in Thailand, how to file taxes for free, and how to hire an accountant.
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Before I talk about how I file my taxes, let me tell you a little bit about me.
I moved to Thailand full-time in 2014 with my wife and our first daughter.
In 2015 we’ve had another daughter who was born in Thailand.
I’ve had a marriage visa since 2014.
Each year, I have to pay US taxes on the money I earn as a freelancer, and on my investments in America.
Filing US Taxes
When I first moved to Thailand, I wasn’t sure if I had to file taxes. So I got in touch with my accountant back home.
He told me that I must file state and federal taxes while living abroad.
In some cases, you don’t have pay state taxes while living abroad if you lived in a state with no state tax, like Nevada.
But in my case, I last lived in New Jersey. So I still had to file.
Penalties for Not Filing
What would happen if I didn’t file my taxes while living in Thailand? My accountant told me I could have my passport revoked or be denied renewal.
My accountant told me a story about his client, an American expat who moved to Spain and opened a restaurant.
The American expat met a Spanish lady, got married, and then sold his business and wanted to bring his wife back to America with him.
My accountant told me his client hadn’t filed taxes for nine years. NINE YEARS. And the US Government wasn’t pleased.
Here’s a list of penalties you could face if you don’t file your taxes while living or working abroad:
- a tax fine based on your average income of previous years
- revocation of passport
- freezing or seizing of your bank accounts
- jail or imprisonment for severe cases
So do yourself a favor—file your taxes.
Who Has to File Taxes?
Here are some questions that’ll help you determine if you have to file taxes while living in Thailand:
- Do you spend 180 days or more per year in Thailand?
- Have you made a minimum of $10,000 while living in Thailand?
- Do you have at least $10,000 in a Thai bank account?
If you answered yes to these questions then you must file taxes.
You should carefully consider that last bullet.
Thailand and America have a Foreign Bank Account Reporting agreement.
Thailand banks must report to the IRS how much money expats have in their accounts.
If you retire in Thailand and collect a pension from America, you might be subject to Thai tax as well. It’s best to check with your accountant.
When I file taxes from Thailand I send the following list of documents to my accountant. Your case may be different. So be sure to check with your accountant.
Here’s everything I send:
- social security numbers of my family members
- invoices of all Thailand and non-Thailand earned income for the year
- FinCEN form 114
I scan and send these documents to my accountant in late February.
This works me for because by this time, my tax paperwork for my investment accounts are usually available for download.
Once I scan and gather all my tax forms into a folder on my computer, I transfer a copy of the folder to my accountant.
He works his magic and in a day or two, sends my official taxes back to me.
I sign them, email them back to him, and he sends them to the state and IRS.
Filing Thai Taxes
If you’re working in Thailand, you also have to file taxes in Thailand before March 31st of each year. Usually, the company you work for helps you with your Thai taxes.
One thing to keep in mind: due to the American-Thailand Tax Treaty the IRS taxes you on your income if you make over $101,300 a year in Thailand.
But if you need an accountant in Thailand to help you file your Thai taxes, reach out to Banchee Legal.
They’re a competent and ethical accounting firm who deals with personal and business taxes in Thailand.
That’s about 3,039,000 baht per year.
Do I expect every American expat who needs tax help to use my tax guy? Nope.
And besides, I don’t think he’d appreciate me referring hundreds of people to him right before tax season comes to a close.
But you do have other choices. Here are just a few ways to file your US personal income taxes while living in Thailand.
The IRS has four resources available to help you file your taxes online.
- The Free File Fillable Forms are for people who make $66,000 or less a year.
- Their tax return preparation site is also free for those who qualify.
- The IRS also has commercial software available.
- Or you can file your taxes through an IRS authorized e-file provider.
I tried to use the IRS e-file system from Thailand. But I had some issues when uploading my documents.
Unless they fixed the e-file system, you may run into similar issues.
1040 Abroad is run by American expat Olivier Wagner.
He has ten years experience in taxes and helps people from all walks of life in Thailand.
Although I’ve never used him for my taxes, a few of Thailand Starter Kit’s readers have. And they’ve had nothing but good things to say about him.
Bright!Tax was founded by expat Gregory Dewald.
He has a team of accountants who work under him to help expats handle their taxes in Thailand.
Although he offers roughly the same services as 1040 Abroad, his service is open to expats from all different countries.
So you might not get the same detailed Thailand-tax know-how that you would get with a service like 1040 Abroad.
Banchee Legal handles all of Thailand Starter Kit’s tax-related procedures with the Thai government, including monthly, mid-year, and yearly tax filings and returns.
They also offers tax consultations. And when Thailand Starter Kit needs to contact the Revenue Department, they gets in touch with them on behalf of the company.
Banchee Legal also does employee social security, payroll, and pay slips.
And since our company is promoted by the BOI, they submit our financial statements to them.
Now, on to You
If you’re an American expat in Thailand and need help with filing your personal US income taxes, get in touch with Olivier Wagner from 1040Abroad.
His track record with fellow American expats speaks for itself.
And if you need help with your Thai taxes, get in touch with Banchee Legal.
Because they help Thailand Starter Kit with our business taxes, we feel confident in recommending her to anyone who needs help with Thai taxes.
Photo courtesy of Sebastiaan ter Burg.