So, living part or full time outside the U.S. means you have additional paperwork or tasks to do before the end of the year. At the least, you need to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before December 31st. Some things can be changed, but it’s more of a hassle if you don’t accomplish them before the end of December and you may incur penalties or delays to complete them later. Here are some of the items to remember at the end of the tax year for an expat.
Communication – As I have found, you need to make sure you have backup ways for people to communicate with you when you live abroad, even part time. My phone bill has brought this to my attention!! While I didn’t think I would have that many calls, at least half of my calls are long-distance no matter where I am. This is the downside of spending significant time in more than one place. I like having a local phone number in each location, as it will keep my phone bills lower. So as to not miss any calls or messages, I have two phones. But I also use Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook/ Messenger and regular texting in the U.S. to communicate. I have an an accountant in each location, an attorney abroad and friends in Europe and throughout the Americas. I usually have questions for the accountants and attorney at the end of the year, so I need to be able to talk to them and act accordingly. My personal situation is a little complicated so you may not be as crazy as I am. Most people can pick two or three means to communicate and go with that. I won’t even go into my email situation. Suffice it to say that I have limited usage right now, so I am adding personal wifi while I rent and move locations often. That should actually allow me to let go of some of these other methods of communication. Maybe.
Insurance – For Americans, most countries abroad want you to carry your own insurance. If you are only there for a short while, some travel insurance can cover you appropriately, but check into this closely to make sure you have the correct kind. You’ll want something that includes repatriation, or getting your body back to your home country, should the worst happen. You may also want emergency evacuation, in case you need special care or specific surgery that you want done in the U.S. For full time expats, you will need a policy that covers you in your new country as well as covering visits back to the States. This can be tricky, make sure you are covered for all of your time, as many policies have a limit as to how long they will cover you in the U.S. per year. And if you are of Medicare age, be careful. If you are not paying for Medicare and go back to the States full time later, you will be penalized significantly for the premiums you didn’t pay earlier on. Also, check on pre-existing conditions in policies. They vary, but many exclusions can apply, or apply for a certain number of years. Some people, once full time expats, consider using the local healthcare as a resident and don’t pay for private insurance. Depending on where you live, that can be a great way to go, or mean long waits for appointments and a lower standard of care. So as not to have coverage fall through, right now I pay for full time coverage in the U.S. and private coverage abroad, so I can travel anywhere at anytime and be covered. But this flexibility does not come cheap! I need to start traveling more so it seems worth it!
Taxes – You need to make sure you have everything covered abroad before you go back to the U.S. to visit for the holidays. Even if you return before the end of the year, it is easy to forget where you were in wrapping up your tax issues for the year and then get penalized later. The same is true for your U.S. taxes. Don’t forget to make estimated payments if you are self-employed or donations to count for the current tax year.
Paperwork – If you are leaving one place for the other at the end of the year, don’t forget to take any paperwork you need with you to work on. While this applies throughout the year, it can be even more crucial at the end of the year, when your accountant or other entity needs a copy of something you left in the other location. Some people make online copies of everything and pull them off whenever they need them. In my mind, you need to be vigilant about your computer security to do this, but it is convenient. You also need to be diligent about scanning, naming and filing all your documents so you can find them when you need them. Sometimes it’s just easier for me to make paper copies, depending on what method works for the organization needing the copy. I seem to work with all kinds, some want paper with an actual signature and some are fine with scanned copies.
I seem to find myself, especially in this first year abroad at the end of the year, needing to finalize several things at once, My biggest concern is having what I need, when and where I need it. I have had some hiccups throughout the year, so I am working on a system to minimize them. These are some of the discoveries I have made and continue to work through. But with some planning, any extra work to live abroad, even part time, is well worth the effort. Millions are doing it and the trend is increasing. Come see what we already know!
Your Takeaway – Make sure to take a few moments and plan your last few weeks of the calendar year if you go abroad. Think about what you might need to accomplish and the best way to do it. Make sure you have the documentation or information you need and a way to communicate it. Get ahold of professionals with enough time to complete your tasks, knowing they have other clients and that some people take time off at the end of the year. A little planning ahead will save you time, money and frustration later. Once you have everything in place you will be off to a great start for the new year!