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  • Writer's pictureLewis Grunfeld, CPA

A Digital Nomads Tax Guide

Updated: Nov 3

The digital nomad lifestyle offers U.S. citizens the freedom to work globally, yet it brings specific challenges, particularly in navigating the U.S. tax system. This guide provides an overview of these tax obligations, emphasizing clarity and compliance.

U.S. Taxation Overview for Digital Nomads

The U.S. tax system requires American citizens to pay taxes on worldwide income, applying regardless of where they live or work. This citizenship-based taxation means that income from any source globally falls under U.S. tax jurisdiction.

The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) allows individuals to exclude a substantial amount of foreign earned income from U.S. taxable income, resulting in significant tax savings. However, to leverage the FEIE, digital nomads must meet stringent requirements, including the Physical Presence Test or the Bona Fide Residence Test. These tests assess their ties to a foreign country and the duration of their stay. Misunderstanding or misapplying these criteria could lead to compliance issues, making it crucial for digital nomads to thoroughly understand these rules or consult a tax professional.

State Taxes and Last State of Residence

While federal tax obligations are a uniform requirement, state taxes are more variable. A digital nomad's last state of residence in the U.S. can continue to impose tax obligations, with rules differing significantly from state to state. Some states have more aggressive policies, asserting tax claims on former residents' income even after they've left. Strategic planning, such as establishing residency in a state with no income tax before moving abroad, can be a beneficial step.

Self-Employment Taxes

Digital nomads often work as freelancers or run their own businesses, leading to another layer of tax complexity: self-employment taxes. These taxes contribute to Social Security and Medicare and are a mandatory aspect of the U.S. tax system. However, the U.S. has Totalization Agreements with many countries to prevent double taxation.

Avoiding Double Taxation

One of the challenges of global income is the potential for double taxation. The U.S. offers certain mechanisms to prevent this, such as foreign tax credits or deductions, which allow taxpayers to offset the taxes they pay to foreign governments. Additionally, the U.S. has tax treaties with numerous countries, providing specific rules to prevent double taxation and reduce withholding taxes.

The IRS Amnesty Program

Digital nomads who have fallen behind on U.S. taxes can utilize the IRS amnesty program to get back into compliance. This program requires the submission of the last 3 years of delinquent tax returns and 6 years of delinquent FBARs with no penalties. It's specifically for unintentional non-compliance.

CPAs for Expats is Here to Guide You Every Step of the Way

Dealing with U.S. tax obligations as a digital nomad doesn't have to be a solo endeavor. At CPAs for Expats, we specialize in simplifying this process for you. With the lowest fees and a stellar 4.9/5 rating on review platforms like Trustpilot, our expert team is equipped to provide you with the guidance and support you need to confidently handle your tax obligations. Contact us today, and experience unparalleled peace of mind with your expat taxes.


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