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I pay taxes in the country in which I reside (Germany). I have no assets in the U.S. What form must I file?

  • Related: expatriates.stackexchange.com/questions/2734/… – Karlson Sep 25 '14 at 18:16
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    To be quite honest I don't see why you would file a form different from the ones living in the US, you may have to file additional forms based on the income you receive but I would say a 1040 is still what you're a filing. – Karlson Sep 25 '14 at 18:19
  • There are forms involving foreign accounts (as opposed to income) that mist be filed... – DJohnM Sep 25 '14 at 19:45
  • @Karlson It seems entirely possible that the law would provide for other forms or specific obligations. Now, if that's not the case, it would be an answer in itself but I don't quite follow what the matter with the question is. – Gala Sep 25 '14 at 21:22
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    @Karlson but that's exactly what the OP wanted to know - which forms he needs to file. Not all of them come "along with it" - FBAR comes separately, for example. – littleadv Sep 26 '14 at 23:26
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There is a Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad available that deals specifically with the issues.

And while it doesn't specifically states that you will need to file a Form 1040 the instructions for the form indicate that it should be filed for taxpayers with the foreign address.

In addition to 1040 there are multiple other forms that may be necessary like form 2555 for Foreign Earned Income and/or others indicated in the publication.

Personally I would suggest contacting an accountant that is familiar with filing such returns.

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All the same forms any other American must file. Read instructions carefully, including the tax guide Karlson linked to.

However, since you don't live in the US, you are very likely to be subject to FBAR and FATCA reporting. While FATCA forms are part of the tax return - FBAR are not, filed to a different government agency, at a different time, and carry very heavy penalties if you forget or miss a deadline.

Another thing to keep in mind - if you invest in mutual funds in Germany you're probably subject to PFIC rules (a specially devised rule to discourage Americans from investing outside of the US through very heavy taxation and draconian penalties).

If you have a German pension/tax-deferred account, remember that this is taxable in the US and is not included in FEIE. I.e.: while you're saving tax-deferred or tax-free in Germany, Uncle Sam will tax you on that without any regard to the German tax-deferral rules.

If you own a significant part of a German company or business - beware of Subpart F income and forms.

If you own or are a beneficiary of a German trust - yet another can of worms. Self-sponsored pensions fall into this category many times (together with PFIC).

Bottom line - get rid of your American passport. American tax laws are devised to make it nearly impossible for a US citizen to live outside of the country without becoming a criminal.

If you still want to try - don't even think of filling your tax return on your own. Get a US-licensed CPA/EA who is also proficient in German financial terms and German-US tax treaty to do it for you. The tax treaty may include some provisions which may alleviate the pain somewhat. Yes, it will cost you about $1000 a year, at least. That's the cost of maintaining your citizenship.


In this answer, you can substitute "Germany" with any other foreign country. As long as you don't live in the US - you're in trouble, tax-wise.

Some countries reached an agreement with the US re the pensions (Canada, most prominently), but most haven't.

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