Foreign, International Income by U.S. Citizens

Attention: If you are a U.S. Citizen or resident alien that is residing overseas on the regular due date of the return, you may be granted a two month tax extension to file a federal income tax return and pay due tax. This means that, if you are overseas and away from your residency, then you generally have until June 15 to file your tax return. You may still owe interest on any due tax from the original due date. After the June 15 date, you will be assessed any applicable late payment tax penalties. You can apply for an additional extension if you need more time until the following October by filing this before the April tax due date. Late payment penalties will still be assessed, if owed. This will not give you more time to pay and you will still be penalized for failure to pay your due tax.

U.S. Citizens living and working abroad often wonder if they need to file a return or a previous year U.S. tax return. The simple and basic answer is this: as a U.S. Citizen, your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you live or where you earned your taxable income. Thus, as a citizen of the United States, you have to file an income tax return if you work and/or live abroad. If you're still unsure, use this free FILEucator tax tool to determine if you have to file or not.

On the other hand, you might be exempt from a tax return if you relinquish your green card holder alien status - Form I-40, U.S. Citizen & Immigration Service - or you renounce your United States citizenship altogether as outlined in the expatriation tax provisions.

Key points:

  • Foreign income includes wages, interest, bonds, and other income from foreign sources.
  • U.S. citizens are taxed by the IRS on their worldwide income and thus generally must file a U.S. tax return even if their income is from a foreign country.
  • File your taxes on to help report your foreign income on the proper forms.

Use many of the tax calculators or tools to learn more about your particular taxes. Not sure how to report your foreign earned income? When you prepare and e-file with, we will help determine this for you following a simple tax interview.

Foreign Income Types

Foreign earned income has the source of the income as the place you performed the services for which you received the income, such as a foreign country. For example, if you do work for a U.S. employer in Spain and receive payment to your U.S. bank in Florida, your income is considered foreign earned income as the location on where the work is performed is the main consideration. Had you performed the same work in the U.S., you would report it as U.S. sourced income.

In the table below, find samples of foreign earned income, unearned income, and variable income generated by U.S. citizens abroad. The lists are not all inclusive, but show several more common examples.

International Income
Earned Income as the result of personal services
Salaries and wages, commissions, professional fees, tips, bonuses, non-cash (allowances, reimbursements, lodging, meals, use of vehicle). Allowances or reimbursements are amounts paid to you for:
  • Family
  • Education
  • Quarters
  • Cost of living
  • Home leave
  • Moving.
Unearned Income
Dividends, interest, foreign Social Security, pensions, capital gains, annuities, alimony, and gambling winnings.
Variable Income
Business profits, scholarships and fellowships, royalties, and rents.
Other Income
Income from stock options, sole proprietorships, and partnerships or corporations.
NOT Included in Foreign Earned Income
  • Payment from a U.S. Government as government employee (military, etc.)
  • U.S. Pension, Social Security, or annuity payments
  • Quarters (see Foreign Housing Exclusion)
  • Expense reimbursement on behalf of your employer under an accountable plan
  • Employer contributions to a nonexempt employee trust or to a nonqualified annuity contract
  • Payments received after the end of the tax year following the tax year in which you performed the earned income services (e.g. if you performed work one year, but did not receive payment until the following year).

You might not be able to clearly determine how much of your paid work or income is done in the United States. It may have been done partly in the United States and partly in a foreign country, so it is important to determine the amount of U.S. source income using the method that most correctly shows the proper source of your income.

With a free account, we help you make the decision that best suits your tax situation. In most cases, you can make this determination on a time basis. U.S. source income is the amount that results from multiplying your total pay (including allowances, reimbursements, and noncash fringe benefits) by a fraction. The numerator (top number) is the number of days you worked within the United States. The denominator (bottom number) is the total number of work days you were paid for. See details on the bona-fide residency and physical presence test which help determine your eligibility based on your living situation for the tax year.

More Foreign Income and Tax Information

See important subjects regarding foreign earned income are: foreign tax deductions and breaks plus foreign tax credits. Read these IRS publications on U.S Citizens and Aliens Abroad and the Foreign Tax Credit for Individuals.