Taxes for Travelers Abroad: 5 Things You Need To Know


Americans sure love to travel. Over 45 million Americans traveled abroad in 2019 – some of them for business, others for pleasure. And while the pandemic has dampened those numbers, the need to experience the sights and sounds of the world remains.

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, here’s a quick tax guide to get you started.



Can I work remotely from another country?

Yes! A few have even decided to make the most of the ongoing situation to travel the world. 

In an effort to boost flagging visitor numbers, some countries such as Estonia and Bermuda have offered special visas for Americans who want to temporarily work abroad. Since many companies have allowed their employees to work from home for the foreseeable future, the idea is to attract people who might want to continue working in an exotic destination.

It sounds like the perfect solution for people who don’t want to spend their time cooped up in their homes or apartments. They get to live in a foreign country while keeping their old jobs. But traveling and working abroad comes with responsibilities, chief of which is your taxes.


What is my tax situation?

Your tax situation depends on where you stay, and the length of time you spend abroad. It is estimated that over 10 million Americans live abroad long-term. Some of them stay in one place, while others jump from country to country.

But what does this mean for you?

If you spend a total of 330 days abroad during a 12-month period, you meet the Physical Presence Test. Meeting this test is crucial if you want to avail yourself of the many tax benefits available to American expats and travelers.

It’s important that you keep track of your time spent abroad. Even coming up a day short of the 330-day requirement means you forfeit any expat tax benefits that will help you reduce your tax liability.

Your length of stay could also determine your tax residency in that country. This means that you would be subject to that country’s tax laws. It’s important that you do your research ahead of time before making any big decisions.


Do I pay U.S. taxes if I work overseas?

Yes. The United States is one of the few countries in the world to adopt a citizenship-based tax system. This means that American citizens and permanent residents (also known as Green Card holders) have to pay U.S. taxes and file a federal tax return, even if they are based overseas.

Your worldwide income is also taxed by the IRS. Let’s say you decided to open a small side business during your stay abroad, while still keeping your day job for a U.S.-based company. Even if you don’t live in the United States and the business is based in a foreign country, both sources of income are subject to U.S. tax laws.


How do I reduce my tax liability?

Living and working abroad, while exciting, also comes with a lot of challenges. You have to navigate two different tax systems, which could lead to double taxation. It’s important that you understand all the benefits available to you if you want to minimize your tax liability. 

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

One of the biggest tax benefits available to expats is the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE).

The FEIE allows expat taxpayers to exclude a certain amount of foreign earnings from federal income tax. For the tax year 2021, the FEIE threshold is $108,700. You still need to file a federal tax return even if your income doesn’t exceed the threshold and you have no tax liabilities.

To claim the FEIE, the taxpayer must meet the Physical Presence Test.

Foreign Tax Credit

Another tax benefit you need to know is the foreign tax credit. Expats who have paid income tax to a foreign government can claim a dollar-for-dollar credit to reduce their U.S. tax bill. 

Let’s say you’ve paid $1,000 of income tax to a foreign government. You can take a tax credit to reduce your U.S. tax bill by the same amount.

Once you have claimed the FEIE, you cannot take a tax credit for taxes on excluded income. You can, however, take a tax credit on foreign-earned income that exceeds the FEIE threshold.


How to file an expat tax return?

It’s important that you straighten out your finances before deciding to move abroad. Moving to a foreign country without a proper plan can lead to issues with your tax return. You can always talk to tax experts, such as those at TFX, if you need help clarifying your tax situation.

This post was written by Veronica Rhodes of TFX. TFX is a women-owned tax firm that offers all U.S. tax services — for both American citizens and non-citizens with U.S. tax filing requirements. From straightforward expat tax preparation to complex cases involving multiple factors — we’ve handled it all for over 25 years.


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Mexico City’s Newly Revealed Ancient Treasures to Prompt Future Tourism Upturn

Toya Sarno Jordan  / Reuters

Archaeologist Sergio Gomez displays a pot that’s shaped in the image of storm god Tlaloc, found inside a 2,000-year-old tunnel built under the ornate Feathered Serpent Pyramid, which Gomez believes recreated the underworld and was used to initiate new rulers among other religious rituals, in the ruins of Teotihuacan, in San Juan Teotihuacan, Mexico August 12, 2021. Toya Sarno Jordan / Reuters

Skift Take: Teotihuacan near Mexico City has drawn visitors for decades. But archaeologists have just revealed more of their finds from under the ruins. In the future, they’ll put these treasures on display.

— Sean O’Neill

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The Digital Nomad Lifestyle – Reality, Opportunities and Rewards

Quite often I receive emails that ask – Earl, how can I live the digital nomad lifestyle? How can I become a digital nomad?

I always reply and usually, my response starts off with something like:

That question equates to asking – how can I become an office worker? 

They are both very broad categories (and goals) that don’t really offer a direct path or set of defined steps to reach them. They both exist but they are both merely outer shells. What matters most is what you fill them with inside.

What is inside?

A job. A way to earn money. 

Digital Nomad lifestyle - Bali

The Digital Nomad Truth

Here’s the truth – the term “digital nomad” is not a job.

It’s a lifestyle. A digital nomad is a person who has the freedom to move around due to the fact that they can work from their laptop and/or other portable devices.

In order to be a digital nomad, you need to figure out a way to earn money. The nomadic part and the money/work part are generally two very separate things.

And finding work that can provide a nomadic lifestyle generally requires the same process as finding a job that requires a daily 9-5 trip to the office:

  • examine your skills, abilities, interests and education
  • figure out which jobs are suitable for what you can offer
  • narrow it down to jobs/work that interest you and provide benefits that match your needs
  • try to get hired by a company offering that job
  • for some, you might create your own business or freelance opportunity instead

Again, whether you strive to be a digital nomad or office worker, you need to find a suitable job/source of income that will lead to that lifestyle/work environment.


The Digital Nomad Opportunities

Luckily, these days, the number of jobs that can match up with a nomadic lifestyle is only increasing. For example, between the years of 2009 – 2018, whenever I met someone on the road who worked online, the chances were quite high that they were a travel blogger or were trying to do one of the less official jobs that I even mentioned in this post. But over the past few years, that has changed significantly. Now I rarely meet another travel blogger.

Instead, I meet data scientists, tech support agents, language tutors, professional development consultants, video editors, advertising reps, psychologists, app developers, magazine editors, accountants, artists, trainers, human resources managers, musicians and on and on.

This is great news. This means that real jobs that earn good money, and offer a remote lifestyle, are more accessible than ever.

Digital Nomad - Bolivia

Ignoring All the Fluff

Sure, there’s also a lot of fluff out there too. And the point of this post is to try and explain how to create a real digital nomad lifestyle that provides the real freedom you seek. To do so, I would ignore the fluff:

  • courses that promise an incredible life with almost no work
  • get rich quick schemes
  • the lure of ‘easy’ drop shipping success
  • courses on how to quickly become a successful life coach
  • anyone that teaches you something new and promises you quick results

It all sounds good and glamorous, but it’s not reality, trust me.

If you want to create a longer term, sustainable nomadic lifestyle that provides the genuine freedom to move around as you wish, I’d personally focus on work that has an actual existing market, plenty of job opportunities and that pays a good, consistent salary. I would also highly consider applying for actual remote jobs as opposed to trying to create your own stream of income. It’s a far easier and more stable path to a successful digital nomad lifestyle.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that work is work. It doesn’t have to be the ‘job of your dreams’. That’s rare and, in my opinion, is not something to strive for. Or else you’ll be running around in circles for years trying to find that ‘perfect job’. 

Instead, strive to find work that interests you to a decent degree and allows you to use your non-work time to do the things that you really want to do in life. It’s about finding an ideal balance. The job pays the bills, and hopefully provides some satisfaction along with the freedom that an office job would not provide. There’s always going to be a trade off, but that’s absolutely okay.

My approach to the digital nomad lifestyle is to take a step back from all the noise, grand promises and too-good-to-be-true social media accounts that are thrown in our faces nonstop. If you really want to succeed, take a BIG step back, shake it all off and then proceed with a more grounded and focused approach, one based in reality and proven results.

Use your actual skills, knowledge and abilities. Find actual jobs that pay well and allow you to work remotely. Avoid getting lost in the endless, nonsensical rabbit hole of trying to figure out how to work 30 minutes per day so that you can spend the rest of your time lounging at 5* resorts in the Maldives. Again, that’s just not reality.

On the other hand, a nap on a hammock in Aruba every now and then, in between work sessions, can certainly happen…

Digital Nomad - Bolivia


The Digital Nomad Rewards

What is reality, is the opportunity to live a very fulfilling life. The opportunity to spend your time living in places around the world, or in your own country, that you really want to experience. The opportunity to spend your free time doing new activities, meeting new people and soaking up a new culture in ways that would not be possible if you never left home.

That’s the goal – to be able to make decisions that are more in line with what you actually want to do and achieve in life instead of what you have to do because of circumstances.

If I think of all my friends who live this nomadic lifestyle as well, it is those who took a step back and ignored the noise and absurd promises that are the most successful. They are the ones who have genuine freedom to travel the world, or stay put in one place, as they wish. They are not on social media bragging about their travels and they are not making grand claims about what they earn while selling a course on how to earn the same.

Instead, they are the ones who are quietly traveling the world, doing their work each day and earning good, consistent money that will keep them going for as long as they want, while also being able to save for their future at the same time. Some of them have remote jobs with companies and others started their own businesses but either way, they all ignored the noise and built something real.

We all have the ability to make this digital nomad lifestyle happen if we want. Just look at the complete history of digital nomads and you’ll get inspired to do just that.

We just have to remember that the foundation of this lifestyle needs to be built out of strong, reliable substance (a job), hard work (there will be challenges) and time (it doesn’t happen quickly). Once that’s understood, the opportunities are indeed endless and the chance of success increases drastically.

As always, if you have any questions at all, just let me know and I’d be happy to assist!


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Aviation Insurers Hold Back on Afghanistan Flights After U.S. Troops Leave


Passengers on a moped in Kabul, Afghanistan. Airline insurers want more security at Kabul’s airport and proper air traffic control before they cover commercial flights, Reuters reports. Pixabay

Skift Take: Airline insurers want more security and proper air traffic control at Kabul’s airport before restarting their coverage of commercial flights there. The concerns are understandable.

— Sean O’Neill

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