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The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion for U.S. Expats

Susan Kelly

Oct 21, 2023

Are you a U.S. citizen living or working abroad? If so, it's important to understand the rules around the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE). This provision allows qualifying individuals to exclude certain types of income from US taxes. With today's technology and globalization opportunities, more people than ever are choosing to live outside their home countries.

To make life easier for U.S. ex-pats, this blog will review all the key points related to foreign earned income exclusion tax law and help readers better understand what they need to qualify – without paying an arm and a leg for expensive professional tax advice. We hope this will helpful blog for you!

Discover the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and its Eligibility Requirements

Attention American expats! Did you know about the Earned Income Exclusion? This valuable tax break allows you to deduct a portion of your overseas earnings from your US taxes. In 2021, the amount excluded is $105,900 per person. Don't miss out on this opportunity to save money on your taxes while living abroad.

This exclusion does not apply to unearned income such as interest, dividends, or capital gains; rather, it solely applies to earned income such as wages, salaries, and self-employment income.

You must pass either the physical presence test or the honestly genuine residence test to be eligible for the overseas earned income exclusion:

  • The physical presence test requires you to be physically present in a foreign country (not including the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico) for 330 full days for 12 consecutive months.
  • In order to pass the bona fide residency test, you must have lived in a foreign country as a bona fide resident for a complete tax year, except the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.

To these tests, you must also meet certain filing requirements. You must file Form 2555 with your federal income tax return to claim the exclusion and provide proof of your residency abroad, such as rent receipts or utility bills. It's advisable to consult with a tax professional to ensure all requirements are met correctly and efficiently.

How to Claim the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion on Your Taxes

Once you've established that you're eligible, you can deduct foreign earned income from your taxes. To claim the exclusion, you must submit Form 2555 together with your federal income tax return. You must include documentation of your foreign residence, such as rent receipts or utility bills, with the application.

When filing your taxes, make sure to include all income sources, foreign and domestic, so everything is reported correctly and accurately. Any foreign-earned income which qualifies for the exclusion should be deducted from your taxable income when calculating your total income.

It's important to note that claiming the FEIE does not mean that all of your foreign-earned income will be excluded from US taxes. There are limits and restrictions to the exclusion, which may apply in certain situations. For instance, if you make more than the maximum amount allowed to be excluded ($105,900 for 2021), any excess income will still be subject to federal income taxes.

Furthermore, claiming the FEIE does not mean you're exempt from paying social security and Medicare taxes. Any foreign-earned income that qualifies for the exclusion is still subject to these taxes unless you qualify under a special exemption or Social Security Totalization agreement between your country of residence and the U.S.

Benefits of Claiming the Exclusion

  • You can save money on your taxes – up to $105,900 for 2021! Any income you earn up to this amount will be excluded from your taxable income.
  • Your Social Security and Medicare contributions may be lower if you qualify under a special exemption or agreement between your country of residence and the U.S.
  • Claiming the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion may make it easier for you to file your taxes since all you need is one form (Form 2555) to claim the exclusion.
  • The FEIE allows more flexibility when determining where to live, as it only applies to income earned while living abroad.
  • Claiming the exclusion may give you access to certain tax credits that are unavailable to those not claiming the FEIE.
  • You may avoid double taxation by excluding foreign-earned income from US taxes.
  • The exclusion can also help you manage currency exchange rate fluctuations since any foreign-earned income is excluded upfront before it's converted into U.S. dollars.
  • Claiming the exclusion can provide peace of mind as you'll know exactly what your U.S. tax obligations will be each year.

To maximize the benefits of claiming the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, it's important to understand its rules and regulations and consult with a qualified tax professional if needed. By taking the time to properly understand and apply this provision, U.S. ex-pats can enjoy their new home abroad while also feeling confident in their U.S. tax obligations.

Pitfalls to be Aware of when Filing with the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

Although claiming the foreign earned income exclusion can be a great way to save money on US taxes, there are some pitfalls that taxpayers should be aware of before filing.

One common mistake is not filing Form 2555 when required. This form must be filed to claim the exclusion, and any earnings up to the set limit will then be excluded from US taxes. Please file this form to avoid paying more than you need in taxes.

It's also important to ensure all your income sources have been reported correctly. Taxpayers who only report their domestic income while excluding their foreign-earned income can face hefty penalties for tax evasion, so it's best to report everything upfront.


Are U.S. citizens living abroad tax-exempt?

No, U.S. citizens living abroad are not tax-exempt. They must still file a federal income tax return yearly and report their worldwide income. However, they may qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, excluding up to $105,900 foreign-earned income from UStaxes.

How much foreign income is tax-free in the USA?

In 2021, up to $105,900 of foreign-earned income can be excluded from UStaxes with the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

How do I maintain my U.S. address while living abroad?

Using a mail forwarding service or a virtual office, you can maintain your U.S. address while living abroad. This will allow you to keep your U.S. address updated for tax and other important purposes.


After reviewing the fundamentals of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion for U.S. Expats, it is obvious that Americans who want to reside abroad have financial options. The FEIE provides a significant income tax deduction, enabling expats to keep more of their hard-earned money.

Expats should familiarise themselves with additional tax regulations that are relevant in the nation or countries where they live and generate money, even with this assistance. It is strongly advised that anyone who is still unsure about whether this exclusion is the best option for their needs speaks with a seasoned tax professional.

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