It has been estimated that there are 20,000 Americans living in El Salvador.
Living in El Salvador is an incredible experience for a variety of reasons, including the tropical climate, world-class beaches and coffee, and the wonderful landscapes, flora and fauna. As an American expatriate living in El Salvador though, what exactly do you need to know regarding filing US expat (and Salvadoran) taxes?
All US citizens and green card holders who earn more than $12,550 (in 2021, or just $400 of self-employment income or just $5 if you’re married to a foreigner) anywhere in the world are required to file a US federal tax return and pay taxes to the IRS, regardless of where in the world they live or where their income originates.
The good news is if you are paying income tax in El Salvador, there are various exclusions and exemptions available to prevent you paying tax on the same income to the IRS too.
US taxes – what you need to know
If you earned more than US$12,550 (in 2021, or $400 of self-employment income etc), you are required to file Form 1040..
While any US taxes due are still due by April 15, expats get an automatic filing extension until June 15, which can be extended further on request until October 15.
If you have overseas assets worth over US$200,000 per person, excluding your home if it is owned in your own name, you also have to file form 8938 to declare them.
If you had a total of at least US$10,000 in one or more foreign bank and/or investment accounts at any time during the tax year, you also have to file FinCEN form 114, otherwise known as a Foreign Bank Account Report or FBAR.
“An individual is considered a tax resident in El Salvador if they reside temporarily or permanently in the country for more than two hundred consecutive days during a calendar year, or if they have their main source of income in El Salvador.”
If you pay income tax in El Salvador, there are several exemptions that allow you to pay less or no US income tax on the same income to the IRS.
The main exemptions are the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, which lets you exclude the first around US$100,000 of foreign earned income from US tax if you can prove that you are a Salvadoran resident (or you spend at least 330 days outside the US each year), and the Foreign Tax Credit, which gives you a $1 tax credit for every dollar of tax you’ve paid in El Salvador. These exemptions can be combined if necessary.
The US and Salvadoran governments share taxpayer info, and Salvadoran banks pass on US account holders’ account info to the IRS, so it’s not worth not filing or omitting anything on your return. The penalties for incorrect or incomplete filing for expats are steep to say the least.
If you’re a US citizen, green card holder, or US/Salvadoran dual citizen, and you have been living in El Salvador but you didn’t know you had to file a US tax return, don’t worry: there’s a program called the IRS Streamlined Procedure that allows you to catch up on your filing without paying any penalties. Don’t delay though, in case the IRS comes to you first
Salvadoran taxes – what you need to know
Foreigners living in El Salvador are considered residents if they spend over 200 consecutive days in the country each year. Non-residents are taxed on Salvadoran income at a flat rate of 30%. Residents are taxed on their worldwide income on a scale from 0% to 30%.
The Salvadoran tax year is the same as the American, and tax returns are due by April 30. The Salvadoran tax authority is called the Ministerio de Hacienda.
We strongly recommend that if you have any doubts or questions about your tax situation as a US expat living in El Salvador that you contact a US expat tax specialist.