It has been estimated that there are several thousand Americans living in Ethiopia.
Living in Ethiopia is an incredible experience for a number of reasons, including the friendly locals, the climate and landscapes, the culture and the coffee. As an American expatriate living in Ethiopia though, what exactly do you need to know regarding filing US expat (and Ethiopian) taxes?
All US citizens and green card holders who earn a minimum of around $10,000 (or just $400 for self-employed individuals) 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 their income is generated.
The good news is if you are paying income tax in Ethiopia, 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 earn over US$10,000 (or just $400 of self-employment income), wherever the income originates in the world you have to file IRS form 1040. While any US taxes due are still due by April 15th, expats get an automatic filing extension until June 15th, which can be extended further on request until October 15th.
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.
“Certain property, including land and building, is subject to annual property taxes. Ethiopia does not impose wealth or net worth taxes.”
If you pay income tax in Ethiopia, there are several exemptions that allow you to pay less or no US income tax on the same income to the IRS. The main exclusions 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 Ethiopian resident, and the Foreign Tax Credit, which gives you a $1 tax credit for every dollar of tax you’ve paid in Ethiopia. These exemptions can be combined if necessary. Remember though that even if you don’t owe any tax to the IRS, if your income is over US$10,000 (or $400 if you’re self-employed) you still have to file a federal return.
The US and Ethiopian governments share taxpayer info, and Ethiopian 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/Ethiopian dual citizen, and you have been living in Ethiopia 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.
Ethiopian taxes – what you need to know
Ethiopian residents are taxed on their worldwide income on a progressive scale from 0% to 35%. Dividends are taxed at 10%, while capital gains are taxed at 15%. Non-residents are solely taxed on income sourced in Ethiopia.
Foreigners living in Ethiopia are considered a resident for tax purposes if they have a domicile or habitual abode in Ethiopia, or if they are physically present in Ethiopia for 183 days or more in a 12 month period that overlaps with a tax year.
The Ethiopian tax year runs from July 8th to July 7th. If your only source of income is from employment in Ethiopia, your income will be taxed at source and you won’t have to file a tax return. Otherwise, Ethiopian tax returns are due by either August 7th or September 7th, depending on your income level. The Ethiopian tax authority is called the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority.
We strongly recommend that if you have any doubts or questions about your tax situation as a US expat living in Ethiopia that you contact a US expat tax specialist.