US Expat Taxes for Americans Living in Mexico – What You Need to Know
There are an estimated 1,000,000 Americans living in Mexico.
There are plenty of good reasons for moving to Mexico: the climate, the people, the colorful culture, the cuisine, the beaches, the markets, the cost of living… the list goes on and on. As an American expatriate living in Mexico though, what exactly do you need to know regarding filing US expat (and Mexican) taxes?
All US citizens and green card holders who earn more than $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.
US taxes – what you need to know
If your annual income is more than US$10,000 (or $400 for self-employed individuals), you have to file form 1040. While tax owed is still due on April 15th, expats get an automatic filing extension up until June 15th. This can be extended further until October 15th.
If you have assets abroad worth over US$200,000, you should also file form 8938 declaring them.
If you have more than US$10,000 in aggregate in foreign bank accounts at any time during the tax year, you should also file FinCEN form 114, also known as an FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report).
If you are paying income tax in Mexico, there are several ways to prevent you paying tax on the same income to the IRS. The two primary mechanisms are the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, which allows you to exclude the first around US$100,000 from US income tax if you can demonstrate that you are resident in Mexico, and the Foreign Tax Credit, which gives you a dollar tax credit for every dollar of tax you’ve already paid in Mexico.
“Residents must pay taxes for their worldwide income, non-residents must pay only for income earned from Mexican sources.” – Santander
The Foreign Tax Credit is typically a good option if you pay more tax in Mexico than you would in the US, as you can carry the excess tax credits forward for use in future years. Don’t forget though, even if you don’t owe tax to the US, if your income is more than US$10,000 (or $400 for self-employed individuals) you still have to file a return.
The US and Mexican governments share taxpayer info, and Mexican banks pass on their US account holders’ account info to the IRS, so it’s not worth being economical with the truth or burying your head in the sand. The penalties for tax evasion for expats are harsh to say the least.
If you’re a US citizen or green card holder (including dual citizens) and you have been living in Mexico for some time but weren’t aware you needed to file a US 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 fines. It’s a good idea to do this soon though, before the IRS comes to you.
Mexican taxes – what you need to know
Mexican tax returns are due on April 30th, while estimated taxes owed should be paid on a monthly basis by the 17th of the month following the date the money was earned The Mexican equivalent of the IRS is called the SAT (Servicio de Administración Tributaria), or is sometimes known as ‘Hacienda’.
SAT has a rather badly translated English language section on foreigners’ tax obligations on their website here.
There’s no capital gains tax in Mexico, so if you sell a property for example your gain after allowable costs is considered income.
You can find information on Mexican income tax rates here.
We strongly recommend that if you have any doubts or questions about your tax filing situation as a US expat living in Mexico, that you contact an expat tax specialist.