US Expat Taxes for Americans Living in Nicaragua – What You Need to Know
It has been estimated that there are 4,000 Americans living in Nicaragua.
Living in Nicaragua is an incredible experience for a number of reasons, including the quality of life, the friendly locals, the relaxed culture, and the beaches and landscapes. As an American expatriate living in Nicaragua though, what exactly do you need to know regarding filing US expat (and Nicaraguan) 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 Nicaragua, 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.
“Personal business-related expenses are deductible if properly documented and accounted for and if accepted by the fiscal authorities as proportional to income originated by the business activities. 25% of education, health, and professional services are deductible.”
If you pay income tax in Nicaragua, 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 Nicaraguan resident, and the Foreign Tax Credit, which gives you a $1 tax credit for every dollar of tax you’ve paid in Nicaragua. 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 Nicaraguan governments share taxpayer info, and Nicaraguan 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/Nicaraguan dual citizen, and you have been living in Nicaragua 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.
Nicaraguan taxes – what you need to know
Foreigners living in Nicaragua are considered a resident for tax purposes if they spend a minimum of 180 days in Nicaragua in a calendar year. Residents are taxed solely on their Nicaragua-sourced income on a scale from 0% to 30%. Non-residents are charged a flat rate of 15%. There is also a social security tax of 6.25% on employment income.
The Nicaraguan tax year is the same as the American, which is to say the calendar year. Nicaraguan tax returns are due by March 31st. The Nicaraguan tax authority is called the Direccción General de Ingresos. If your only source of income is employment in Nicaragua, and you aren’t claiming any deductions, you don’t have to file a tax return.
We strongly recommend that if you have any doubts or questions about your tax situation as a US expat living in Nicaragua that you contact a US expat tax specialist.