It has been estimated that there are several thousand Americans living in Serbia.
Living in Serbia is an incredible experience for a number of reasons, including the history, cuisine, culture, countryside, the quality of life, and having the rest of Europe on your doorstep. As an American expatriate living in Serbia though, what exactly do you need to know regarding filing US expat (and Serbian) 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 Serbia, 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.
“The annual tax return should be filed not later than 15 May of the following year. Starting from 1 April 2015 only electronic submission is allowed.”
If you pay income tax in Serbia, there are several exemptions that allow you to pay less or no US income tax on the same income to the IRS. The main ones 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 Serbian resident, and the Foreign Tax Credit, which gives you a $1 tax credit for every dollar of tax you’ve paid in Serbia. 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 Serbian governments share taxpayer info, and Serbian 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/Serbian dual citizen, and you have been living in Serbia 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.
Serbian taxes – what you need to know
Serbian residents are taxed on their worldwide income at a flat rate of 10% for most types of income (including salary income), plus a further either 10% for some income types. Some other types of income are taxed at a slightly higher flat rate. Non-residents are solely taxed on any income sourced in Serbia.
Foreigners living in Serbia are considered a resident for tax purposes if their home or center of vital interests is in Serbia, or if they spend 183 days or more in Serbia in any 12 month period that overlaps with the tax year.
The Serbian tax year is the same as in the US, which is to say the calendar year. If your only source of income is from employment in Serbia, your income will be taxed at source and you won’t have to file a tax return. Otherwise, tax returns must be filed online and are due by May 15th. The Serbian tax authority is simply called the Republic of Serbia Tax Administration.
We strongly recommend that if you have any doubts or questions about your tax situation as a US expat living in Serbia that you contact a US expat tax specialist.