A guest post originally published here.
One of the things I hear from Americans abroad all the time is that they feel very alone and lost when they discover that they’re supposed to be filing a US tax return. The part of the IRS website for international taxpayers is difficult to find and understand, especially for someone that’s new to filing US taxes from outside the US, has lived abroad for a long time, or never lived in the US at all. The US State Department pulled Tax Attaches from Embassies around the world in 2013 due to lack of funding. I’ve heard anecdotally that some embassies will tell you about your tax filing obligation when you renew your passport, but other embassies don’t say anything. It’s clear there’s no consistent message going out from the embassies, if there’s any messaging at all.
Depending on what country and where you live in the world, there might be a local American club in bigger cities to converse with fellow Americans (and most people aren’t there to talk about taxes!) but for people living in remote villages or in the countryside, it’s rare to encounter other Americans or have anyone to talk to or seek help from for fulfilling their complicated US tax filing obligation. So, more often than not, Americans abroad turn to online communities to connect and seek answers to the labyrinth that is US taxes for Americans abroad. This article attempts to summarize the online communities on Reddit and Facebook available for local accountant recommendations, help with filing, and other issues relevant to an American abroad and dual citizens’ US tax obligations.
A lot of people think of Reddit as one of those early Internet relics that some people tried when they first got an e-mail address, and then later gravitated to social media. Reddit has steadily increased in popularity over the years and did particularly well from the pandemic. It is a web traffic powerhouse with 430 million monthly active users (close to Twitter’s 436 million monthly active users!) Reddit is as a collection of online forums, called subReddits. The great thing about Reddit is that you don’t have to login to view posts and comments, they are available to view publicly just by searching the website. But if you want to comment or post, you do need to create an account on the website. These SubReddits are frequented by everyday people just wanting answers to their questions, accountants and experts, people sharing relevant information, as well as sharing of online events or webinars.
Americans Abroad and Taxes Relevant SubReddits
US Expat Taxes — Tax info and discussion for U.S. expats (5.3k Members)
This SubReddit is for Americans abroad, US Green Card holders, and anyone that wants to talk about “expat taxes.” It is mostly people who live abroad who have questions on how to file and fulfilling their US tax filing obligation.
Expat Finance — Financial Advice for Expats (8.3k Members)
This SubReddit is for any expat from any country, but it does have a heavy focus on US citizens living outside the US. Questions on pensions and investing frequent this group.
Expats — For folks who’ve left their home for greener pastures (99.1k Members)
This is the biggest general expat group on Reddit that covers any issues for expats. You can filter for tax related questions (which are mostly posts from US expats by the way) by selecting the “Taxes” flair (flair is the word that Reddit uses instead of a tag or keyword).
Tax News and Discussion (172k Members)
Described as “Reddit’s home for tax geeks and taxpayers! News, discussion, policy, and law relating to any tax — U.S. and International, Federal, State, or local.” A great SubReddit to get a sense of what is going on with the IRS in general, like delays in processing returns, receiving refunds of covid payments, etc. Moderators are mostly CPAs and tax preparers so there is a high quality level of discussion that takes place here.
I Want Out: Information for people who want to expatriate (2m Members)
Interestingly, this SubReddit ballooned with Americans wanting to leave the US at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 due to a combination of covid, the difficult health care system in the US, and increasingly polarizing politics. It does have people from all over the world, but it is a useful group to search for any specific tax circumstances from the stories people tell on their journey moving from their home country.
I still don’t feel like I’ve scratched the surface with Americans abroad Facebook Groups that are out there even though I’m in at least 20! Just like Reddit, Facebook has a voluminous number of groups that are usually country specific, just search “Americans in [fill in country or city name here]” and you’ll get a list of groups that are relevant. Americans in these geographically focused groups frequently ask and discuss tax issues. Expat tax accountants that live in these countries also are in these groups. So if you jump in asking for a recommendation for an accountant, not only will you get recommendations (and also people to stay away from!) but the accountants themselves will most likely make themselves known and tell you to get in touch!
I’m aware that many people do not use or like Facebook. But for the purposes of feeling part of a local Americans abroad community and/or helping obtain information or recommendations for tax filing compliance issues, I am aware of some people that literally only use Facebook simply to join these specific Facebook Groups as forums rather than using Facebook for it’s social media features.
Given there are hundreds of Americans abroad Facebook Groups, I’ve listed the ones that are not geographically focused but the ones that are tax focused below.
The following list is of Facebook Groups started and moderated by specific expat tax accounting firms. Some are more hands on than others, some are more hands off with running it as an open forum, and others are more “salesy” than others.
- US Expat Tax Questions by Universal Tax Professionals (37.8k members)
- Expat Tax Online Help by Expat Tax Online (10k members)
- US Expat Tax Support by MyExpatTaxes (3k members)
- U.S. Expat Tax and Citizenship Support by 1040 Abroad (900 members)
US Expat Investment Community (2.7k members)
This group is for US citizens living abroad or intending to move abroad who want to learn what others have done, or share what they have done, to best invest despite the challenges that the US tax system imposes. There are some interesting conversations around investment products that are country specific in this group.
Accidental Americans by L’Association des Américains Accidentels (The Association of Accidental Americans) (AAA) (1.5k members)
The Facebook Group for The Association of Accidental Americans. An accidental American is someone who doesn’t identify as being an American but who obtained American citizenship either by being born in the US or born to American parents. The group is mostly focused on advocacy efforts to change the laws so accidental Americans can access banking services and products in the country they live in due to US laws imposed on foreign countries to prevent tax evasion. The Group does occasionally have tax questions in it, but it is more focused on its advocacy efforts.
American Expatriates for Residency Based Taxation (RBT) (8.4k members)
WARNING! The title of this group is misleading! It is not a group to ask tax questions in! I mention it here so that you don’t mistakenly join thinking you can ask tax questions. The individual that runs this group will kick you out if you ask tax questions! It is unfortunately an echo chamber for one person who is not an accountant or a lawyer, and has no tax qualifications. Avoid!
The Fine Print
I wish it went without saying, but I do think it’s worth reiterating that you should not take any advice received from random people on the Internet. The benefit of joining one or a few of these groups is to get a general sense of what is going on with taxes and Americans abroad, to see if others are experiencing the same problems or issues as you, to feel less alone in all of this, and to get pointed in the right direction for additional information or resources. Unfortunately, everyone’s personal circumstances are different, so an accountant recommendation from someone might not necessarily be an accountant suitable for your circumstances. The same can be said for whether you should fill in the same tax forms as someone else who said they filed specific forms. Everyone’s situation is different, so be sure to be aware of your specific circumstances before making any decisions to purchase services and/or how to proceed with filing your tax return. As is always the case, you should always seek professional advice for your specific circumstances or consult the IRS website and official IRS resources for information.
Have a Suggestion to Improve IRS Processes or Customer Service?
If you have a suggestion on how the IRS can improve processes or customer service for people living outside the United States with a U.S. tax obligation, please consider submitting a suggestion on the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel’s website here: https://www.improveirs.org/submit-a-suggestion/
About the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel
The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel is a United States Federal Advisory Committee whose mission is to listen to taxpayers, identify taxpayers’ issues and make suggestions for improving IRS service and customer satisfaction. TAP is comprised of approximately 75 members who volunteer to serve a three-year term, and represent all 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and a member to represent U.S. Citizens living or working abroad.
About the International Member of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel
I am originally from Ohio, went to college in Wisconsin, and moved to London, United Kingdom to do my masters and upon completion was offered a job, and so I stayed. 16 years later, I am married to a Brit, run a UK company, and volunteer to help Americans abroad in tax advocacy work. My three-year term started in 2022. I serve on the Special Projects Committee for TAP, which is the committee that handles international issues within the IRS. I am not an accountant, which makes me a minority on TAP, in addition to being the only member on TAP not in the United States, my unique perspective helps bring clarity to the issues, prioritize problems, and provide solutions. You can contact Rebecca on tapinternational1 at gmail dot com
Disclaimer: Democrats Abroad cannot provide individual tax advice. Advice requires consideration of your individual circumstances and needs, none of which can be done at this event. We are not tax lawyers, accountants, or advisers. Please consult a professional tax adviser/accountant/return preparer when addressing your personal tax matters.
Democrats Abroad does not endorse or recommend companies or individual guest bloggers. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the respective individuals and companies, not Democrats Abroad. No liability is accepted by Democrats Abroad for the opinions expressed, or for any errors or omissions expressed about matters of tax in any country, your financial planning, or your legal obligations.
If you are in need of tax advice you can consult the IRS Tax Return Preparer Directory to find an advisor or tax return preparer near you or providing online services to meet your needs and budget, though buyers need always beware: https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf