No matter the situation, US expats will need to complete Form 1040, the same form you would need to file if you were living in the US.
In addition, US expats will also want to complete Form 2555 (Foreign Earned Income Exclusion) and/or Form 1116 (Foreign Tax Credit) to take advantage of the tools in place to avoid double taxation.
The schedules you need to file will depend on your personal circumstances, but the most common ones are:
- Schedule A for itemized deductions
- Schedule B for interest and dividend income
- Schedule C for income and expenses from self-employment
- Schedule D for capital gains or losses
- Schedule E if you own a rental property
If a US expat is associated with any foreign financial accounts where the cumulative balances exceeded $10,000 at any time during the tax year, a Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) must be filed with the US Department of the Treasury. The FBAR filing deadline has changed to follow the Federal filing deadline of April 15th, but US expats receive an automatic two-month extension until June 15th.
(Update for 2020: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS has extended the normal April 15th and June 15th deadlines. All tax filings and payments are now due July 15, 2020. However, we recommend you file as early as possible.)