The beginning of April signals the final push for most Americans filing their taxes.
A common misconception amongst Americans traveling extensively or living abroad is the idea that once you're beyond the borders of the United States, there's no need to file annual tax returns.
Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Unfortunately, unless you renounce your US citizenship or make under $10,000 as a single filer or $20,000 married filing jointly, you're on the hook for filing a return. That's the bad news.
For Americans living abroad, there are good opportunities to take advantage of tax-saving strategies, however there are increased filing requirements for people with foreign bank accounts and foreign companies, which makes hiring a professional all the more worthwhile.
The good news is there are internet-based tax preparation services like Online Taxman which cater specifically to expat tax situations.
Not only do they have a global reach (they've helped expats in over 100 countries), but by leveraging the internet, they're able to reduce the cost of doing business, and pass along those savings to customers in the form of lower prices.
Founded by Vincenzo Villamena, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with “Big 4” audit and corporate accounting experience, Online Taxman is focused on providing support to American expats, residents, and non-residents with US interests.
I met Vincenzo earlier this year in Medellín where he gave a free tax presentation to a group of expats and entrepreneurs at the Espacio co-working space.
Not only did I find the information in the presentation useful, I took him up on his invitation for a free one-on-one consultation so I could ask questions specific to my situation.
Last year alone, I formed two US-based Limited Liability Corporations, the first being RTW Media LLC for my two blogs and books, and the second being Travel Blog Success LLC, a partnership.
The second time I met Vincenzo was in a popular café for my free consultation, where I peppered him with questions.
In years past, I've always relied on a mix of my own research, my Dad's advice and tips from friends and fellow bloggers who did their own research or paid for professional help.
My Frankenstein approach toward tax planning has always left me feeling less than confident.
After all, I was basing where I spent my time each year on the Physical Presence Test for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. What if I wasn't understanding it correctly?
Figuring out what can and can't be claimed as businesses expenses as a travel blogger has been another constant challenge.
Our meeting at the café left me feeling even more confident in Vincenzo's ability to save me time, energy and hopefully money.
For the first time in my life, I hired a tax professional.
Working with Vincenzo to prepare both my business partnership return, and my personal return has been incredibly easy.
In fact, I don't even know what we would've done without his help as it's not possible to file a business partnership return online through Turbo Tax or H&R Block.
You need to download software, and it's only available for Windows PC's (I use a Mac).
Both me and my partner are currently based outside the USA, so it would've been a hassle in more ways than one. His help with that process alone has saved me countless hours.
Back in January, I'd used Turbo Tax to fill out much of my personal tax information for 2013.
I was able to get an idea of my liability very quickly, and it was higher than I expected considering I earned less in 2013 than 2012.
I let the information sit, as the return for my partnership had to be filed first.
Vincenzo completed the partnership return very quickly.
He then moved on to my personal return, where he calculated my liability as being roughly 30% higher than what I had come up with on my own in Turbo Tax.
This disparity alarmed me, until he offered to review the data I entered in Turbo Tax.
Within 24 hours, he'd found multiple mistakes. Once those were corrected, the software reflected a similar amount owed as he'd calculated independently.
I realized Turbo Tax may seem easy to use, but there's still plenty of room for user error.
In addition to feeling confident that a tax professional was preparing my return, it also felt great to have someone I could count on for questions.
Some of those questions lead to me calculating my business travel expenses (specifically lodging and meals) in a different manner than 2012.
This change alone will save me over $500, which is more than enough to make up for the cost of hiring professional help.
Through my experience working with Vincenzo at Online Taxman, not only have I've learned a lot, and saved money, but I also feel more confident than ever that the return he's filing on my behalf is accurate, and thus less likely to trigger an audit (a common fear amongst small business owners).
Additional Benefits to using Online Taxman:
- Free, no-obligation consultation with a CPA
- Free review of your tax returns for the last three years
- Free IRS representation in the case of an audit
- A commitment to answering your questions within 24 hours
- 100% money back guarantee
If you're an American expat living abroad, a non-US citizen or even an American living in the US who's simply looking for low-cost, high quality tax help, I'm happy to recommend Vincenzo and his team of qualified CPA's at Online Taxman.
I received a discounted rate in exchange for my honest review of Online Taxman's services.