The following email was sent out earlier:

(My comments are in [brackets]. All underlining is mine.)
Dear U.S. citizens,

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has provided the following guidance for U.S. citizens abroad preparing for the 2015 tax filing season.  This IRS guidance is posted under Federal Benefits and Obligations on  U.S. embassies and consulates cannot mail tax returns on behalf of U.S. taxpayers living abroad.

1.  Who Must File?

All U.S. citizens and resident aliens must file a U.S. individual income tax return, even if they permanently live outside the United States and may not owe any tax because of income exclusion or tax credit.

 2.  When is the 2014 Federal Tax Return Due?

Due date for Form 1040:  April 15, 2015


·         An automatic extension to June 15, 2015, is granted for taxpayers living outside the United States and Puerto Rico.  No form is required; write "Taxpayer Resident Abroad" at the top of your tax return. [Write it in RED CAPITAL LETTERS]

o   Caution:  This extension applies only for filing your tax return, not for payment.  If you owe any taxes, you're required to pay by April 15, 2015.  Interest and penalties will generally be applied if payment is made after this date.

·         To request an additional extension to October 15, 2015, use Form 4868.

·         Caution:  This extension applies only for filing your tax return, not for payment.  If you owe any taxes, you're required to pay by April 15, 2015.  Interest and penalties will generally be applied if payment make after this date.

·         Other extensions may be available on

3.  Can I Mail My Return and Payment?

You can mail your tax return and payment using the postal service or approved private delivery services.  A list of approved delivery services is available on  If you mail a return from outside the United States, the date of filing is the postmark date.  However, if you mail a payment, separately or with your return, your payment is not considered received until the date of actual receipt. 

4.  Can I Electronically File My Return?

You can prepare and e-file your income tax return, in many cases for free.  Participating software companies make their products available through the IRS.  E-File options are listed on [Whether to file paper or electronically depends on many factors.  One actually makes it easier on the IRS by filing electronically.]

5.  What Forms May I Need?

·   1040, U.S Individual Income Tax Return
o   Instructions to Form 1040
o   1116, Foreign Tax Credit
o   2013 Instructions to Form 1116 [...]
     2350, Application for Extension of Time to File U.S. Income Tax Return (for U.S. citizens and residents abroad)
o   2350 in Spanish
·         2555, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
o   Instructions to Form 2555
·         2555-EZ, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
o   Instructions to Form 2555-EZ
·         4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
o   4868 in Spanish
·         8802, Application for United States Residency Certificate
o   Instructions to Form 8802
·         8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets,
o   Instructions to Form 8938
·         14653, Certification by U.S. Person Residing Outside of the United States for Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures

6.  How Do I Pay My Taxes?

You must pay your taxes in U.S. dollars.


·         Direct pay.  You can pay online with a direct transfer from your U.S. bank account using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or by a U.S. debit or credit card.  You can also pay by phone using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or by a U.S. debit or credit card.


·         Foreign wire transfers.  If you have a U.S. bank account, you can use the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.  If you do not have a U.S. bank account, ask whether your financial institution has a U.S. affiliate that can help you make same-day wire transfers.


·         Foreign electronic payments.  International taxpayers who do not have a U.S. bank account may transfer funds from their foreign bank account directly to the IRS for payment of their tax liabilities.


7.  Other Reporting?

You also may have to file FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), by June 30, 2015.


8.  Does the IRS Provide Help in Other Languages?

The IRS provides tax information in Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.  Go and use the drop down box under "Languages" on the upper right corner to select your language.


9.  Where Can I Get Help?

Contact the International Taxpayer Service Call Center by phone or fax.  The International Call Center is open Monday through Friday, from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (Eastern Time).

Tel:  267-941-1000 (not toll-free)

Fax:  267-941-1055

You may also contact the IRS office in London, Paris, or Frankfurt.  For addresses and telephone numbers, contact my local office internationally.


10.  I Received a Notice from the IRS – What Do I Do?

If you receive a notice from the IRS and need to contact the IRS, call the number listed on the notice or the International Taxpayer Service Call Center (see above).


11.  Where Can I Get More Information?

For information on the IRS website about international taxpayers,see this page.

For general information about international taxpayers, see Publication 54, "Taxation of U.S. Citizens and Residents Abroad."

For information on the Affordable Care Act and taxpayers outside the United States, seePublication 5187, "Health Care Law."


12.  I Haven't Filed All My Tax Returns – What Can I Do?

If you have not filed all the returns required of you and want to catch up on your filing obligations, see this announcement:  IRS makes changes to offshore-programs. [Consult tax counsel 

Along my professional career, I have been asked many times to provide “a general idea” of the tax consequences of a particular problem. I always decline.

Usually, the request also comes with a statement that is usually couched in these, or similar terms:  “it will only take you a few minutes”.

Let’s talk about the issues this raises, and why, in the almost twenty years I have been licensed to practice law, I have yet to opine verbally on a tax matter.

When it comes to transactions, most people come to tax attorneys because they are facing a choice in courses of action.  In their gut, they know that whatever choice they make may have a tax consequence.  What will that be?  The outcome is usually very important, for large amounts of money, tax penalties, and interest may be at stake.  Sometimes, it’s a person’s liberty that may hang in the balance.

Persons who are unfamiliar with the complexities and intricacies of the law of taxation lamentably assume that a “general answer” will suffice.  As many of my colleagues will attest, there are rules, but then there can be exceptions to the exceptions to the exceptions. Oftentimes, the “general answer” will be wrong for the facts, and relying on the “general answer” will likely lead to a bad outcome.

From the outset, there are challenges unique to tax law.  Defining the facts on which a tax opinion will be based on, is a skill in itself.  In taxation, all relevant facts must be explored and developed.  Sometimes, a particular fact is simply not known or cannot be ascertained.  If it is relevant, it must still be accounted for.  Clients may not fully be aware that a particular fact is very relevant to their matter!

Tax opinions begin with a complete recitation of all the relevant facts on which the opinion is based.  Good opinions also warn that any deviation in the facts may render the opinion invalid.  The task of collecting all the pertinent facts therefore resides in the hands of the attorney drafting the opinion.

Then there’s the issue of finding the applicable law and applying it to the facts.  There’s the Internal Revenue Code, all its regulations, Revenue Rulings, Private letter Rulings, Chief Counsel Memoranda, Revenue Procedures, instructions on tax forms, cases from the U.S. Tax Court, every single federal district court in the United States (94 of them), the Court of Claims, the 12 Courts of Appeal for the Circuits, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  There’s also tax treaties that may come into play.  And it is seldom I see a tax problem that also does not have a state and local angle.  Repeat for each of the states, and some local jurisdictions too.  To make it even more exciting, tax law changes constantly.  Tax attorneys and others in the industry must spend inordinate amounts of time just to stay on top of the latest ruling, court case, or development.  That takes time, effort and energy.  Some clients may not know about or wish to begin to understand.

Some problems are income tax cases.  Some involve estate, gift, generation skipping transfer, franchise, net worth, excise, employment taxes, real and personal property taxation….some involve multiple states, several countries…it can get hairy quickly.

And it should of course, only take “a few minutes”.  It really does not.  While some really wish for free advice and do not want to pay a fee, others just may not fully appreciate the enormity of the training, education and experience needed to get these things right.

If the opinion is not right, the client will come knocking, lawsuit in hand, because the client relied to his or her detriment in what he or she were told.  That’s why written opinions provide the clearest assurance to both client and attorney.

You wish for solid tax advice? Retain one of us.  You want general advice? Buy a book.