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Should I File Form 2555 or 2555EZ

When to File Form 2555EZ

The foreign income exclusion can eliminate a substantial amount of your income from tax, provided you earn it in a foreign country. To claim the exclusion, you must file either IRS Form 2555 or 2555EZ. Both forms give you the same result; however, IRS Form 2555EZ is much easier to fill out but is only available if your situation isn’t complex.

The IRS allows expatriates to use Form 2555EZ to claim the foreign exclusion only if the income you earn abroad is from employment, you don’t have any additional self-employment income, you are a citizen or legal resident of the U.S., your total earnings abroad don’t exceed the maximum foreign income exclusion that applies to the tax year, you don’t report any housing or moving expense deductions and you cannot, or choose not to claim the foreign housing deduction or exclusion. If you can’t satisfy these requirements, you have no choice but to file the long-form 2555.

Form 2555 and Form 2555EZ Have Same Requirements

Other than saving time when preparing your federal income tax return, both forms require you to satisfy the same exact tests before you can claim the foreign earned income exclusion. One way to become eligible for the exclusion is by satisfying the bona-fide residence test. This requires that you live abroad for a full calendar tax year (Jan. 1 through Dec. 31). The key to meeting this test is that you have an intention to remain outside the U.S. for an indefinite period of time and not just for the duration of a temporary job requirement. Moreover, it is perfectly fine for you to return periodically to the U.S. for vacations and still be a bona-fide resident of a foreign country. As an alternative to the residency test, you can still claim the exclusion if you satisfy the physical presence test. This is an easier test to satisfy since the IRS only requires that you be physically on foreign soil for a total (need not be consecutive) of 330 days during a 12-month period. Furthermore, the 12-month period doesn’t need to be a calendar tax year.

IRS Reference: Foreign Income Exclusion–Which Form to File