The spring season brings the promise of warmer weather and longer days. For better or worse, spring is also the time for Americans to file taxes. While the U.S. Embassy does not have a formal role in helping Americans file taxes, I can share a few resources that may help you. This year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) extended the deadline to file and pay federal income taxes to May 17, 2021.
Who needs to file taxes?
If you are a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder), you are responsible for filing U.S. federal income tax returns even when living abroad. If you have not filed taxes before, you will find that this also requires a U.S. Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). The TIN for U.S. citizens is their Social Security Number (SSN). If you live in Finland and have forgotten your SSN or need to apply for one, you can send an application to the nearest Federal Benefits Unit, which is housed in the U.S. Embassy in Norway. Application information and other frequently asked questions can be found at Embassy Oslo’s website. Our staff here at the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki can make certified copies of required identity documents, like your U.S. passport, as part of your mail-in application.
How to get started
Tax season can feel a bit daunting, but there are plenty of resources to help you find the best way to file. The IRS partners with public companies to offer Free File , a program that lets qualified households prepare and file federal income taxes online for free. If that program does not meet your needs, there are several companies that offer tax preparation services. These companies can either connect you to a certified tax professional or may offer online platforms that walk you through filing electronically.
What about FATCA?
Many bank customers in Finland will have noticed that Finnish financial institutions enforce guidelines from the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). This is a U.S. law designed to fight tax evasion by requiring some Americans to report foreign financial assets like bank accounts and stock holdings. Whether you have extra documents to file depends on the amount of assets you hold and whether you file your taxes as a single head of household or jointly with a spouse. These thresholds, which start at least $50,000, are described further on the IRS website.
What to do if you have not been filing U.S. federal taxes?
If you are a U.S. citizen who has not been compliant with filing obligations, you should file any outstanding U.S. tax returns and any other required documents as soon as possible. There are a few ways to do this, depending on your situation. For example, if you did not know you needed to file your taxes, you may be eligible to use Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures . Other resources that may apply to your household can be found in this joint frequently asked questions page.
Everyone’s financial situation is different. This may mean that it takes time and effort to find the right way forward for yourself, but hopefully the resources linked in this article can help you answer some of your tax-related questions.
Maria Mate-Kodjo has served as the Vice Consul at U.S. Embassy Helsinki since November 2020. She was previously a Political officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where she reported on social issues, human rights, the environment, and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation.
Correction made 18.3.2021 on extended tax filing due date.