The Tax Consequences of Remote Work Visas

Sharing is Caring!

Are you intrigued by the increasing number of countries offering remote work visas, enticing you to take your remote job on the road and stay in their country for up to a year?

Join the club. But…

What about the tax logistics? How and where do you file? Who do you pay tax to? And will you end up paying double tax for the privilege of working abroad for a year? 

I may have written a killer article about filing your taxes as a digital nomad, but for this matter, we need to go deeper…and to do that, I need to bring in the big guns. 

Olivier Wagner is the founder of 1040 Abroad, and he’s been helping expats and digital nomads with their U.S. tax needs since 2012. He prepares U.S. tax returns for expats and nomads who need regular annual tax filing, people getting into compliance after years/decades of not filing, and even people planning to renounce their citizenship. He also prepares Canadian tax returns! 

I asked him to help answer the questions top of mind for remote workers who want to live abroad and take advantage of remote work visas. Below are his words of wisdom. 

You Might Also Like: 

Olivier Wagner

The following is written by Olivier Wagner of 1040Abroad.com. 

This article is for the new digital nomads; as the covid 19 crisis hit, a few interesting things happened, namely:

  • Countries which relied on tourism saw that source of income vanish almost completely overnight. And many of these countries no longer want people coming in and out, staying 2 weeks or less, potentially spreading the virus to the local population.
  • As companies took measures to counter the spread of the virus in the workplace, the ability to work remotely became not only widely accepted but downright necessary.

As a result, countries are wisening up to make up for the lost tourism income. They’re capitalizing on remote work trends to attract a longer-term population of foreigner who would earn money from overseas and spend it in the local economy. By staying put, they would also mitigate the risk of spreading the virus.

And some employees also wised up: “If I can work from home, would it make a difference if my home was next to the beach in some tropical island?” 

Barbados, Bermuda, Estonia, and Georgia were the first countries to create remote work visas. Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, the Cayman Islands, Dubai, and Iceland have also introduced a Digital Nomad Visa since. 

Here’s an up-to-date list of remote worker visas and the qualification criteria.

QUICK-FIRE Q&A: REMOTE WORK VISAS AND TAXES

Here are a few potential questions you may have about remote work and the quick answers. Further down you’ll get the full scoop. 

If I’m working remotely from Bermuda for a year, where do I file my taxes? Bermuda? Or my home country (U.S.)? Or both? 

First, assuming the case of a US citizen who is working in Bermuda: U.S. citizens would have to file a U.S. tax return. Bermuda stated that they will not tax those who work for a foreign (non-Bermuda) employer under the digital nomad visa. As such, they would not have to file a tax return with Bermuda.

Is the answer to the above question different depending on the country I’m living in that year? (eg: Estonia vs Bermuda)

Let’s look at a few countries:

Barbados likewise stated that they will not tax those who work under the digital nomad visa.

Estonia and Iceland do not address that question in their digital nomad visa FAQs. Instead, if we turn to the US-Estonia and US-Iceland tax treaty, we find that one doesn’t have to pay tax income tax there if:- He or she is present in Estonia / Iceland for less than 183 days in the year- He or she is an employee of a US company (which doesn’t have a presence in Estonia / Iceland)The same would apply if he/she was from Canada as the Canada-Estonia and Canada-Iceland tax treaties have the same provision.

Dubai, part of the UAE does have income tax system for individuals, so no need to file a tax return there.

For other countries, check the FAQ of their official website describing the digital nomad visa, the international taxation page on Wikipedia, or contact me at [email protected]

What’s involved with filing my taxes abroad? Can I get my U.S. accountant to do it all?

Few accountants would be proficient in two or more tax systems. If you are required to file a local tax return in the country you are visiting, you most likely would hire a local tax preparer to file the local non-resident tax return, reporting only the employment income earned while in that country and then hand it over to your U.S. accountant who might use it to claim a foreign tax credit.

To be honest, I expected many such digital nomads to only file in the U.S., as a practical matter. I am pleasantly surprised to see that most of these countries legitimately do not require you to file a tax return.

If I qualify for Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) because I’m living abroad that year, and I work remotely for a U.S. company, does that mean I don’t pay tax at all (up to $106k)? Or will I still have to file and pay tax in Bermuda (for example)?

That’s correct, if you can exclude all of your earning using the FEIE (more on that in a minute), you wouldn’t have any U.S. income tax owing.This will not impact your local income tax obligation. So you would still owe tax to the local country if applicable, but as we’ve seen it’s not usually required to file taxes abroad.

DETAILED TAX REQUIREMENTS FOR REMOTE WORKERS LIVING ABROAD

This information is specifically for people who had a brick and mortar job that has been converted to a remote job. It may also be useful to those who were already digital nomads, but probably to a lesser extent since you probably already did some tax planning already.I’ll further restrict it to those from Canada and the United States (although residency-based taxation countries tend to operate a similar way as Canada).

Tax for U.S. Citizens Abroad

If you are a U.S. citizen read on. 

Income tax

As mentioned above, you would still report your worldwide income on your U.S. income tax return (form 1040) for as long as you remain a US. citizen (feel free to contact me if you want to change that and have some questions).

The fact that the U.S. operates on a citizenship-based taxation regime is often criticized, and rightly so. But fortunately it also has the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion which in some way makes it more attractive than other countries.

Foreign Tax Credit 

If you paid income tax to the destination country on your employment income (which was anything you earned while physically present in that country, regardless of who your employer is – for example if your employer is a US corporation and you are paid into a US based bank account), you will be entitled to claim a foreign tax credit on form 1116. It will give you a dollar-for-dollar credit for taxes paid to that country, and therefore it would completely offset your US income tax liability if the tax rate in the destination country was higher than the one in the US.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE)

I will however assume that you didn’t pay foreign income tax, or if you did it was at a rate significantly lower that the US tax rate. As such, you would have to rely on the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion instead. The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion allows you to exclude your foreign earned income, meaning either wages or self-employment income that were earned when you were physically present in a foreign county. 

For tax year 2020, the maximum exclusion is $107,600 per person.In order to qualify, you would need to meet either the Bona Fide Residence Test or the Physical Presence Test:

Bona Fide Residence Test

This test requires you to be an actual resident of a foreign country; it would be achieved by having many ties with that country. In addition, it is a legal requirement to have been a resident of that country for a full calendar year. 

As such, someone who left the U.S. in 2020 would not be able to claim the Bona Fide Residence Test since he/she was not a resident of that country on January 1, 2020.In addition, having a remote work visa valid for a single year is probably not sufficient to claim that test regardless. It would require a more permanent immigration status.

Physical Presence Test

Bingo. This is probably the one you will rely on to completely avoid paying U.S. income tax on the income earned in the destination country. It requires you to have spent at least 330 days in a foreign country or countries within any 12 month period (leaving you 35 days to spend in the U.S. or over international water). 

The important word here is “any” 12 month period; as such, May 18, 2020 to May 17, 2021 would be one such period – although that would mean: 

  1. that you would have to file your 2020 tax return after May 17, 2021 and
  2. the maximum amount that can be excluded would be prorated. So instead of being $107,600, it would be 107,600/366 x {the number of days of that 12 month period which fell in 2020).

You can find info on the Foreign Tax Credit vs. the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion here.

Social security

If you work for a U.S. corporation, generally speaking you will still be liable to pay social security even if you work outside the U.S. – your employer would simply continue to withhold your social security from your paycheck/W-2.
If you work for a foreign (non-US) corporation, you would no longer be liable for social security taxes when working outside the U.S..
If you are self-employed, you will be liable for social security tax; it will be called self-employment tax in this case. The filing is easier (attach schedule SE to your tax return), but the rate is the same 15.3% of net income. 

You might be able to avoid paying it if your destination country has a social security totalization agreement with the U.S., but that would also mean that you would now be paying social security tax to that country instead.

Tax for Canadian Citizens Abroad

Canadian citizens and residents have a different tax situation to the United States. 

Income Tax

Similar to United States citizens, you would still report your worldwide income on your income tax return as long as you’re a Canadian resident.

Canada does allow you to claim a Foreign Tax Credit for taxes paid to a foreign country. It will give you a dollar-for-dollar credit for taxes paid to that country, and therefore it would completely offset your Canadian income tax liability if the tax rate in the destination country was higher than the one in Canada. Sadly, with the Canadian tax rate as high as it is, you may still have some actual tax owing.

What about becoming a non-resident of Canada? 

In most cases, you would need to cut your ties with Canada and establish strong ties with the destination country. It most likely wouldn’t be the case if living there for a year on a remote work visa although you could have a stronger case if staying multiple years. Generally, these digital nomad visas wouldn’t allow you to become a non-resident of Canada.

If you are a tax resident of the other country and that other country has a tax treaty with Canada and you have a “permanent home available to you” in that country and not in Canada (feel free to contact me to discuss it further), you would have a somewhat better chance of being a non-resident of Canada by using the tax treaty (and therefore stop being taxed on your income sourced outside Canada).

Nora’s Note: I looked into becoming a non-resident of Canada when I traveled full-time and it felt pretty extreme (requiring me to close all bank accounts and stay out of the country for certain amounts of time). So for lack of staying anywhere else long enough to become an official resident of that country, I remained a “factual resident” of Canada for all the years I lived and worked abroad. That meant I filed one tax return – to Canada – and I claimed my total worldwide income each year. I was very grateful for having arranged my finances this way when I eventually returned to Canada to set up a home base

Canada Pension Plan (CPP)

Generally, employment has to take place in Canada to be taxed under the Canada Pension Plan or the Employment Insurance Act. However, in certain situations employment outside Canada may be taxed as well. This is the case if a person is working outside Canada for a Canadian company or the Canadian government.

In addition, if you are an employee working outside Canada, voluntary CPP contributions can be made if Canada has a Social Security totalization agreement with the other country.

Confused? 

If you don’t speak “accountant”, some of the jargon in this article might have been tricky. I started 1040 Abroad in 2012, as a US citizen who moved to Canada. I have since been a Canadian resident, a Canadian non-resident, and a resident again. So I know the ropes, and I welcome your questions.

For more information, please contact my team here

 Are you considering a remote work visa but aren't sure how taxes are dealt with? Your questions are answered here. #remotework #remoteworkvisa #digitalnomadvisa #digitalnomadtaxes #workabroad #TheProfessionalHobo
Please share this on Pinterest!

Sharing is Caring!

Leave a Comment