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Any recommendations for local tax professional for filing US taxes?


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Hi everyone,

 

I moved overseas a few years ago and continued to use the same tax person that I used back home. Lately, though, I feel like this person just isn't very helpful and isn't experienced with customers who live abroad.

 

I'm looking for recommendations for a local tax professional in Bangkok, someone I can meet with in person to answer questions, exchange documents, etc. Someone reliable and professional.

 

Can anyone recommend someone? I realize that a lot of people file by themselves or use TurboTax, but I have specific questions and would like to understand my situation better.

 

I found an agency called American Asia Tax Company. Seems like a small firm based out of Bangkok, which is promising, but I was wondering if anyone here uses them.

 

Thanks so much for any info or recommendations!

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Is there some reason you are willing to pay a premium to be in the same room with your tax preparer?  That's what you will be doing if you hire a US tax prep firm here in BKK.  The alternative is to use your search engine on "us tax preparation expats," for example, which will turn up a list of US companies advertising special expertise in just this issue.

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14 minutes ago, cmarshall said:

Is there some reason you are willing to pay a premium to be in the same room with your tax preparer?  That's what you will be doing if you hire a US tax prep firm here in BKK.  The alternative is to use your search engine on "us tax preparation expats," for example, which will turn up a list of US companies advertising special expertise in just this issue.

Yes, I will pay a premium for peace of mind. I have 2 issues with my current tax prep person: she doesn't have experience with expats, AND it's "out of sight, out of mind" with her. It's very hard to get in contact with her, she replies to my emails days later with only partial info, etc.

 

I believe this would be the same situation if I go with some random expat tax preparation website. I would just be a name on a page to them, and every time I contact them with a question I would be speaking to a different person who isn't familiar with my situation.

 

Furthermore, you say that finding a tax preparer here in BKK will be at a "premium," and yet there's at least one agency (maybe more) here in BKK that charges less money than the prices I see online on all these random websites for expat tax preparation.

 

For example, I'm looking at TaxesForExpats.com right now and their "core" service, which is 1040 only with no extra paperwork or complications, costs $350. However, I was quoted a number lower than that by a firm here in BKK.

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26 minutes ago, cmarshall said:

Is there some reason you are willing to pay a premium to be in the same room with your tax preparer?  That's what you will be doing if you hire a US tax prep firm here in BKK.  The alternative is to use your search engine on "us tax preparation expats," for example, which will turn up a list of US companies advertising special expertise in just this issue.

Update: I just checked ExpatTaxProfessionals.com. Their 1040 service, which again is 1040 only with no complications, is $425. That is also more money than the amount I was quoted by a firm here in BKK.

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28 minutes ago, cmarshall said:

Is there some reason you are willing to pay a premium to be in the same room with your tax preparer?  That's what you will be doing if you hire a US tax prep firm here in BKK.  The alternative is to use your search engine on "us tax preparation expats," for example, which will turn up a list of US companies advertising special expertise in just this issue.

I just checked GreenbackTaxServices.com, and their federal tax return fee is $485.

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32 minutes ago, cmarshall said:

Is there some reason you are willing to pay a premium to be in the same room with your tax preparer?  That's what you will be doing if you hire a US tax prep firm here in BKK.  The alternative is to use your search engine on "us tax preparation expats," for example, which will turn up a list of US companies advertising special expertise in just this issue.

BrightTax.com is $459 for federal tax return, which again is more expensive than the firm I found here in BKK.

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My point is that it would be better to choose a firm based on their expertise, not their location, which is basically irrelevant since all the expert knowledge required will be about the US tax system, not the Thai system.  There are more experts on US taxation in the US than anywhere else.  I do my own taxes, but if I needed to find a US tax preparer I would look for recommendations on expat websites in any country that suggest a US firm.  

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5 minutes ago, cmarshall said:

My point is that it would be better to choose a firm based on their expertise, not their location, which is basically irrelevant since all the expert knowledge required will be about the US tax system, not the Thai system.  There are more experts on US taxation in the US than anywhere else.  I do my own taxes, but if I needed to find a US tax preparer I would look for recommendations on expat websites in any country that suggest a US firm.  

I thought it would go without saying that I wouldn't choose a firm based SOLELY on their location, but I guess not. So let me clarify: I don't want to choose a firm SOLELY because they're based in BKK.

 

What I am looking for is a firm that is both based in BKK AND reputable/professional/experienced/etc. I asked for recommendations on here in order to find firms that fulfill BOTH of these requirements. My original post mentioned 3 requirements: located in BKK, reliable, and professional.

 

It's certainly true that there are MORE experts on US taxation in the US than anywhere else. But I'm not hiring an army. I need one person or one firm, that's all. 

 

Also, going back to one of my previous points, I don't want to talk to a different person at GLOBOTAX every time I call them. I don't want to repeat all the details of my situation every time I call them. That's the problem I'm having with the person I use now, and I don't like it. I want a specific person that I can speak to each time, the same person each time.

 

Here are the choices. Choice A:

--Experienced

--Local

--Cheaper

--Same person every time I speak to them

--Can go to their office instead of leaving messages on phones or sending emails

--Recommended by real people, either on Thai Visa or elsewhere

 

Choice B:

--Experienced

--Somewhere in the US, on a different time zone, so maybe I can only call them at night here

--More expensive (compared to the quote I received from a firm in BKK)

--Different person every time I speak to them, so I'll have to tell them my details over and over again

--I can send emails or call them, but there's no telling how long I'll be on hold or how long it will take them to reply to emails (this is the other problem I have with the current person I'm using)

--Recommended with questionable reviews online that might be paid reviews (not genuine)

 

Based on these details, Choice A is the better choice. I will only go with a random expat tax website if I can't find a firm that is local AND experienced.

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can't imagine a bigger red flag than a tax return prepared by a company in Thailand. 

 

just he word Thailand associates you with the scum of the Earth in the eyes of the Feds. 

 

What is it you are doing here that you need to get Thais involved? do you have a Thai business? 

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To the OP:

I used to use a US-based tax preparer till a few years ago. Until I figured out that all she was doing was plugging my numbers into her software and charging me for what the machine spat out. Even then she was getting things wrong.

 

So I fired her and set out a few hours that April to do my own and have been doing so past few years. If your taxes aren't very complicated it's not hard if you follow the instructions, every schedule/form coming with its own set. The one time I did need help I called the IRS Help line (yes, they have one and its free).

 

Could I ask what schedules/forms you typically file? Just curious how complicated your situation is.

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10 minutes ago, Why Me said:

To the OP:

I used to use a US-based tax preparer till a few years ago. Until I figured out that all she was doing was plugging my numbers into her software and charging me for what the machine spat out. Even then she was getting things wrong.

 

So I fired her and set out a few hours that April to do my own and have been doing so past few years. If your taxes aren't very complicated it's not hard if you follow the instructions, every schedule/form coming with its own set. The one time I did need help I called the IRS Help line (yes, they have one and its free).

 

Could I ask what schedules/forms you typically file? Just curious how complicated your situation is.

Your past situation sounds very similar to the situation I'm in right now. The person I've been using has been filing both a federal and state tax return for me, but I've found out recently that supposedly I only need to be filing the federal one since I'm overseas.

 

The more worrying issue is that I have a Roth IRA that I contribute to each month. I told my current tax person about this years ago and it was never an issue, but recently I've been looking into it because I had a nagging feeling that something wasn't right. I had always heard that with a Roth IRA you pay taxes when you put money in and then don't pay taxes when you withdraw the money. 

 

It appears that what's been happening is that she hasn't been including this Roth IRA contribution on my tax forms. I blame her for forgetting to do this or something, but I also blame myself for not questioning it sooner. So at the current moment, I'm looking for someone who can help me file this year's return AND take a look at my previous years' returns to see if I need to make amendments or something.

 

Anyway. I just plain hate all the tax stuff. I would much rather just pass my documents over to a competent person and say, "Here, figure all this out and help me file for a reasonable fee." 

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49 minutes ago, tcatsninfan said:

Your past situation sounds very similar to the situation I'm in right now. The person I've been using has been filing both a federal and state tax return for me, but I've found out recently that supposedly I only need to be filing the federal one since I'm overseas.

 

The more worrying issue is that I have a Roth IRA that I contribute to each month. I told my current tax person about this years ago and it was never an issue, but recently I've been looking into it because I had a nagging feeling that something wasn't right. I had always heard that with a Roth IRA you pay taxes when you put money in and then don't pay taxes when you withdraw the money. 

 

It appears that what's been happening is that she hasn't been including this Roth IRA contribution on my tax forms. I blame her for forgetting to do this or something, but I also blame myself for not questioning it sooner. So at the current moment, I'm looking for someone who can help me file this year's return AND take a look at my previous years' returns to see if I need to make amendments or something.

 

Anyway. I just plain hate all the tax stuff. I would much rather just pass my documents over to a competent person and say, "Here, figure all this out and help me file for a reasonable fee." 

 

Good news!  Roth contributions are not reported on your tax return and have no effect on the amount of your tax.  More good news!  In most cases once you have moved abroad you are no longer liable for state income tax.  The nagging feeling you have is that your tax preparation person knows more about US taxes than you do.

 

 

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15 minutes ago, cmarshall said:

 

Good news!  Roth contributions are not reported on your tax return and have no effect on the amount of your tax.  More good news!  In most cases once you have moved abroad you are no longer liable for state income tax.  The nagging feeling you have is that your tax preparation person knows more about US taxes than you do.

 

 

Oh man, you just made my day! If that Roth part is true, then my situation isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. 

 

The reason I got worried about the Roth stuff is that I was speaking to someone here, someone who "talked a good talk" and seemed knowledgeable, and he said that whatever money I contribute to a Roth has to be declared on my taxes and is taxable, and it also isn't covered by the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. So, to hear him tell the story, I would need to amend my past 6 tax returns to declare that money and then pay taxes on it...

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23 minutes ago, tcatsninfan said:

Oh man, you just made my day! If that Roth part is true, then my situation isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. 

 

The reason I got worried about the Roth stuff is that I was speaking to someone here, someone who "talked a good talk" and seemed knowledgeable, and he said that whatever money I contribute to a Roth has to be declared on my taxes and is taxable, and it also isn't covered by the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. So, to hear him tell the story, I would need to amend my past 6 tax returns to declare that money and then pay taxes on it...

 

Hmm.  The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion does have an effect on your eligibility to make a Roth contribution.  You cannot contribute income that was excluded by the FEIE.  You can only contribute income above the cutoff for the FEIE.  So, if the FEIE cutoff was $137,000 and you only earned $100,000 then you were not eligible to contribute to any IRA, Roth or traditional.  

 

But really, you need to get a definitive answer.  My recommendation is that you open a free account at fairmark.com and post your situation with ALL the details there.  Chances are you will get a free answer from a CPA in a day or two.

 

While at fairmark.com you might also ask for a referral to a good company that prepares expat tax returns.

Edited by cmarshall
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1 hour ago, cmarshall said:

You cannot contribute income that was excluded by the FEIE.  You can only contribute income above the cutoff for the FEIE.

I contributed to my ROTH while working here when almost all my income fell under FEIE. But the operative word I understood was the second E = Earned. As long as the income is earned it can be used to contribute to the ROTH.

 

That's what I understand and what I did for years. I just found this

which suggests FEIE amounts must be added back in to determine contribution limits, but are not excluded from being contributed. Which makes sense, because if the government is going to say some of my income is not taxable per se, then they shouldn't come back and tell me, well you want to save some of it do you, now you have to pay taxes.

 

Of course, course ROTH contributions can't be deducted from earned income in the given year. They just grow untaxed.

 

1 hour ago, tcatsninfan said:

he said that whatever money I contribute to a Roth has to be declared on my taxes and is taxable, and it also isn't covered by the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

I would say that the first part is right in that it "has to be declared on my income and is taxable (or FEIEed, but shown on the return)". The second part is wrong.

 

I will defer to a CPA but damned if I will go back and change anything. Heck, I contributed from my income here to a ROTH for years of which several were when I hired a professional tax preparer and I was audited too (for unrelated issues) a couple of times when I assume my whole return was scrutinized by the IRS.

 

Added: OP, if the ROTH contribution is your concern I would suggest get an answer from the horse's mouth. Call the IRS help line. Make sure to be informed about ROTH IRA contribution limits first or you may end up confused.

 

Otherwise, your return might be quite simple. Unless you are in the multimillionaire class or some weird category like a blind lesbian head of household with a common law wife and two kids adopted from Tanazania, you should be able to do your own return in a couple of hours. It's fun. Try it.

Edited by Why Me
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15 hours ago, Why Me said:

I contributed to my ROTH while working here when almost all my income fell under FEIE. But the operative word I understood was the second E = Earned. As long as the income is earned it can be used to contribute to the ROTH.

 

That's what I understand and what I did for years. I just found this

which suggests FEIE amounts must be added back in to determine contribution limits, but are not excluded from being contributed. Which makes sense, because if the government is going to say some of my income is not taxable per se, then they shouldn't come back and tell me, well you want to save some of it do you, now you have to pay taxes.

 

Of course, course ROTH contributions can't be deducted from earned income in the given year. They just grow untaxed.

 

I would say that the first part is right in that it "has to be declared on my income and is taxable (or FEIEed, but shown on the return)". The second part is wrong.

 

I will defer to a CPA but damned if I will go back and change anything. Heck, I contributed from my income here to a ROTH for years of which several were when I hired a professional tax preparer and I was audited too (for unrelated issues) a couple of times when I assume my whole return was scrutinized by the IRS.

 

Added: OP, if the ROTH contribution is your concern I would suggest get an answer from the horse's mouth. Call the IRS help line. Make sure to be informed about ROTH IRA contribution limits first or you may end up confused.

 

Otherwise, your return might be quite simple. Unless you are in the multimillionaire class or some weird category like a blind lesbian head of household with a common law wife and two kids adopted from Tanazania, you should be able to do your own return in a couple of hours. It's fun. Try it.

Thanks @Why Me, both for your personal anecdote and your thoughtful reply. What you say makes sense. I will call the IRS help line if there's a question about anything.

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There are advantages to using a tax preparer familiar with the Thai-U.S. Tax Treaty, especially if you earn income in Thailand or are retired, living most of the year in Thailand and have U.S.-based retirement income from non-U.S. government sources, like a company- or union-pension or make withdrawals from your IRA or 401k plans.

 

Hubby and I have been using American Asian Tax Company for several years.  James Martin is their Bangkok-based customer service rep and Susan Yeatts is their U.S.-based IRS-enrolled CPA.  https://www.americanasiatax.com/team

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A very quick read tells me that you cannot contribute excluded income to an IRA (Roth, traditional).

 

This make sense, obviously.

 

There are some nuances (unexcluded income, say from a  source in the U.S. or a very limited amount above the FEIE cap), and work-arounds (foreign tax credit vs. exclusion), but I'd definitely find a tax professional to advise on a course forward. The penalties can be quite high.

 

 

 

 

Also agree that if you have no state domicile, and satisfy the State's other revenue department's requirements, and you have no intention to return, that filing a state return may not be neessary. Just make sure you close things out with them. Often they require some documentation - my state has a very lengthy form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by mtls2005
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