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How to securely complete your US taxes from abroad

These days, more and more Americans are filing their taxes online, thanks to services like TurboTax and H&R Block that are making it easy for them to do so. And if you’re an American expat, you’ll almost definitely be filing your taxes online from abroad. You may be used to doing your taxes in person with an accountant, but when you’re abroad, chances are you won’t be able to do so. The good thing is that tax prep software is getting better and better, and going it alone and filing your taxes yourself has never been easier. After all, when you’re an expat, you’re gonna get quite accustomed to going solo and discovering how to get by on your own.

But filing US taxes from abroad can be risky if you don’t take the necessary precautions to protect your data. When you’re an expat, you know that you’re not necessarily always guaranteed to have access to a secure, private Wi-Fi network. Especially if you’re an expat who’s often traveling, you’ll be spending a lot of time on public Wi-Fi networks in cafes, airports, hotels, trains, etc.

Your online passwords, credit card numbers, social security number, name, address, phone number, emails, text messages, financial data, health data, and much more can be up for grabs.

The problem is that public Wi-Fi networks can be dangerously unsecure and are therefore often a target for hackers and cybercriminals to exploit. This means that if you’re on a public Wi-Fi network and you don’t take steps to secure your connection, everything you do on the public Wi-Fi network can easily be intercepted by a malicious actor. And when you’re doing your taxes online, you’re submitting quite a bit of highly sensitive personal data that absolutely must be protected.

You’ll want to make sure the data you’re sending online while filing your taxes is properly secured, and the best way to secure your sensitive data is to use a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN secures your data by routing your internet connection through an encrypted tunnel to a secure server in a remote location. By encrypting your data, the VPN will effectively hide everything you’re doing online from any individual or entity looking to snoop on your activity, including from hackers and cybercriminals who would want to steal your sensitive personal data for their own nefarious purposes.

Not just that, but since the VPN will route your connection through a remote server in a different location, you’ll be able to spoof your location to make it appear as though you’re located in the United States even if you’re actually abroad in a different country. Some online tax prep sites may require you to be in the US to file your taxes online, which is, of course, a bit inconvenient if you’re an expat living abroad.

No need to worry about that if you use a VPN because any website you visit or online service you use when you’re connected to a VPN will register your location as that of the VPN server you’re connecting through since you’ll be using the IP address of the VPN server instead of your true IP address. This means that you can make the tax prep tool you’re using to file your taxes online from abroad think you’re in the US by connecting to a VPN server in the US and virtually tunneling your way back home.

You may think, though, that since you’re an expat working abroad that you don’t have to file US taxes since you’re out of the country, anyway. Well, depending on your particular situation, you may still have tax filing obligations in the US. If you collect any kind of personal income from US sources (salary from a US employer, rental properties, royalties, inheritance, interest, dividends, capital gains, etc.), then you may be obligated to file US taxes even if you’re living abroad as an expat.

Even if your income is entirely from foreign sources and you’re being paid by a foreign employer in the country where you’re an expat, you may still need to file US taxes – yes, even if you’re already being taxed abroad in a foreign country. This is why it’s essential that you check and see what your US tax filing obligations are based on your particular situation. The last thing you want is to run into any issues with the IRS because you didn’t take into account your US tax filing obligations from abroad.

Sure, filing your taxes can be a headache and something that can become even more complicated if you’re living abroad as an expat. But at least you’ll have one less thing to worry about when you file your US taxes from abroad with a VPN. A VPN is such a simple, affordable tool you can use for all kinds of things, and using one to protect your sensitive personal and financial data when you file your taxes online from abroad is essential for any American expat.

Written by: Attila Tomaschek

Attila is a Hungarian-American currently living in Budapest. Being in the VPN game for over 5 years, along with his acute understanding of the digital privacy space enables him to share his expertise with ProPrivacy readers. Attila has been featured as a privacy expert in press outlets such as Security Week, Silicon Angle, Fox News, Reader’s Digest, The Washington Examiner, Techopedia, Disruptor Daily, DZone, and more. He has also contributed bylines for several online publications like SC Magazine UK, Legal Reader, ITProPortal, BetaNews, and Verdict.


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