May 10, 2013 - Phil Hodgen

When to file Form 8854

We get questions from our handy-dandy Contact page. Some of them are important questions that apply to a lot of people.

One such question came in this morning. Someone expatriated yesterday (i.e., in 2013). He knows he must file Form 8854. But when does he file Form 8854? Today? Next year? That’s worth a blog post.

You file Form 8854 as an attachment to the income tax return you file for the year in which you relinquish citizenship. You file your income tax return for the year in which you relinquish citizenship according to the standard deadlines that apply to nonresident aliens.

Look at the Instructions to Form 8854 (PDF), Page 3 under the heading of “When to File”.

“If you expatriated after June 16, 2008, attach Form 8854 to your income tax return (Form 1040 or Form 1040NR) for the year that includes your expatriation date, and file your return by the due date of your tax return (including extensions).”

The filing deadline possibilities are April 15 or June 15. Figure out which one applies to you. The filing deadline for your tax return (and Form 8854) is extended if you apply for a filing extension in a timely manner. That can take you until October 15, and in some cases until December 15 for your filing deadline.

For someone who terminates citizenship in 2013, this means that the earliest filing deadline possible is April 15, 2014, and the conceivably latest filing deadline for Form 8854 (attached to the 2013 tax returns) is December 15, 2014 (assuming you get the right extension requests filed on time).

Lots of people get tripped up by this. There is another “When to File” heading on Page 2 of the Instructions to Form 8854 that tells you to file Form 8854 “as soon as possible” after expatriating. If you relinquished your U.S. citizenship in 2013, don’t worry about that stuff on Page 2. It applies to people who terminated citizenship under the old rules. Your filing instructions are on Page 3.