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Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Sweden

If you dread filing your US expat taxes each year, you aren’t alone. But Greenback Expat Tax Services can prepare your taxes efficiently, accurately and at a fair, honest price.

Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Sweden

Company name: Greenback Expat Tax Services

Name of Interviewee: David McKeegan, Co-Founder

Who is Greenback?

Greenback specializes in providing expert expat tax preparation and services for Americans living around the world. My wife, Carrie and I, started the company back in 2008. We were expats ourselves and couldn’t find an affordable, experienced expat tax provider so we decided to create the kind of company we were looking for.  We’ve grown exponentially since our inception and now serve clients in over 140 countries—it’s an exciting time for our company!

Where is Greenback located?

Greenback actually operates with a unique business structure. Our entire team works remotely, without a physical office. Like us, many of our team members are expats themselves!

We wanted to remain location independent since we really enjoy the expat lifestyle, but operating virtually also allows us to find the most experienced accountant and management professionals, no matter where the live. 

What are Greenback’s greatest strengths?

We certainly believe the expertise of our accountant team is the core of this company. Providing accurate returns is critical and we are meticulous in our hiring process. Customer service is another strength. Many clients return to us year after year for our tax expertise, but also because we are genuinely nice people to work with.  That is the ultimate compliment.

Why would a US expat choose to work with an expat tax company instead of preparing their taxes on their own?

Expats can absolutely file on their own if they are comfortable doing so! But the US expat tax filing requirements are complex and ever-changing, which makes it really difficult for expats to accurately file their taxes year-to-year. Understanding the deductions and exclusions that are available to offset US taxes can also be a challenge so it’s helpful to work with someone who knows the ins and outs of expat tax filing.

What is the biggest tax issue Americans in Sweden face?

Americans in Sweden face some of the highest taxes in the world. Between income tax, municipal tax and Social Security tax, it can really add up. However, expats may be able to use the Foreign Tax Credit (FTC) to offset their US tax liability as a result. The FTC is a dollar for dollar credit against tax paid to Sweden. For example, if you paid $35,000 in taxes to Sweden and your US tax liability was $28,000, you could choose not to use the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and only use the FTC. Not only would you eliminate your US tax liability (because you paid more in taxes to Sweden than you would to the US), but you’d then have a carryover of $7,000 to use against your US taxes in future years!

Do you file foreign bank account reports for your clients?

Yes! We prepare and file both FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) and FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) forms. We file the FBAR form (FinCEN 114) electronically with the Department of the Treasury by June 30th each year, while FATCA Form 8938 is filed along with your US Federal Tax Return. (Remember that if you file for an extension on your US return, you get an extension on FATCA, but NOT FBAR—that is always due June 30th.)

How does the tax preparation process work?

We wanted to make it as simple as possible, so everything is done online. Documents are uploaded to a secure online folder and the accountant prepares a draft return in about a week. In most cases, our accountants can even e-file on behalf of their clients.

What if someone hasn’t filed their US taxes since moving abroad?

This situation is really common, as many expats never knew they needed to file. We can help by filing back taxes, as well as prepare the necessary forms and tax returns if someone chooses to file under one of the IRS amnesty programs for delinquent filers, such as the Streamlined Filing Procedures.

Greenback Expat Tax Services

This text was produced and sponsored by Greenback Expat Tax Services.

For members

WORKING IN SWEDEN

CHECKLIST: Here’s what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

What authorities do you need to inform before you leave, are you liable to Swedish tax and how can you access your Swedish pension? Here's a checklist.

CHECKLIST: Here's what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

Tell the relevant authorities if you’re leaving for more than a year

If you’re planning on leaving Sweden for more than a year, you will have to let the authorities know. The main authorities in question are Skatteverket (the Tax Agency) and Försäkringskassan (the Social Insurance Agency).

Försäkringskassan

You have to tell Försäkringskassan when you leave so they can assess whether or not you still qualify for Swedish social insurance. As a general rule, you aren’t eligible for Swedish social insurance if you move away from Sweden, but there are exceptions, such as maternity or paternity benefits if you’re moving to another EU country.

This also applies to any family members who move with you – any over-18’s should send in their own documentation to Försäkingskassan about their move abroad. If you’re moving abroad with anyone under 18, you can include them in your own report to Försäkringskassan.

If both legal guardians are moving abroad together, both need to include any children in their application. If one legal guardian is moving abroad and the other is staying in Sweden, you need the guardian staying in Sweden to co-sign your application. If you are the sole legal guardian of any under-18’s travelling with you, you don’t need any documentation from the other parent.

You can register a move abroad with Försäkringskassan on the Mina sidor service on their website, here (log in with BankID).

Skatteverket

If you are moving abroad for a year or longer, you also need to tell the Tax Agency. This also applies if you were planning on moving abroad for less than a year but ended up staying for longer.

If you move to another Nordic country, you will also need to register your move with that country’s authorities if you will be there for six months or more. You’ll be deregistered from the Swedish population register the same day you become registered in another Nordic country’s register.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your personnummer – you’ll still be able to use it if you ever move back to Sweden – but you will no longer be registered as resident in Sweden.

Similarly to Försäkringskassan, you will also need to report any children you are bringing with you, and both legal guardians must sign the form, whether or not both guardians are moving abroad or not.

In some cases, you may still be liable to pay tax in Sweden even if you live abroad – particularly if you are a Swedish citizen or have lived in Sweden for at least ten years. This could be due to owning or renting out property in Sweden, having family in Sweden, or owning a business in Sweden.

You can tell the tax agency of your plans to move abroad here.

Contact your a-kassa, if relevant

If you are member of a Swedish a-kassa (unemployment insurance), make sure you tell them that you’re leaving the country. As a general rule, you have unemployment insurance in the country you work in, so you will most likely have to cancel your a-kassa subscription.

If you are moving to another country with the a-kassa system, such as Denmark or Finland, it may pay to wait until you have joined a new a-kassa in that country before you cancel your membership in Sweden.

This is due to the fact, in some countries, you only qualify for benefits once you fulfil a membership and employment requirement. In Sweden and Denmark, you must have been a member for 12 months before you qualify. In Finland, the membership requirement is 26 weeks.

If you qualify for a-kassa in Sweden before you leave the country, you may be able to transfer your a-kassa membership period over to your new a-kassa abroad and qualify there straight away, but this usually only applies if your period of a-kassa membership is unbroken.

Check what applies in your new country before you cancel your membership in Sweden – your a-kassa should be able to help you with this.

Contact your union, if relevant

Similarly, if you are a member of a Swedish union or fackförbund, let them know you’re moving abroad.

If you’re moving to another Nordic country, they might be able to point you in the direction of the relevant union in that country, if you want to remain a member of a union in your new country.

If you’re moving to another EU country, you may be able to remain a member of your Swedish union as a foreign worker with the status utlandsvistelse.

If you chose to do this, you will usually pay a lower monthly fee than you do in Sweden, and they can still provide assistance with work related issues – although it may make more sense to join a local union in your field with more knowledge of the labout market.

If you don’t want to be a member of a union in your new country and don’t want to be a member of a Swedish union, you should contact your  union and ask them to cancel your membership.

Collect relevant documents regarding your Swedish pension

If you have worked in Sweden and paid tax for any length of time, you will have paid in to a Swedish pension. You retain this pension wherever you move, but you must apply for it yourself.

To do so, you will need to give details of when you lived and worked in Sweden, as well as providing copies of work contracts, if you have them. If you have these documents before you leave Sweden, make copies so that you can provide them when asked.

If you move to the EU/EES or Switzerland, you may also have the right to other, non-work based pensions, such as guarantee pension for low- or no-income earners, or the income pension complement (inkomstpensionstillägg).

Currently, you can receive your Swedish pension once you turn 62 – although there is a proposal in parliament due to raise pension age to 63 for those born after 1961 from 2023, so this may change.

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