America is, of course, famously the home of “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, as well as, perhaps rather more infamously, the concept of lifelong, worldwide taxation.
The result of this is that no matter where they are, or how long they may have been away from the US, American citizens and green card holders are obliged to file a seemingly ever-growing package of annual tax and information returns annually with the IRS.
At first glance, the idea of filing a tax return and other forms annually, for one’s entire life, may not sound like a difficult concept to grasp, inconvenient though it may be (and, in fact, is).
But the reality is that thousands of American expats have not been aware, often for decades, that they ought to have been doing this – and some still are not.
Until recently, such Americans have often managed to get by without being discovered. And when they were found out, the penalties, as a rule, were not particularly severe.
Nowadays, though, those who have failed to file US tax returns for years – whether deliberately, through lack of knowledge, or even because a well-intentioned but poorly informed tax or financial adviser failed to tell them they needed to – run the very great risk of being charged potentially ruinous penalties, which are calculated on a “pay per form” basis.
What is more, the IRS is getting much better at finding and tracking down expat Americans.
Here are 20 ways the US authorities have been known to find expat Americans who may have fallen off the tax rolls