According to IRS form 2555, United States citizens or permanent residents with a bona fide residence and tax home outside the United States get an income exclusion of up to US$80,000 from their US taxes. Despite the ongoing Bush misadministration's devaluing of the US dollar my income doesn't top that, so my US tax situation should be trivial now that I have my income statement. (Singaporean for the W-2 is the IR8A, upgraded from last year's 8E.) Yet I spent a frustrating evening at this. Why?
IRS form 2555 does not define a bona fide resident. They list traits bona fide residents have, like setting up a residence, not necessarily a domicile, which is not necessarily an abode; and give examples of conditions that do not qualify or do ``not prevent you from qualifying as a bona fide resident if you meet all the requirements for that status.'' A tax home is less clear. They define a ``full day'' (a period of 24 consecutive hours, beginning at midnight), in case anyone was confused; and show how one can have a tax home outside the US for two 12 month intervals within one 20-month stretch that includes two separate month-long visits back to the US in both intervals, in case anyone was not.
I guess the intent is laudable, because describing the obvious in precise language is agonizing, but I'm a forms guy. I like having flowcharts to follow. In the end, since I'm convinced I'm bona fide and tax homed in Singapore, all my income was cancelled by my income exclusion, and I turned in forms with almost nothing but zeroes.
Singapore's tax form, also due 15 April, was much simpler. The Singaporean 1040 is the B-1. My employer reports my income electronically, in early March; all I had to declare was my income (and non-standard exemptions) beyond that. (They calculate the tax and send a bill later.) I had none. I filled in another page full of zeroes. They didn't even need the IR8A.
In total, that's much effort reporting considerable nothing to a couple governments. I hope they enjoy the reading.
Trivia: The 1 July 1559 marriage of Spanish King Philip II to French princess Elizabeth of Valois was conducted by proxy, with the Duke of Alba standing in for Philip. The Duke was also proxy for the consummation. Source: A History of Venice, John Julius Norwich.
Currently Reading: Asimov's New Guide to Science, Isaac Asimov.