US Taxes, IRS, Social Security when living in Asia

Some of the most basic things become difficult when retired and living in Asia. Dealing with US businesses like my retirement agency was rather frustrating. Because of an error with input somewhere, my birthdate was wrong in the system so I had to submit a change. Normally you can just drop by a Kinko’s or whatever and FAX things or stop by the Post Office and send them along. Its not quite so easy when you live in Asia. Then there is dealing with the IRS and Social Security Administration. Neither agency is really made to deal with submittal of forms over the internet. They all want you to mail them back. They will give you PDF documents to fill out but for a variety of things like doing a change of address with the IRS you have to send the form to your local servicing IRS branch. Same with social security changes. I needed to send a form with my 2018 tax return to prove a change in income. Getting the 2018 state and federal taxes done were fun by themselves. Here are a few points I learned the last weeks:

  • Keep a PDF copy of your last years tax return in the cloud. Some cloud, any cloud you can reach and copy documents from. I use google drive for this stuff. This is important for a few reasons. If you are going to “e-file” they have to see your AGI from the last year’s tax return. It has to be an exact match for a line on your 1040 form or they will reject it. If you don’t have this, you will need to get a transcript from the IRS. They have rules for online submittals like verification of identity with credit cards, home or auto loans, etc. They also require a mobile phone number and it cannot be a Skype, google voice, or VOIP line. Blech! In my situation since I had HR Block do my taxes last year, they have a portal site to download PDF copies of your tax forms.
  • Find a service that will accept internet fax transmissions. Some are free and others charge just a bit. Just find one that looks reputable and bookmark it. You may need it! These services will accept PDF, DOCX, or other file formats for faxing. The better ones send you email with the success of the fax and stuff.
  • Find a good PDF editor for your laptop! I use PDF Expert on my MAC Laptop. It works pretty well. With this tool, you can edit and add text, images, redact things, etc. Very handy!
  • Keep a family member in the loop so just in case you cannot fax and really want it mailed from the states you can send them the PDF documents to send for you. This came in handy today since I wanted to send two things but neither can be faxed or submitted over the internet.
  • Just doing a change of address with the USPS does not mean federal agencies know. The IRS is one of them that will not just know. Remember when planning to look at your footprint with the different agencies at a private, state, and federal level.

Now probably in reverse order, what caused all this was trying to submit my taxes by e-filing them. You need to have the previous year tax return and you will need the W2 forms or the 1099 forms or whatever so be sure if you are going away that your cloud drive has the stuff you will need. Plan ahead! Scan and make PDF copies of things like taxes and any forms. Be sure you change addresses if you are going forever or for a long time. I would strongly advise to not burdening your family with your mail. Get a mail service! I can recommend one if you like that treats me very well.

You can do all this stuff being in Melaka Malaysia. I could even have printed out the forms and mailed them from here. Malaysia has a state-owned mail service and I believe its very reliable. I chose though to have my daughter help with printing out the documents and sending them for me from the states.

I would subjectively say that being a retiree in another country is not easy at times when dealing with US government agencies. A little planning though and having the right core services plus a willing family member to help out at times can help significantly!

Author: Michael Perry

I've been blogging for over 20 years and now am living in Southeast Asia. The blog is about my slow vagabonding wherever I want to go. My home base is in Cambodia but I'm rarely there.