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Tax Planning for Non-Residents: Ways for Non-Residents to Plan Their Taxes Effectively

Mar 24, 2024 | USA Accounting

Grasping the US tax system as a non-resident shouldn’t be overwhelming. Let this blog equip you with knowledge on how to optimise tax planning for non-residents. Unravel tax laws, treaties, and strategic approaches to minimise tax liabilities to shape your tax destiny!

7 Ways to Optimize Tax Planning for Non-Residents Effectively

As the global economy becomes more interconnected, individuals from different parts of the world find themselves dealing with the complexities of the US tax system.

For these non-residents, understanding tax laws, treaties, and compliance requirements is important to optimise their financial endeavours and ensure a stable financial future.

In this blog, we will discuss seven (7) ways for effective tax planning for non-resident in the USA. We will explore topics such as tax residency status, the significance of tax treaties, and key strategies to minimise tax liabilities, offering insights for your next tax planning decisions.

Whether US Resident or not, consider checking out how we can help you with our USA Accounting Services.

Tax Planning for Non-Resident 1. Determine Your Tax Residency Status

Before delving into tax planning for non-residents, it’s crucial to determine your tax residency status in the USA. The IRS uses substantial presence and green card tests to determine whether you are a tax resident or a non-resident.

The Substantial Presence Test

This test calculates the number of days you have been physically present in the USA over three years. You may be considered a tax resident if the total exceeds 183 days.

The Green Card Test

Holding a green card (permanent resident status) during the tax year automatically makes you a tax resident.

Tax Planning for Non-Resident 2. Explore Tax Treaties

The USA has tax treaties with numerous countries to prevent double taxation and provide certain tax benefits to non-residents. These treaties can significantly impact your tax liabilities and entitlement to deductions and credits.

Tax Treaty Benefits

Tax treaties often offer reduced tax rates on specific types of income, such as interest, dividends, and royalties. By claiming these benefits, you can minimise your tax burden.

Foreign Tax Credits

Tax treaties may allow you to claim foreign tax credits, which enable you to offset taxes paid in your home country against your US tax liability.

Treaty-Based Return Position

If you’re taking a treaty-based return position, make sure to attach Form 8833 to your tax return to disclose the position and avoid potential penalties.

Tax Planning for Non-Resident 3. Be Aware of Filing Obligations

Non-residents have distinct tax filing obligations and deadlines. Compliance with these requirements is essential to avoid penalties and maintain good standing with the IRS.

Form 1040NR

Non-residents typically use Form 1040NR to file their federal tax returns.

State Tax Returns

You may need to file state tax returns depending on your activities in specific states. Check each state’s rules to ensure compliance.

Filing Deadlines

The deadline to file your federal tax return is generally April 15th unless you opt for an extension granted by IRS. For state returns, deadlines vary by state.

Tax Planning for Non-Resident 4. Minimize Withholding Taxes

Certain payments made to non-residents, such as rental income, royalties, and gambling winnings, may be subject to withholding taxes.

Form W-8BEN

To reduce or eliminate withholding taxes, you can provide a valid Form W-8BEN to the payor, which certifies your foreign status.

Treaty Benefits

Utilise tax treaties to reduce or exempt withholding taxes on specific types of income, as mentioned in the treaty provisions.

Tax Planning for Non-Resident 5. Understand Taxable Income

Understanding what income is taxable for non-residents is crucial to avoid any surprises at tax time.

Effectively Connected Income (ECI)

ECI refers to income effectively connected to a US trade or business. This income is subject to regular US tax rates.

Fixed, Determinable, Annual, or Periodical (FDAP) Income

FDAP income includes passive income such as dividends, interest, rents, and royalties. The tax rate is generally 30%, but tax treaties can reduce this rate.

Tax Planning for Non-Resident 6. Utilize Tax Credits

Tax credits directly reduce tax liability, making them valuable tools for non-residents.

Foreign Tax Credit (FTC)

The FTC allows you to claim a credit for taxes paid in your home country on income also subject to US taxation. This prevents double taxation.

Child Tax Credit

If you have qualifying dependents, you may claim the Child Tax Credit, which can further reduce your tax liability.

Tax Planning for Non-Resident 7. Seek Professional Tax Advice

Tax planning for non-residents can pose complexities, and the repercussions of mistakes can be substantial. Consider seeking advice from a qualified tax professional with experience in international tax matters.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the methods used by the United States to reduce double taxation?

The United States employs the Foreign Tax Credit to alleviate double taxation concerns for Americans residing abroad. As the most dependable method to avoid US double taxation, this credit was explicitly designed for this purpose.

Embracing the Foreign Tax Credit provides assurance and peace of mind to those navigating tax obligations in foreign countries, ensuring their financial interests remain secure. 

Do non-residents pay capital gains tax on US property?

Non-resident alien individuals present in the United States for 183 days or more during the taxable year are subject to a flat tax of 30 per cent (or lower treaty rate) on U.S. source capital gains.

This tax applies to gains from US property sales and is designed to ensure tax compliance and revenue generation from non-resident individuals conducting transactions in the US property market.

Does the US tax base on residency?

In the United States, the taxation principle is based on residency. U.S. residents are taxed similarly to U.S. citizens, accounting for their worldwide income.

Non-residents, with limited exceptions, are subject to federal income tax solely on income earned from sources within the United States and/or income effectively connected to U.S. trade or business activities.


By employing these 7 effective strategies in tax planning for non-residents, you can optimise your tax situation in the USA, ensuring compliance with tax laws and minimising tax liabilities. Each individual’s tax situation is unique, so consulting with a tax professional is still advisable.

Check out Sterlinx Global for further accounting, business, and tax advice.

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