Most expats need not worry about Obamacare tax

For expats in Costa Rica, health plans provided by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros do not seem to meet the requirements of the plan, although there may be additions later. The law is silent on coverage by the Caja Costarricense de Seguros Social, but those legal residents who have that coverage probably also are exempted legitimate overseas residents.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision generated discussion on a number of expat Internet lists all over the world. There are many gray areas in the law that will require clarification. Simply taking an overseas trip for a few months probably will not satisfy the requirement for that tax year. Some expats expect the Internal Revenue Service to enforce the same requirements that are applied for the earned income deduction.

The IRS says to qualify for the earned income exemption, a U.S. citizen must be a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year or be U.S. citizen or resident alien who is physically present in a foreign country or countries for at least 330 full days during any period of 12 consecutive months.

The IRS is likely to have the same or a similar definition for the health care mandate penalty tax.

And U.S. expats who use Florida addresses for mail courier service are likely to have to explain that somehow to the IRS.

One gray area here is the status of perpetual tourists who really are residents but live here on tourists visas and renew them every 90 days by making foreign trips. The IRS does not discuss this, but on its Web site it says that the agency is not particularly concerned with the status of foreign work permits, although it encourages U.S. citizens to comply with local laws.

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