U.S. Tax Preparation Worldwide
James Maertin CPA
Tax Guide, Americans Abroad
Physical Presence Test
You meet the physical presence test if you are physically present in a foreign
country or countries 330 full days during a period of 12 consecutive months.
The 330 qualifying days do not have to be consecutive. The physical presence
test applies to both U.S. citizens and U.S. resident aliens.
The physical presence test is based only on how long you stay in
a foreign country or countries. This test does not depend on the kind of
residence you establish, your intentions about returning to the United States,
or the nature and purpose of your stay abroad. However, your intentions with
regard to the nature and purpose of your stay abroad are relevant in determining
whether you meet the tax home test.
330 Full Days
Generally, to meet the physical presence test, you must be
physically present in a foreign country or countries for at least 330 full days
during the 12-month period. You can count days you spent abroad for any reason.
You do not have to be in a foreign country only for employment purposes. You can
be on vacation time.
You do not meet the physical presence test if illness, family
problems, a vacation, or your employer's orders cause you to be present for less
than the required amount of time. Also, if you are present in a foreign country
in violation of U.S. law, you will not be treated as physically present in a
foreign country while you were in violation of the law. Income that you earn
from sources within such a country for services performed during a period of
violation does not qualify as foreign earned income.
However, the minimum time requirement can be waived if you must
leave a foreign country because of war, civil unrest, or similar adverse
conditions in that country. You must be able to show that you reasonably could
have expected to meet the minimum time requirements if not for the adverse
conditions, and that you had a tax home in the foreign country and were a bona
fide resident of, or physically present in, the foreign country on or before the
beginning date of the waiver.
A full day is a period of 24 consecutive hours, beginning at
midnight. You must spend each of the 330 full days in a foreign country. When
you leave the United States to go directly to a foreign country or when you
return directly to the United States from a foreign country, the time you spend
on or over international waters does not count toward the 330-day total.
You leave the United States for France by air on June 10. You
arrive in France at 9:00 a.m. on June 11. Your first full day in France is June
Passing Over Foreign Country
If, in traveling from the United States to a foreign country, you
pass over a foreign country before midnight of the day you leave, the first day
you can count toward the 330-day total is the day following the day you leave
the United States.
You leave the United States by air at 9:30 a.m. on June 10 to
travel to Spain. You pass over a part of France at 11:00 p.m. on June 10 and
arrive in Spain at 12:30 a.m. on June 11. Your first full day in a foreign
country is June 11.
Change Of Location
You can move about from one place to another in a foreign country
or to another foreign country without losing full days. But if any part of your
travel is not within a foreign country or countries and takes 24 hours or more,
you will lose full days.
You leave London by air at 11:00 p.m. on July 6 and arrive in
Stockholm at 5:00 a.m. on July 7. Your trip takes less than 24 hours and you
lose no full days.
You leave Norway by ship at 10:00 p.m. on July 6 and arrive in
Portugal at 6:00 a.m. on July 8. Since your travel is not within a foreign
country or countries and the trip takes more than 24 hours, you lose as full
days July 6, 7, and 8. If you remain in Portugal, your next full day in a
foreign country is July 9.
In United States while in Transit
If you are in transit between two points outside the United
States and are physically present in the United States for less than 24 hours,
you are not treated as present in the United States during the transit. You are
treated as traveling over areas not within any foreign country.
How To Figure The 12-month Period
There are four rules you should know when figuring the 12-month
12-month period can begin with any day of the month. It ends the day before
the same calendar day, 12 months later
- Your 12-month period must be made up of
consecutive months. Any 12-month period can be used if the 330 days in a
foreign country fall within that period
- You do not have to begin your 12-month
period with your first full day in a foreign country or to end it with the
day you leave. You can choose the 12-month period that gives you the
- In determining whether the 12-month
period falls within a longer stay in the foreign country, 12-month periods
can overlap one another
You are a construction worker who works from time to time in a
foreign country over a 20-month period. You might pick up the 330 full days in a
12-month period only during the middle months of the time you work in the
foreign country because the first few and last few months of the 20-month period
are broken up by long visits to the United States.
You work in New Zealand for a 20-month period from January 1,
2017 through August 31, 2018, except that you spend 29 days in February 2017 and
28 days in February 2018 on vacation in the United States. You are present in
New Zealand 330 full days during each of the following two 12-month periods:
January 1, 2017 - December 31, 2017, and September 1, 2017 - August 31, 2018. By
overlapping the 12-month periods in this way, you meet the physical presence
test for the whole 20-month period.