Saturday, October 31, 2015


By. Don D. Nelson, International Tax Attorney

  • Though most foreign assets are reportable on various specialized forms filed with your US tax return,. If you own foreign real estate and title is in your own name (or a Fideicomiso) and do not rent out the property, there is no reporting required on your US tax return or for that matter any other reporting due the US Government.
  • Foreign mutual funds (and most foreign money market funds) require filing of another special form with your tax return. If you do not file this form and make elections to report the income each year, you are penalized with higher taxes and interest when you finally sell your foreign mutual fund. These rules were put in many years when Congress was convinced by US Mutual Fund companies that there business would be hurt unless investment in foreign mutual funds was made unfavorable for tax purposes.
  • The 2015 the $100,800 US foreign earned income exclusion applies to earned income (wages or self employment) income earned abroad if you meed the physical presence test or bonafide resident test. You can see if you qualify in IRS Publication 54. It is not automatic and can only be claimed on your US tax return. The IRS can deny this exclusion if you file your return more than 18 months late. This exclusion does not apply to rental income, dividends, interest or capital gains or any income other than earned income.
  • You must report your rental net income in Mexico from your Mexican real estate on your US return and you also owe taxes on it in Mexico even if you are not a resident. In Mexico you must pay Mexican income taxes on it and also pay IVA tax. (read more on these rules at )  If you are renting for only a short time, you may also owe local lodging excise taxes. The Mexican income tax can be claimed as a credit directly offseting any US income tax you owe on the rental income. The IVA and lodging taxes can be deducted on your US tax return as rental expenses.
  • If you own 10% or more of a Mexican corporation you may have to file form 5471 with your US tax return if required by the rules governing that form. Failure to file that form in a timely manner may result in the IRS assessing a $10,000 US penalty for failure to file even if you owe no taxes.
  • The US has a tax treaty with Mexico. It also has in the past year entered into an OECD agreement where the two countries have agreed to exchange income tax information with the other. At some point in the future what you do in Mexico will not stay in Mexico and visa versa.
  • If as a US Citizen you have lived and worked in Mexico for a while and not filed your US tax return, the IRS currently has a “streamlined program” that may allow you to catch up by filing only the past 3 years US tax returns and past six year FBAR (foreign bank account reports). They will not penalize you under that program for failing to file FBAR forms or other foreign reporting forms. They have stated they may discontinue this program at any time. Now is the time to surface with the IRS and avoid potentially huge penalties.
  • FBAR (foreign bank account reporting forms) must be filed each year with US Treasury if at any time during the calendar year your combined highest balances in your foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 US. This form must be filed on line. Foreign accounts include foreign pension plans, cash surrender value in foreign insurance, foreign brokers accounts, and even gold if held for you in a foreign country a custodian. Failure to file this form or filing it late can result in penalties of $10,000 US or more.

Don D. Nelson is a US tax attorney who has been assisting Americans in Mexico for over 25 years with their US tax returns and tax planning. He is also a partner in Kauffman Nelson LLP, Certified Public Accountants. His website is located at He has 2 tax blogs with the lastest tax developments of interest to those in Mexico located at and His email address is He can be reached at his US phone number 949-480-1235.   Don spends about 7 months a year in Baja Sur, Mexico.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mexican Taxes on Rental Income - What are those taxes? What are the penalties if you fail to pay those taxes?

If you rent your real estate in Mexico full time or part time when not using it the income you make is subject to several rental taxes in Mexico. This applies to owners who are residents and nonresidents. These taxes also apply to rental of your timeshare.  Failure to pay all applicable taxes can result in severe penalties. The following examples explain the taxes and penalties you will incur for ignoring Mexican tax laws:

Example 1.  Bill and his wife Sarah rent out their  condominium in San Jose for 5-6 months out of the year on a weekly or monthly basis to tourists.  Though they report their rental income and expenses on their US tax return, they have never paid any taxes on that rental income to the Mexican tax authorities.  Their neighbors have told them not to worry, since no one ever pays taxes on vacation rental income in Mexico and probably do not have to.    
Is this actually true?  No!  Definitely not!   Bill and his wife must pay taxes on their income which is generated in Mexico!
What kind of taxes should they be paying and how much?.  They must pay the ISR tax, a type of income tax, in the amount of 25% of the gross rents and, if the unit is furnished,  a 16% Value Added Tax (IVA).
An important point  The ISR TAX they pay can become a tax credit in the US, so double taxation is avoided.   The 16% IVA tax is generally paid by the tenant and is simply declared by the landlord.
What are the penalties, interest, etc. they might incur?  The penalty for not being enrolled as a taxpayer is 2,740. to 8,230 pesos.   The penalty for not making declarations as required range from 1,100. pesos to 13,720. pesos per month in addition to interest for not paying on time and as required is 1.13% per month.
Are there any other possible legal consequences for failing to pay taxes on rental income from their condominium?   If the tax authorities have not discovered the illegal rental income and notified the landlords, back interest and penalties may be waived..   It is important, however,  to begin declaring and paying prior to discovery.

Example 2.  Phil owns a home in Cabo San Lucas.   He leases it to a Timeshare salesperson on a yearly basis.  The renter pays the monthly rent directly to Phil's US bank account and no money is paid in Mexico. 
Does Phil have to pay taxes on that income in Mexico?. Absolutely!  Phil has an obligation to pay taxes on any income generated on property located in Mexico.
What are the taxes and when are they due?.  Phil must pay the ISR tax, a type of income tax, in the amount of 25% of the gross rents and, if the unit is furnished,  a 16% Value Added Tax (IVA).
What are the consequences of failing to report the rental income in Mexico? Much the same as Bill and his wife in the example above, Phil will be liable for not being enrolled as a taxpayer which can cost him 2,740. to 8,230 pesos.   The penalty for not making declarations as required range from 1,100. pesos to 13,720. pesos per month in addition to interest for not paying on time and as required is 1.13% per month.  The amount of the penalty may depend upon whether or not this is a first violation for Phil.
Should he go back and pay in those taxes for past years when he failed to pay the taxes?   If the Mexico tax authorities have not notified Phil he is in violation of the tax code, he probably will not need to file back taxes.   The important point is to begin and to be consistent in the future.
Since Phil is a nonresident and does not have a factura number, how can he pay taxes?  Phil must appoint a Mexican company or an individual to be responsible for the retention and the filing of these taxes.    His official representative will issue the correct invoice or factura.
Example 3.  The Smiths normally do not rent out their home in Todos Santos.  But since they are taking a 2 month tour of Europe they are renting it out for $3500 per month for two months.
Do they have an obligation to report this rental income to the SAT?  Yes, they have an obligation to report and pay taxes on any income generated from property located in Mexico.  
.  They are permanent residents of Mexico, and Canadian Citizens.  They also do not report any of their other income earned in Canada in Mexico.  It is now a year later and they have learned that rental income must be reported and taxes must be paid on it. 
How much tax will they owe?     Technically they owe $875. USD, plus 16% IVA.
What will be the penalties for failing to report that income on a timely basis?
Penalties could be as listed above.   

Want to know more about rental taxes in Mexico or locate an experienced rental tax service to handle those taxes for you? The Settlement Company in La Paz offers a service which files and pays these rental taxes for nonresidents on their Mexican rental income. Read more at

Sunday, October 4, 2015

IRS To Start Sharing Tax Data with Mexico

The Internal Revenue Service has kicked off a new program under which it shares large amounts of individuals’ financial-account information with certain foreign countries, the agency said Friday.  One of those countries is Mexico
If you are a permanent resident of Mexico, or dual citizen and your are not reporting all of your worldwide income on your Mexican tax return (if you file one), the Hacienda (SAT) may soon be at your door with their yellow tape and asking about all of  the income on your US return that you have not reported on your Mexican income tax return.  If  you are in Mexico more than 183 days you are considered a full time tax resident and must report and pay taxes on your worldwide income in Mexico. That is not as bad as it sounds since you do get a tax credit on your US return for monies earned in Mexico which offsets your US tax on the same income. .... and on your Mexican tax return you can get a tax credit for taxes you paid on income from the US.  It gets complicated. 
The IRS said it received digital information about U.S. taxpayers’ foreign accounts from governments and firms around the world, and it sent information on foreigners’ U.S. accounts to government authorities in as many as 34 countries. While governments have exchanged such information in the past, the sharing wasn’t automatic and the scope was often far narrower. The deadline for the exchange to begin was Sept. 30.  Read more  below  and see what countries are on the exchange list in the linked Wall Stree Journal article.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Only 1 (low) minimum wage in Mexico effective Oct. 1 of 70 pesos per day.

The minimum wage in Mexico is now 70 pesos per day nationwide!  That is about $5 US.  And the current presidents wants it to go up to 140 pesos per day by 2018.  Can the economy stand it?