Top reasons for moving are salary, quality of life, and retirement. Understandably, during these moves, expats accumulate money and assets. For this reason, many expats often have to deal with personal finances that are more confusing or complicated than those of the average person. This is why, although it’s possible to handle your finances on your own, many are turning to accountants for help. As experts in all things finance-related, accountants can offer invaluable support and guidance.
That said, hiring an accountant as an expat can get quite tricky. With split assets and a responsibility to both their country of citizenship and residence, expats need accountants with a specific and well-rounded skill set. Among the many skills that an expat’s accountant may have, here are some of the most relevant:
- Time management
Time management is a very important skill for accountants as they deal with many time-sensitive tasks. For expat clients, this includes tax filings for both the U.S. and their country of residence. Deadlines and filings rules around the world (especially in the U.S.) have been changing rapidly in the last two years, and it can be challenging to keep up. Conversely, an accountant will be updated on the key tax dates and will be able to complete the necessary processes beforehand. This includes filing on-time federal tax returns to avoid costly penalties and interests. In the long run, having an accountant with this skill will also help you stay on top of other time-sensitive concerns like debt management or investment proceedings.
- Critical thinking
Accountants don’t merely crunch numbers. Rather, a skilled accountant can gather, assess, and process information in a way that allows them to paint a vivid and accurate financial picture. To do this, accountants must be armed with critical thinking. This is an especially essential soft skill in the era of remote work since accountants must be able to objectively and intelligently understand data on their own. And when working with international laws, an accountant must be able to understand the rules and be able to present reports and assessments that are easy to understand and work off of. If they don’t have this skill, then costly mistakes could be made and valuable resources can be wasted.
- Proficient communication
Accountants who work with expats often have to work alongside or correspond with international companies. Without good communication skills, pertinent details can quite literally get lost in translation. In order for these correspondences to be clear, respectful, and successful, well-trained accounting professionals must have proficient communication skills. An important skill that includes being able to listen, speak, and write effectively, communication can ensure that your accountant is able to both gather and share the correct information. Since your accountant may also be working with people from different cultures, a well-spoken one will be able to communicate in a way that is always culturally appropriate. This is particularly crucial if your accountant is working remotely, since it’s easy to have a misunderstanding online. With this skill in communications, the end result (whether that be a report, a tax filing, or an assessment) will always be accurate and easy to understand regardless of which region you belong to.
- Expertise on tax law
Incredibly varied from country to country, tax laws can have an impact on the financial stability of expats and their loved ones. Fortunately, well-trained accounting professionals will have an extensive background in different tax laws. In line with this, it’s important for expats to find accountants who specialize by region or international expertise. As you’ll see here on Expat US Tax, you can find accountants with specializations in filing for Americans in regions as diverse as the UK, the UAE, and Australia. With professionals skilled in tax law, an expat can be legally compliant in both their country of residence and origin.
- Asset management
For most expats, an accountant is easier to onboard than a broker. As such, it’s necessary for accountants to have a good understanding of how to manage their client’s investments. These include investments in real estate, personal items, stocks, shares, and virtual currencies, which expats are all required to file returns for. While an accountant cannot act on behalf of their client to grow or sell these assets, they should be capable of making reports, filing relevant taxes, and creating financial statements with regard to an expat’s assets. Because an expat’s assets may also be scattered across multiple countries, the right accountant must be able to stay on top of these and their corresponding value fluctuations. This helps expats develop a clear and holistically healthy financial portfolio.
- Digital literacy
Just as many expats work remotely, so do accountants today. In fact, in the United States alone, up to 40,000 professionals in the accounting, auditing, consulting, and tax arena work virtually every day. Consequently, it’s important that your accountant be digitally literate. This means that they should be comfortable and competent with the latest accounting software and communication platforms. In this way, they can accurately complete the work you need them to do and relay it properly online. Remember, this doesn’t mean that your accountant has to be a tech whiz with all the latest gadgets. Rather, it’s more about how well they’re able to transition their proficiencies in the digital age. Having an accountant whose capabilities are not dulled by a digital gap will ensure that your assets are in order from anywhere you (and they!) may be stationed.
Staying financially sound and compliant is critical. This is especially true for expats who must take two countries into account. To take the guesswork out of finding a talented and reliable accountant for an expat needs, it’s best to look for licensed accountants who specialize in this market. By working with such skilled accountants, staying on top of these financial responsibilities is made easier and more efficient no matter where in the world you may be.