Physical Presence

Today TaxMama hears from Erik in Columbia who needs help.

“I have a question about the physical presence test and the exemption granted by the “waiver of time requirements”.
I work most of the year in Colombia, South America. When I am on break I am directed by my employer to leave the country because of adverse conditions and threat to my life. Do I qualify for this exemption? I’ve talked to the IRS and different CPAs about the issue but I cannot get a consistent answer.

Dear Erik,

Fundamentally, the waiver is designed to help out those people who must leave a country during sudden, unexpected times of civil unrest – they are evacuated, and generally unable to return. Or only able to return after an uprising is quelled.

In your case, you are working there for the long-term. You are working through the day-to-day conditions.

During your breaks, your company ‘directs’ you to leave the country. They don’t require it, insist on it….they direct you. Just kind of a suggestion.

How can you continue to meet the physical presence requirement without relying on the waiver?

Easy, do not return to the US or its territories for more than 30 days per year. If your total annual leave time is longer than 30 days, simply visit other countries instead of the US. The physical presence requires you to track the days you are present in each country.
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Not the days you work in each country.
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And remember, you’ll find answers to lots of questions about the foreign earned income exclusion and other tax information, free. Where? At

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