Money Matters

Tax Implications of Transferring Money Internationally

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by Cyrus Kioko


Taxes aren’t just a local affair—they can stretch across borders too. So whether you’re sending a little something to your folks abroad or making bank from overseas ventures, you need to make sure you’re in good standing with the taxmen on both ends of the transaction. There’s quite a bit you need to do to achieve that, and it all starts with understanding the tax implications of cross-border money transfers. 

The tax implications of transferring money internationally can vary depending on the amount transferred, the nature of the transfer, tax laws in the source and destination countries, the transfer method, and the presence (or lack of) of tax treaties between the countries involved in the transfer. 

In this article, we’ll take a deep plunge into the murky waters of cross-border taxes to help you understand your tax obligations when sending money internationally, how to keep your tax bill as low as possible, and much more. Grab your favorite beverage and a notebook; it’s gonna be a long read! 

Factors Influencing Tax Obligations in International Money Transfers

Let’s jump straight into the heart of the matter and answer one of the most commonly asked questions regarding taxes and international money transfers: What determines whether Uncle Sam (or whatever name you use to refer to your local tax authority) comes knocking on your door for a slice of the pie when you send money internationally?

The answer to that question depends on a handful of factors, namely:

The Tax Laws in the Countries Involved in the Transaction

Tax laws determine whether the money you’re transferring is subject to taxation and, if so, at what rate. They also dictate whether residents and non-residents receiving or sending money internationally get taxed differently and lay out the framework for how various transaction types are treated for tax purposes.

The Nature of The Transfer

The purpose and source of the funds being transferred play a significant role in determining tax obligations. Case and point? Transfers involving income earned abroad or proceeds from asset sales are treated differently from gifts when it comes to taxation.

The specifics of how they’re treated when it comes to taxation will vary from one country to the next, but the general rule is that transfers involving income and capital gains are never taxed the same as gifts. 

The Amount of Money You’re Moving

The amount of money you’re moving across borders is also going to play a part in determining whether your transfer gets taxed, and if so, how much you owe in taxes. It’ll also determine your reporting requirements, which is simply a fancy phrase for the paperwork and disclosures you need to provide the authorities with when moving money across borders.

Different countries have different rules, but the general rule of thumb is that the more you’re transferring, the more likely you are to get taxed, and the stricter your reporting requirements will be.

Tax Treaties Between Countries

Tax treaties ( AKA, double taxation treaties) are agreements between two or more countries meant to prevent double taxation of income or capital gains earned by individuals in one country and sent to another.

Why would governments go out of their way to prevent a double whammy of taxes? Are they finally realizing that there’s only so much fun to be had in the “Let’s Rob Everyone Blind” game show? 

Well, not exactly.

It’s all in their best interest. Tax treaties help promote cross-border trade, investment, and economic cooperation. They also add a touch of clarity to the tax treatment of cross-border transactions by outlining which country has the primary right to tax specific types of income.

Depending on the specifics of the treaty, there may be provisions for:

  • Reducing or eliminating withholding taxes on cross-border payments
  • Providing relief from double taxation through mechanisms such as tax credits or exemptions,
  • Resolving disputes between tax authorities.

All these provisions play a part in determining how much you owe in taxes when sending money across borders. 

How exactly?

Let’s look at an example to illustrate this.

Let’s say you’re a freelancer based in Country A, and you’ve just completed a project for a client based in Country B. You’re expecting a payment of $5,000 for your hard work. 

Here’s how things might play out with and without a tax treaty between those two countries.

Scenario A: No Tax Treaty

Without a tax treaty between Country A and Country B, you might be subject to withholding taxes in both countries when you receive your payment. Country B might withhold, let’s say, 15% of your earnings as taxes before sending you the remaining $4,250.

Scenario B: With a Tax Treaty In Place

Let’s assume Countries A and B have a tax treaty that includes a provision for reducing withholding taxes on cross-border payments from 15% to 5%.

Thanks to this provision, when your client in Country B sends over your payment, they’d only withhold a reduced rate of 5% instead of the usual 15%. As a result, you’d receive $4,750 instead of $4,250.

Let’s go a step further and assume that Country A allows you to claim a tax credit for the taxes paid to Country B. Because of this provision, you can offset the $250 withheld by Country B against your tax liability in Country A, reducing the amount of tax you owe there.

So by leveraging the provisions of the tax treaty, you end up paying less in taxes overall, keeping more of your hard-earned money in your pocket when sending money internationally.

The Transfer Method You’re Using 

You probably wouldn’t have guessed it, but the method you use to move money across borders can affect your tax obligations. The impact may be indirect, but that doesn’t make it negligible. 

Here are some of the most common ways your choice of transfer method can affect your tax obligations.

Through Exchange Rates

One of the subtle yet significant ways transfer methods influence taxes is through exchange rates. International money transfers often involve converting one currency to another. The rate at which you do this is known as the foreign exchange rate, and it can vary dramatically depending on the transfer method you’re using.

If you use a transfer method that offers a crappy rate, you’ll come out of the other end of the conversion with fewer bucks in your pocket. This can indirectly affect your taxable income, especially if the money you’re moving is income earned abroad. A lower conversion rate could mean less income to report, potentially reducing your tax liability.

Through Transaction Fees

Another way your choice of transfer method might affect your tax obligations when transferring money internationally is through transaction fees. While transaction fees aren’t directly counted as taxable income, they can indirectly influence your tax liabilities, especially if they are deductible.

How? Let’s look at an example.

Meet John, a freelance web developer from the UK running his own business. He provides services remotely and receives payments from clients worldwide. When he gets a £1,000 payment from a client in the US, he has to decide between using a bank wire transfer or an online transfer service with lower transaction fees.

Assuming the transaction fees qualify as a deductible business expense, here’s how his choice might affect his tax obligations.

Bank Wire Transfer:

  • Payment Received: £1,000
  • Transaction Fee: £20
  • Net Amount: £980
  • Taxable Income Reported: £980

Online Money Transfer Service:

  • Payment Received: £1,000
  • Transaction Fee: £5
  • Net Amount: £995
  • Taxable Income Reported: £995

In this scenario, the choice of transfer method impacts the net amount John receives and reports for taxes. By opting for the online transfer service, he gets £15 more, slightly increasing his taxable income. This seems like a small difference, but it can add up with larger, repetitive transactions.

Taxable Vs. Non-Taxable International Money Transfers

So far, we’ve talked about the factors that could impact your tax obligations when sending money internationally. It’s a start, but there’s still a lot up in the air. 

To help you really understand your tax situation when sending money internationally, let’s break down the different types of transfers and how they might affect your taxes.

Gift Transfers

Let’s kick things off by answering one of the most common questions when it comes to taxes and international money transfers: how much money can a person receive as a gift without being taxed?

Recipients of gifts generally don’t need to worry about paying taxes on the amount received. The responsibility typically falls on the giver when it comes to gift taxes. So if you were wondering “Do I need to pay taxes on foreign money transferred to my account as a gift?” the answer is no. 

Of course, country-specific tax laws are going to come into play. Additionally, some circumstances could affect the tax treatment of gifts. For example, if you receive a gift of income-producing assets (like stocks or real estate) you’ll probably be responsible for reporting and paying taxes on income generated from that property. And if the gift is from a noncitizen/resident, you might have different reporting rules to play by.

What about the other way around? How much money can a person send as a gift without paying taxes? 

It depends on the gift tax laws in the countries involved. Each country sets its regulations regarding gift taxes, including thresholds for tax-free gifts and rates of taxation on gifts that exceed those thresholds.

Case and point?

How the UK and the US treat gift taxation:

The United States

The US has an annual gift tax exclusion limit that allows its citizens to give a certain amount of money each year to another person without triggering any gift taxes. The 2024 annual gift tax exclusion limit is $18,000 per person, but you might want to check with the IRS if you end up reading this later because they usually revise it to account for inflation and policy amendments.

That means if you give someone $18,000 or less in a year, you generally won’t owe any gift taxes on that amount unless you’ve exceeded your lifetime gift tax exemption. The recipient’s residency or citizenship doesn’t matter. 

By the way: the lifetime gift tax exemption is the amount of money or assets an individual can give during their lifetime without incurring gift tax.

Non-citizens who are residents of the US for tax purposes generally have to abide by the same rules. They can make gifts to individuals outside the US up to the annual exclusion limit without gift tax implications. The only difference in their situation is that they need to be aware of tax treaties between the US and their home country because these may affect their tax obligations or provide exemptions/modifications to the standard rules.

On the other hand, non-resident aliens may have different tax obligations when sending gifts from the US to individuals in other countries. Non-resident aliens are subject to US gift tax only on gifts of tangible property located in the US and certain types of intangible property, such as stocks or bonds of US corporations. Gifts of cash or financial assets located outside the US generally wouldn’t trigger gift tax for the sender.

The UK

In the UK tax system, individuals are typically classified as either resident or non-resident for tax purposes. As the sender, your tax obligations depend on your residency status for tax purposes and the specifics of your gift. 

Generally, residents aren’t taxed on gifts they make — whether to individuals in the UK or overseas — because the UK doesn’t have a gift tax. 

With that being said, there may be inheritance tax implications if, God forbid, you were to pass away within seven years of making a gift. That’s because the UK taxes deceased persons’ estate, including gifts given within seven years of death. For the specifics of how that works, check out this article.

Non-residents of the UK, who are not liable to UK tax on their worldwide income, are typically not taxed on gifts they give regardless of the recipient’s location. Keep in mind that we’re speaking in generalities; individual circumstances can have you playing by different tax laws to the next person. 


We’ve just answered the question “Do I need to pay taxes on foreign money transferred to my account” in the context of gifts. But what if the money is for income earned abroad? 

Generally, income earned abroad (whether through employment, business activities, investments, or other means) will be subject to taxation. The specifics of the taxation will depend on many of the factors we discussed earlier:

  • Tax residency status. If you’re a tax resident somewhere, you’re likely on the hook for taxes on all your income, no matter where it’s coming from. So if you’re officially living in a country, they probably expect you to pay up on any cash you’re raking in, whether it’s local or from overseas.
  • Tax laws in the source country. Some countries only tax income generated within their borders. Others tax you on everything you make, whether from a job around the corner or a freelance gig halfway across the world. Countries with such a system typically tax residents on worldwide income; non-residents are only taxed on income earned within the country.   
  • Tax laws in the recipient country. If you’re getting paid abroad and sending it home, your own country might want a piece of the pie the moment that money hits your account. That’ll likely be the case if they tax worldwide income.
  • Tax Treaties. If the source and recipient country have teamed up to avoid double-dipping on taxes, you might be able to claim a credit for taxes paid abroad.

Loan Transfers

A loan received from abroad typically isn’t considered taxable income. So if you’re taking out a loan from an overseas lender and having it sent to your account, you won’t need to worry about paying taxes on the loan principal.

That being said, the interest you pay on the loan could have tax implications:

  • If interest payments qualify as deductible expenses in your country, the interest you pay on your international loan might lower your taxable income. 
  • If you’re earning from the loan through some form of investment, that income will likely be taxable in your home country.

It’s also worth noting that even in cases where the loan amount isn’t taxable, you may still need to report the loan transaction to tax authorities. Many countries have reporting requirements for international financial transactions, including loans, to prevent money laundering and tax evasion. You’ll want to comply with these requirements to avoid penalties or legal issues.

It’s also worth noting that some countries impose withholding taxes on interest payments made to non-residents. The US, the UK, Australia, and Canada are great examples. If your country has such laws, you may be subject to withholding tax on interest payments made to your overseas lender. As you might have guessed, the withholding tax rate and any exemptions or reductions will be determined by tax treaties between your country and the lender’s country.

Charitable Transfers

International money transfers to charitable organizations qualify for tax deductions or exemptions in most countries. So if you extend a token of generosity to an overseas charitable organization, you’ll likely be allowed to lower your taxable income by that amount in your country of residence. 

The only tax implication on your end will be related to reporting. Donors are required to provide documentation of charitable donations to claim tax deductions or exemptions, so make sure you’ve got all the paperwork related to your transfer. 


A remittance is simply a fancy term for money sent from one place to another, often used to refer to funds sent by individuals to family members or others in their home country from abroad. It’s essentially a transfer of money, typically made by migrant workers or expatriates to support their families or for other purposes such as bill payments, education expenses, or investments.

Remittances are generally not subject to taxation for the sender or the recipient, as they are considered personal transfers rather than income. The only tax implication for the sender and recipient is that they must report those transfers to tax authorities, especially if they’re substantial. 

As with every rule, there are a few exceptions. 

Take India, for example. Under the Liberalized Remittance Scheme (LRS), individuals sending money abroad may face a 5% Tax Collected at Source (TCS) if the remittance exceeds a set threshold, such as ₹7 lahk. It’s a similar story in Nigeria; there’s a 5% levy on all inward remittances exceeding $1,000.

How to Minimize Costs and Tax Liability When Transferring Money Internationally

I know we’ve covered a lot of ground, and your brain might be feeling a little taxed out (pun intended). But trust me, now’s the time to zone back in because we’re about to dive into the fun stuff. Well, maybe “fun” isn’t the perfect word since taxes aren’t exactly a riveting topic, but let’s face it — any info about keeping more money in your pocket is worth getting excited about. I mean, you don’t want to hand over your hard-earned cash to the taxman if you can help it. Right?

So shake off that haze and refocus (a coffee or tea might help).


Let’s dive into the best ways to minimize costs and tax liability when transferring money internationally.

Take Full Advantage of Tax Treaties and Deductions

I’ve already explained why these exist: to prevent you from getting hit with a double whammy on taxes. Unfortunately, not many folks take full advantage of them. Maybe it’s because the info isn’t exactly front-page news, or perhaps it’s just not on their radar.

Lucky for you, I’ve got your back. Here’s what you need to do to make the most of tax treaties:

  1. Find out if your country has a tax treaty with the country you’re sending money to. A quick Google search should do the trick. Just make sure you get the info from your government’s website; you don’t want to be misled on such a serious matter. 
  2. Once you’ve confirmed the existence of a tax treaty, take some time to understand its terms and provisions. Look for any clauses related to taxes on income, dividends, or capital gains.
  3. Claim any benefits you’re eligible for. Whether it’s a reduced tax rate or an exemption from certain taxes, make sure you’re taking full advantage of what’s on offer.
  4. Stay informed. Tax treaties can change over time, so keep circling back to check for any updates or amendments that may affect your tax situation.

In addition to treaty-related benefits, be sure to claim any deductions you may be eligible for. You might have to check with a pro to find out what deductions or exemptions you qualify for, but it’s worth a shot if you’re transferring large sums of money. 

Use a Reliable Foreign Exchange Broker

Bad exchange rates and fees can eat into your funds faster than you can say “tax deduction.” Since international money transfers almost always involve switching between currencies, you’ll want to put a lot of thought into choosing the right foreign exchange broker. 

Here’s what to look for:

  • Better exchange rates than traditional banks. Even small differences in rates can add up to significant savings over time.
  • Transparent fee structures. This way, you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for and avoid getting surprised by sneaky charges.
  • Regulatory compliance. This adds an extra layer of security and trust. 
  • Speed. Time is money when it comes to international transfers so make sure you opt for a broker with fast and reliable transfer services.
  • Excellent customer service. You want to be able to reach out for assistance or support whenever you need it.
  • Risk management tools. This is a big one. Risk management tools such as rate alerts, forward contracts, and limit orders can help you manage currency fluctuations and minimize risk.

Currencies Direct ticks all the above boxes. They offer competitive exchange rates and clear fee structures, not to mention they play by the rules. 

They also go above and beyond to make your transfers seamless. Their user-friendly online platform allows you to initiate transfers with just a few clicks, saving you time and hassle. Plus, their dedicated team of currency experts is always on hand to provide personalized support and guidance.

Better yet, they help you time your transfers to maximize savings through handy tools like rate alerts and forward contracts. This way, you can lock in favorable exchange rates and plan your transfers with confidence.

Use a Foreign Currency Account

If using a currency exchange broker seems like too much hassle, opt for a foreign currency account. These accounts let you hold funds in a foreign currency, allowing you to make international transfers without having to convert your money into the destination’s currency. That means you won’t have to pay currency conversion fees every time you need to move money across borders. 

A foreign currency account also gives you more control over when to convert your funds into the desired currency. This can help you manage currency risk effectively, potentially side-stepping losses you could’ve incurred due to unfavorable exchange rate movements.

Wondering where you can open such an account?

TransferWise has got you covered with its Borderless account. With low fees and support for over 40 currencies, it’s your ticket to hassle-free international transactions. Plus, you can send and receive money easily, snag a debit card for spending in different currencies, and even integrate with TransferWise’s other services for a one-stop-shop solution. Check it out here

Cyrus Kioko
Cyrus is a seasoned blog post writer with over five years of experience in crafting and editing articles spanning technology, lifestyle, and finance niches. Fueled by an authentic passion to contribute valuable insights, he has invested thousands of Netflix-less hours in research for this site. Each piece he writes is aimed at empowering readers to make well-informed, real-life decisions. Holding a degree in commerce and armed with ample copywriting courses, he brings both expertise and a touch of nerdy flair to the table.
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