The Internal Revenue Service is giving extra time to taxpayers who lived in some of the countries caught up in the “Arab Spring” upheavals in the Middle East.

The IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2012-21 on Friday, providing a list of countries for tax year 2011 for which the minimum time requirements are waived, because taxpayers had to leave a foreign country because of war, civil unrest or similar adverse conditions. 

Generally, U.S. citizens or resident aliens living and working abroad are taxed on their worldwide income, the IRS noted. However, if their tax home is in a foreign country and they meet either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test, they can choose to exclude from their income a limited amount of their foreign earned income ($91,500 for 2010). 

For 2011, the Treasury and State Departments have determined that war, civil unrest, or similar adverse conditions precluded the normal conduct of business in the following countries beginning on the specified date: Egypt on Feb. 1, Libya on Feb. 21, Syria on April 25, and Yemen on May 25.

An individual who left one of those countries on or after the specified departure date during 2011 will be treated as a qualified individual with respect to the period during which that individual was present in, or was a bona fide resident of, the foreign country, if the individual establishes a reasonable expectation of meeting the requirements of Section 911(d) of the Tax Code but for those conditions.

To qualify for relief, an individual must have established residency, or have been physically present, in the foreign country on or prior to the date that the Secretary of the Treasury determines that individuals were required to leave the foreign country. Individuals who establish residency, or are first physically present, in the foreign country after the date that the Secretary prescribes will not be treated as qualified individuals. For example, individuals who are first physically present or establish residency in Egypt after Feb. 1, 2011, are not eligible to qualify for the exception for tax year 2011.

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