Yesterday’s post was an overview of the regulations as they pertain to Expats living abroad. Today’s post is regarding the Form 7162 Proof of Life that is required to be completed by all recipients of Social Security benefits living outside of the US.
If your social security number ends in 00 through 49, your letter will be mailed out in May and June of even numbered years.
If your social security number ends in 50 through 99, your letter will be mailed out in May and June of odd numbered years.
The letters for 2013 will be mailed out between May and June (this month and next month). If you fall in the odd numbered years and have not received your letter by August, you should download a copy of the form and submit it..
The responses to those letters will need to be received by the SSA. If they are not received, the checks (or direct deposits) will be stopped! This usually catches the recipients by surprise and they wind up having to contact the Federal Benefits Unit in the US Embassy in Quito to get the check flow turned back on. This is not instantaneous and many living in Ecuador find themselves with financial problems. No money will be lost, but you may be without money until the problem is solved. It has happened to us, Joe’s direct deposits were stopped so be sure to complete the form in the correct year.
So what do you need to do?
1. The obvious answer is to have a mailing address in Ecuador. It can be general delivery or PO Box, but it must be in the country where you reside. Joe and I have not received any mail since moving to San Clemente. We have a PO Box in Bahia for over a year but this still does not assure you that you will receie a ltter. Update 7/13/2015 NL
As all of us that live here know, General Delivery and even PO Boxes do not insure that you will receive the letter in Ecuador. That is why you need to mark your calendar for August and if no letter has been received, then you need to contact the FBU in Quito or just complete the form and submit it.
Form SSA-21 is going to ask for a mailing address. Then you need to send it to the FBU in Quito and they will notify SSA of your new address and your payments will continue.
Because we do not receive regular mail here in Ecuador, Joe and I have decided to complete the Proof of Life Form 7162 annually, according to the schedule and you guessed it our social secuirty numbers are in different years, so as not to forget one year and get cut off. In the past we have sent this form with someone going back to the states to mail on our behalf. This form is not new and SS has always allowed you to have an address for correspondence purposes separate from your physical address. It just seems that they are slowly trying to get those who actually live outside the US to tell them. There is another Federal Form the IRS requires called FBAR (more on this form in my next post). It is for reporting bank accounts outside the US. When the IRS determined there was widespread under-compliance, they announced an amnesty program to get folks to file. Followed by an announcement of very stiff fines and penalties if you did not come forward voluntarily. They now go direct to many foreign banks and ask them for a client list of Americans, threatening economic retaliation for not cooperating.