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I am a South African citizen living in South Africa who works for a large US company. As part of my compensation, I receive restricted stock units (RSUs) which my country considers to be part of my salary when they vest, at which time I pay local (non-US) taxes on them. When I sell them, I am also liable for local capital gains tax if they have increased in value.

I'm about to take a business trip to the US for about two weeks where I would like to purchase a laptop that is only available there. I would like to sell some of these shares. If I have the proceeds paid to my local bank account then I would lose on the currency conversion commission and transaction fees twice, once when having the sale proceeds paid locally and the second time when buying the laptop in US dollars.

I was hoping to open a simple savings account or similar in the US and have my share proceeds paid into it, avoiding one of these fees. Then I can pay for the laptop from that account and also have some spending money while abroad. I would also be able to use this setup for future trips. I will pay local capital gains tax on the share sale since it will be reported to my local tax authority.

Will this leave me liable for taxation in the US because I've earned money, even though I'm not tax resident?

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    Your shares are probably at some well-known brokerage like Merrill Lynch or Morgan Stanley, or perhaps a discount broker like Charles Schwab or eTrade. All of these firms can hold cash from sales and will issue you a debit card you can use for the laptop, and back in SA for that matter. I am not sure you gain anything by adding a savings account from a USA bank into the mix. – Andrew Lazarus Sep 12 '18 at 0:19
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Source: Investopedia: Do non-U.S. citizens living outside the U.S. pay taxes on money earned through a U.S. internet broker?

From the sounds of it, you will be considered a non-resident alien, and will be subject to no US capital gains taxes as such. That being said, as you already noted, you will be subject to capital gains in your home country.

Note that the brokerage is not required to withhold capital gains taxes in the USA for non-resident aliens. If they say they are going to, remind them that you are a non-resident alien.

  • They won't be subject to tax liability, but they may be subject to taxes, temporarily, if taxes are withheld. – Acccumulation Sep 11 '18 at 19:33
  • @Acccumulation I'll add the relevant quote in, but the brokerage is not required to withhold capital gains taxes if the owner of the asset is a non-resident alien. In this particular case OP will not need to deal with US taxes at all. – GOATNine Sep 11 '18 at 19:59
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IANAL, so take this with a grain of salt.

  1. You won´t have to pay income tax in the US because you are not a US resident nor do you work there.

  2. You may find it hard to open an account in the US without a permanent place of residence there. Maybe you can open a USD based account with your local bank to prevent currency conversions or use a South African branch of a US based bank? How often you pay something in USD may prevent this from being economical (account fees). Money transfers can incur fees.

  3. For purchases in the US, sales tax may apply. Sales tax is a state tax and AFAIK, it is not refundable to foreigners, unlike VAT in many other countries.

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