I'm moving in around October to the US from the UK and have earned income in the UK and will continue until September. I'm coming to the US on a k1 visa (fiance) and intend to marry within the same month. I cannot work until I obtain a work permit after I adjust status, which I will receive some time in 2021, so I will have no US income for October to December, nor will I have UK income for these months.
I have never worked in the US before and only entered previously on an esta to visit my future spouse.
I would like to know the best option when my spouse files taxes in January 2021 for this year. If filing married jointly, will I have to show my global income from before I was even admitted to the US in October? Or would it be better to file married filing separately, would this save us from submitting my previous 9 months of UK earned income? Or would I not file at all for that year and wait until the next, once I have a valid work visa?
Sorry for the long question, hoping background info will get a more accurate response.
Until you have a green card and will be a tax resident, you are considered a Nonresident Alien (NRA). As an NRA you will not have to report your income earned before you move unless you and your spouse elect to file Married Filing Jointly (MFJ). Your spouse will have the option to file separately using the less favorable Married Filing Separately Status (MFS) and not include your income earned prior to the move for the year.
You may weigh the options and select the one that results in the lowest tax.
Married Filing Jointly with a nonresident alien spouse
If you choose this option, you will include ALL of your worldwide income on the joint tax return. This income will then be subject to US tax. However, you may be able to take credits for any taxes you paid on the foreign income.
To file jointly with your spouse, you will also need to make an election to be treated as a resident alien for tax purposes (this does not affect immigration status in any way.)
To do this, attach a statement to your return, signed by both of you that states that one of you is a US citizen, and the other is a nonresident alien and that you are electing to both be treated as US residents for tax purposes. Include the full name and address of each spouse on this letter, as well as any social security numbers (you may not yet have one.)
You must also apply for an ITIN to use the MFJ filing status, if the spouse isn't yet eligible for a social security number.
Once you make the election to treat a nonresident alien as a resident for tax purposes, this election stays in effect until it is suspended or revoked. Also, it is a once-in-a lifetime election for the nonresident alien. Once revoked, the nonresident alien spouse cannot elect to be treated as a resident in the future, even if married to someone else.
The other option is to file separately.
Married Filing Separately with a nonresident alien spouse
If you do not elect to be treated as a resident for tax purposes, you do not have to include your income on your return. However, you will have a lower standard deduction, and you may not be able to claim certain other tax benefits.
With this status filing for an ITIN or social security number is not required, but the return will need to be printed and mailed this year in order to either apply for the ITIN or to file without it.
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