If you are a United States citizen (or a resident alien) and are married to a non-citizen, who cannot otherwise qualify as a resident alien under either the Substantial Presence Test or the Green Card Test (as explained at the IRS link directly below), then you have some options on how to file your US tax return, although current United States tax laws do not make this process particularly easy.
If your spouse could qualify as
a resident alien, then the two of you together could file a normal Married
Filing Joint income tax return (or the two of you could alternatively file as
Marred Filing Separately). Basically, if
your spouse qualifies as a resident alien, then your spouse is essentially
treated as a regular US citizen for tax purposes. That, however, does not seem to be the case with your European Union husband.
It is also helpful to point out that you cannot simply file a tax return as Single, and ignore your spouse, regardless of residency status. (We mention that fact because we are sometimes asked.) Additionally, it is useful to know that the IRS considers those persons who are married as of midnight on December 31st of the year to have been married the whole entire year, for income tax purposes.
Thus, here are the outlines of your (2) broad filing choices.
Option # 1: You can file your US tax return as Married Filing Separately, and just report your own income there. TurboTax can walk you through this process, and help you create the necessary Form 1040. If your spouse does not already have an ITIN number, or a Social Security Number, then this return would have to further be printed and paper filed. If your spouse has a valid ITIN or SSN, then the tax return would be eligible for e-filing.
If there is no ITIN or SSN, then in any place where the nonresident spouse's taxpayer ID number is required on a tax form, you would take a black or blue pen and manually write "nonresident alien" or abbreviate as "NRA." In the TurboTax software, you can input any "made up" SSN or ITIN you want to, in order get through the program (we suggest 999-88-9999, 999-88-9998 or 999-88-9987, as those numbers won’t produce any TurboTax program errors in a review check) as a temporary "placeholder.” You can then later "white out" that number when the paper pages are printed.
You can also claim a personal exemption for your spouse, if your spouse had no gross taxable income for U.S. tax purposes, and was not the dependent of another taxpayer. This mirrors the similar rule for US citizens and resident aliens filing as Married Filing Separately to claim the personal (dependency) exemption for their spouse, where that spouse has no taxable income, is not filing a separate tax return, and is not claimed as a dependent on any other taxpayer’s return. But, in order to do this and claim the personal exemption, your spouse must also have a valid Social Security Number or an ITIN.
Option # 2: You can elect to include your nonresident spouse on your US income tax return (which may be more or less tax favorable than Married Filing Separately); and file as Married Filing Jointly; but you would need to file a paper Form 1040 tax return in order to do so. The somewhat complicated process for completing this type of tax return is explained in detail at the IRS.gov website here:
Such a tax return (Option # 2) is probably best done by a professional tax preparer.
If you choose Option # 1 and have any difficultly with that, then having the tax return prepared by a professional is also an option here too.
TurboTax has a helpful Frequently Asked Questions webpage about claiming international spouses and children, and you may wish to look at that as well. Here is the link:
Because of the administrative simplicity of Option # 1 over Option # 2, especially where the nonresident alien spouse has no existing Social Security Number or ITIN, many taxpayers will select the Married Filing Separately choice . . . even where it may not necessarily result in the absolute lowest overall US income tax burden.
Thank you for asking this important question
This advice helped me a lot. I put in "[social security number removed]" for my husbands SSN so I could go ahead and file. But when I went to file it.. it submitted electronically. I Know I am meant to print it out, white out the number and replace it with "NRA," but it filed successfully... and my printed forms say in bold lettering "DO NOT MAIL." So I am confused now. Should I still mail in a form with the numbers replaced with NRA or should I just see what the IRS says when they receive it?
Also, since I went about it this way.. does my husband still need to apply for an ITIN? He never has nor plans to work or live in the USA and I don't have any plans on working or living there again either. We don't own anything in the USA either.
If the IRS approves your return, even with the incorrect SSN, you will need to amend your tax return and print, white-out the SSN and mail the amended return to the IRS.
You must wait until your either receive your refund or pay your balance due before amending your return to make sure the IRS is finished processing it.
Amended returns can only be mailed. It is suggested that it be mailed certified with return receipt (or other tracking service) to verify that the IRS receives it.
You can check the status of the amended return here, but allow 3 weeks after mailing
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