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How should I file my taxes if my spouse is a nonresident alien?

SOLVEDby TurboTax817Updated January 04, 2022

If your spouse is a nonresident alien, you have three options when you file your taxes. Select an option below to see which is best for you.

For federal tax purposes, if you choose this option you’ll need to include all of your spouse's income, foreign and domestic. This income will be subject to U.S. tax. However, you may be able to claim credits for any taxes your spouse paid on their foreign income.

If this is the first year that you’ll file jointly with your spouse, you’ll need to tell the IRS that you’re electing to both be treated as U.S. residents for tax purposes. This election is permanent unless it’s suspended or revoked. Once revoked, the nonresident alien can’t elect to be treated as a resident in the future, even if married to someone else.

Here’s how to make this election:

  1. Prepare your return in TurboTax.
  2. When you get to the Let’s get ready to e-file screen, select File by Mail.
  3. Attach a statement to your return, signed by each of you that states that one of you is a U.S. citizen and the other is a nonresident alien and that you’re electing to both be treated as U.S. residents for tax purposes. Include the full name, address and Social Security number (or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) of each spouse. This won’t affect the immigration status of the nonresident alien.
  4. Mail the return to the address on the instruction sheet that prints with the return.

If your spouse doesn’t have a Social Security number or ITIN, you’ll need to apply for one when you mail in your return. To do this, follow steps 1–3 above and then do this:

  1. Fill out Form W-7 and attach it to your return, as well as all necessary documentation.
  2. Mail the return to the address specified in the Form W-7 instructions.

Note: TurboTax will give you an error regarding the missing Social Security number for your spouse. You can ignore the error since you’re printing your return.

If you choose Married Filing Separately, you don’t have to include your spouse's income on your return, and therefore you won’t have to treat your spouse as a resident for tax purposes. However, you’ll have a lower standard deduction and you may not be able to claim other certain tax benefits.

You don’t need to apply for an ITIN or Social Security number for your spouse, but you must print your return and file by mail.

  1. Prepare your return in TurboTax.
  2. When you get to the Let’s get ready to e-file screen, select File by Mail.
  3. TurboTax will give you an error regarding the missing Social Security number or ITIN for your spouse. Proceed to print with the error, but write Nonresident Alien or NRA in the space for your spouse’s Social Security number before mailing in your return.
  4. Mail the return to the address on the instruction sheet that prints with the return.

To file electronically in the future, you’ll have to complete a W-7 form and attach it to your return as explained under Married Filing Jointly with a nonresident alien spouse above.

Married taxpayers generally must choose between Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately, but taxpayers whose spouse is a nonresident alien may also file using the Head of Household status. Filing as Head of Household may give you benefits such as a greater potential refund. However, you must have another qualifying person to be eligible; your spouse doesn’t count. Go here to learn if you’re eligible.

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