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

SOLVEDby TurboTax1427Updated 3 days ago

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 the Married Filing Separately (MFS) filing status, you won’t treat your spouse as a resident for tax purposes, and therefore you won’t include your spouse's income on your return. However, when filing MFS, the Standard Deduction is less than Married Filing Jointly (MFJ), and you lose certain tax credits and benefits you would otherwise be eligible for.

Because a Nonresident Alien Spouse has no Social Security Number, you have the option to:

  • Attempt to e-file the return with the Social Security Number field blank, using the instructions below. 
  • Print your entire tax return, write “NRA” where the spouse's social security number or ITIN should be, and mail it to the appropriate IRS office.  
  • Print your entire tax return and apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) for your spouse which will allow you to easily e-file future returns.  Attach Form W-7 and all required documentation to your paper return. Take the package to a Certified Acceptance Agent, an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center, or mail to the IRS office listed in the W-7 instructions. 

Follow these steps to send your return electronically:

  1. Prepare your return in TurboTax.
  2. On the screen for your spouse’s information enter a name and date of birth.  Leave the social security number field blank. Click Continue.
  3. On the screen Select Any That Apply, please check the box “My spouse was a nonresident alien at any time during 2023”. Click Continue.
  4. Continue through the screens bypassing any messages or warnings about the absence of the spouse social security number. 
  5. Indicate that you would like to e-file your return and follow the instructions in the program to register or pay and transmit your return.

If your return will not transmit, or is rejected, return and follow these additional steps:

  1. When you get to the “Let’s get ready to e-file” screen, select File by Mail.
  2. TurboTax will continue to 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 the abbreviation “NRA”) in the space for your spouse’s Social Security number before mailing your return.
  3. Mail the return to the address on the instruction sheet that prints with your return.

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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