The Tax Return

Your Filing Status – What Difference Does It Make?

Choosing the proper filing status is important because it determines what tax rate schedule you will use. An explanation of filing status is in Publication 519 and in Form 1040NR.

If you are single on the last day of the tax year, your filing status will be “Single”. Some married persons who have dependent children and who did not live with their spouse for at least the last six months of the tax year may also file as single. If you are in this category, and are a resident of Canada, Mexico, Japan, Korea, or a U.S. national, see the additional requirements in the instructions to Form 1040NR.

If you are married on the last day of the tax year, and your spouse is a nonresident alien, you do not have the option to file a return jointly with your spouse if you are also a nonresident alien. If you file Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ you must file as married filing separately.

Option to File as a U.S. Resident

If your spouse is a U.S. citizen or resident on the last day of the tax year, you can choose to file as a U.S. resident, and file a joint return with your spouse on Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040-EZ. This includes situations in which your spouse is a nonresident alien at the beginning of the year, but a resident alien at the end of the year. Using this option might reduce your tax liability because you can claim dependency exemptions and the standard deduction, but you will not be allowed to take advantage of any tax treaty benefits. Publication 519 provides more information on how to make this determination.

Personal and Dependency Exemptions

An exemption is a statutory allowance that represents an individual. The exemption amount is adjusted for inflation each year and you can claim a personal exemption on your return for yourself unless another taxpayer who supports you can claim a dependency exemption for you. You can claim dependency exemptions for qualifying individuals, over half of whose support was provided by you. A discussion of exemptions can be found in Publication 519 and in the Form 1040NR instructions segment.

Generally, whether you are married or single, you cannot deduct dependency exemptions as a nonresident, even if you are supporting family members. That means only one exemption (your personal exemption) is typically allowed on Form 1040NR. However, residents of Mexico and Canada and nationals of the United States are allowed to deduct exemptions under the same rules as U.S. residents. You cannot file Form 1040NR-EZ if you claim dependency exemptions.

Determining What Income is Taxable and How to Report It

Are my moving expenses deductible? How do I leverage the foreign tax credit? What is the tax liability on my investment income?

The rules for reporting income and claiming deductions are continually subjected to changes and exceptions. I know your ultimate goal is to preserve as much of your income as possible and take advantage of all available deductions. That’s why I constantly monitor changes in tax laws and apply the latest knowledge on a case by case basis to ensure your return is accurate and takes all possible factors into consideration.

6 Common Taxpayer Mistakes