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Non-American Spouse

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If you are a US person living overseas and married to a non-American, you may be wondering how this impacts your US tax filing requirements.

Should I put my non-American spouse’s details on my US tax return?

If your spouse is a non-US person and they do not hold a Green Card (making them a non-resident Alien), you do not need to put their details on your US tax return. All you need to include on there is your spouses name. No more than their name is disclosed to the IRS.

Can I put my non-US spouse’s information on my US tax return?

US persons married to a non-US spouse mostly choose to file separately in order to keep their spouse out of the US tax system. Filing jointly involves reporting their worldwide income and assets and exposing them to potential US taxes.

You can include their information if you apply for a Social Security Number or an Individual Taxpayer’s Identification Number (ITIN) for a non-resident Alien).

To get a Social Security Number, you need to apply with Form SS-5 at a Social Security Office or US consulate. If they are not eligible, they can apply for an Individual Taxpayer’s Identification Number. You apply for this by filing a separate form (Form W-7) with the IRS. However, this is only accepted in special circumstances with a given reason.

When would I put my non-US spouse’s information on my US tax return?

A perfect example of when you would include your non-US spouse’s information on your tax return is in order to qualify for the Child Tax Credit Refund. If as a US taxpayer you have no or very little income, you would not qualify to get the credit refund for your children who are US citizens.

If, for example, your British spouse is earning and paying UK tax, you can get the benefits of the refundable child tax credit by filing a joint return by first applying for an Individual Taxpayer’s Identification Number. You can get the refundable credit as money in your pocket but still, pay no US tax.

However, this exposes your spouse to US filing requirements and taxes. They will have to file additional forms just like a US person – so don’t involve them unless it is for an important reason.

My children are non-US citizens, can I still claim the Child Tax Credit Refund?

If the child still qualifies under the IRS’ criteria, then you can claim them as a dependent on your US tax return in order to receive the refundable credit. You will need to obtain either a Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number from the IRS for each child.

Can I give my non-US spouse a gift tax-free?

If the beneficiary of a gift is a non-US citizen, the amount of gift they can receive tax-free is limited annually. These limits have been put in place to prevent the transferred money from possibly avoiding US estate taxation. Any gift in excess of the exclusion amount will be subject to the spouse receiving the gift to gift taxation.

For 2019, the exclusion amount is $155,000 USD. For 2020, the exclusion amount is $157,000 USD.

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