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I’m in the US under an f1 student visa and got married in december of 2023 with a foreign person that lives abroad. I received income in 2023 and will submit my taxes as non resident and I believe my now wife doesn't have any obligation to file since she doesn't have any connection whatsoever to the US other than me. Can I file as a single person or what is the correct way to file here? Seems odd to file as married filing separately since she doesn't have any obligation to file. Also, if I file as married that will cap SALT deduction at 5k instead of 10k?

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  • I don't see why MFS is 'odd'; even for citizens and aliens taxed as resident (i.e. on 1040) it is permitted for one spouse to file MFS and the other not at all based on their individual situations. (However if both file MFS it affects deductions -- either both must take the standard deduction or both must itemize. Most aliens taxed as nonresident (NRA) can never take the standard deduction and always must itemize.) Jan 31 at 8:40

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I'm in an analagous situation so I looked into this a little. I haven't actually file since getting married so I haven't gotten into the details, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Basically, you have two choices: You can file as Married Filing Separately. Or you can elect to treat your non-resident spouse as a US resident and file Married Filing Jointly.

If you file separately, there are many restrictions on what deductions you can take and how much.

If you file jointly, then your non-resident spouse is treated as a resident and is subject to US taxes on her income.

Which option is better for you depends on your relative incomes and what deductions you have. I suppose that's why it's a choice: If one way was always better, they'd just say, here's how to do it.

If you do choose to file jointly, you can revoke this decision later, but the revocation is then final. You can never go back. So you have to consider not just your present situation but likely future scenarios.

Personally, I'm thinking I will probably hire a tax accountant the first year to help me through all the details, and then hopefully I'll understand it all and can do it myself in the future. :-)

References: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/us-citizens-and-resident-aliens-abroad https://www.hrblock.com/tax-center/filing/personal-tax-planning/filing-taxes-when-married-to-non-us-citizen/

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    99% of the time, MFS is better for a couple in this situation; exceptions would likely revolve around the non-US citizen being a non-earning spouse. Don't take this as definitive, the devil is always in the details. Jan 29 at 13:05
  • @Grade'Eh'Bacon Yes, a very important question would be whether your spouse has non-US income. If not, MFJ is probably better; if so, MFS is probably better. But as you say, there are many details. Like if you have investment losses under one person's name, etc. I wouldn't make a snap judgement. In my case I'm retired and my (non-US citizen) wife does not work, so we're probably better to go with MFJ. But I intend to play with the numbers before we make a decision. I'd guess that more than 1% are better off with MFJ. But I don't have any statistics on that.
    – Jay
    Jan 29 at 15:55
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You cannot file as single if you're married. You can either file as "married filing jointly" (MFJ), or as "married filing separately" (MFS). Non-residents, with some exceptions, have to use MFS.

Yes, you only get half the cap as MFS.

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Assuming that you are correct that you are a nonresident alien in 2023 (e.g. you came to the US in 2019 or later, and you had not previously been in the US in F or J status), then generally you can only file as Married Filing Separately. See the section in Publication 519 about filing status for married nonresident aliens. There is an exception where you can file as Single if you lived apart from your spouse for the last 6 months of the year, and you are a tax resident of Canada, Mexico, or South Korea, or you are a non-citizen US national.

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  • You mean, "you can only file as Married Filing Separately", right? Non-residents cannot file MFJ unless a tax treaty allows it (IIRC only India and Korea nationals).
    – littleadv
    Jan 29 at 16:18
  • @littleadv: sorry, fixed
    – user102008
    Jan 29 at 20:10

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