I am a greencard holder and beyond going there for 2 months every 6 months ( up until last year when I applied for an I-131 form ) so far I have never worked in the states nor have I made any money from there.

Most of the things I v read online state that a greencard holder is supposed to pay tax and file an IRS 1040 form, I v never done that and would like to know if I am supposed to so I can get to it and not be breaking the law.

A few things to note, I have not been employed nor been on the payroll of any american company while being outside of the states.


  • You're most likely to get in trouble next time you try to renew your green card or apply for citizenship. One of the questions on the forms will be whether you complied with your tax obligations - you have clearly not. – littleadv Sep 15 '14 at 6:45

If you are a permanent resident (and it wasn't taken away or abandoned), then you are a resident alien for U.S. tax purposes. (One of the two tests for being a resident alien is the "green card test".)

Being a resident alien means all your worldwide income is subject to U.S. taxes, regardless of where you live or work. That doesn't necessarily mean you need to actually pay taxes on your income again if you've already paid it -- you may be able to use the Foreign Tax Credit to reduce your taxes by the amount already paid to a foreign government -- but you need to report it on U.S. tax forms just like income from the U.S., and you can then apply any tax credits that you may qualify for.

As a resident alien, you file taxes using Form 1040. You are required to file taxes if your income for a particular year is above a certain threshold. This threshold is described in the first few pages of the 1040 instructions for each year. For 2013, for Single filing status under 65, it is $10000. The only way you can legally not file is if your income the whole year was below this amount.

You should go back and file taxes if you were required to but failed to. Having filed taxes when required is very important if you want to naturalize later on. It is also one component of demonstrating you're maintaining residency in the U.S., which you're required to do as a permanent resident being outside the U.S. for a long time, or else you'll lose your permanent residency. (Even filing taxes might not be enough, as your description of your presence in the U.S. shows you only go there for brief periods each year, not really living there. You're lucky you haven't lost your green card already; any time you go there you run a great risk of them noticing and taking it away.)

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  • I have a re-entry permit though, that's why i v been mostly absent, we got the greencard when i still had 2 years to finish college – Patsy Issa Aug 28 '14 at 7:49
  • @PatsyIssa: so the "going there for 2 months every 6 months" was before you got the green card? – user102008 Aug 28 '14 at 10:22
  • It was when I was required to go there to get the card (by mail) but I couldn't go and live there just yet, went back after a year and applied for the re-entry permit and got it came back here graduated, due to financial reasons I can't afford to move there just yet but I expect within 2 years I ll have things in order – Patsy Issa Aug 28 '14 at 10:31

Where you earn your money makes no difference to the IRS. Citizen/permanent resident means you pay income tax.

To make matters worse given your situation it's virtually certain you have unreported foreign bank accounts--something that's also an important issue.

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  • What am i supposed to do to fix it? Anything other than the irs 1040 form to fill? – Patsy Issa Aug 26 '14 at 20:28
  • 3
    @PatsyIssa I would talk to a tax lawyer about the situation. – Loren Pechtel Aug 26 '14 at 22:40

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