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I'm at loss how to proceed here. I'm a J-1 student graduating with a Ph.D. in May. The whole previous academic year I've been abroad working on my dissertation. My wife has had a J-2, which expired last May, but we didn't apply for an extension as there was no need. She didn't set her foot on US soil during 2014, but would need to file, since she had a valid J-visa for the spring last year.

Here's my problem. I have a child who was born in the US in November 2013 and who is a US citizen. I didn't realize until today that I should have filed a tax return for her for 2013, since the IRS seems to require this from children too (this is contrary to my home country, where no filing is necessary before you turn 18 if you haven't had any income).

In other words, I need to file taxes for her now. My questions are the following:

  1. I've read that you can claim dependents on your tax return? Is this possible for J-1 visa holders too?

  2. Are there any deductions that one can claim based on supporting a child.

The problem is that since I'm a student I don't have the money to consult a tax attorney to file... Does anyone have any idea how this works. A high-level overview would help. I can ask more detailed questions later.

My knowledge of US tax law is very limited, zero in fact. I've just clicked next next through the web platform that my university subscribes that fills the forms for you. It asks simplified stupid questions and works if you're a "template" case. Now it seems like this way of proceeding won't work, since if you give a nonstandard answer on a question it will bail out telling you, you need to fill out the forms yourself.

  • Are you filing as resident or non-resident? Are you from India? – littleadv Mar 6 '15 at 9:46
  • Filing as a non-resident. I'm from Sweden. – dst Mar 6 '15 at 14:25
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Your wife doesn't need to file a 2014 tax return because she's a nonresident and she didn't have any U.S. income. Her visa is irrelevant; it only matters what her status was (if she was in the U.S., but she wasn't) and if she had U.S. income.

Your child doesn't need to file a tax return because she didn't have any income. There's a certain income threshold below which she doesn't have to file. Children generally never file their own tax returns. I don't know who told you otherwise.

You may have to file if you had income (maybe including fellowship income and stuff like that) in the U.S. during the year? Did you? If you didn't then you probably don't need to file a tax return.

Also, you said you're nonresident for the year. Are you sure about that? Students are generally nonresident for the first 5 calendar years, and resident thereafter. So if you came in 2009 or before, you would be resident for all of 2014; but if you came in 2010 or after, you would be nonresident for all of 2014. If you were in the first 5 calendar years of being a student, you also need to file Form 8843 regardless of whether you need to file a tax return.

Nonresidents generally can't claim dependents. Residents can, however. A dependent will provide you with an exemption (it reduces your taxable income by a certain amount). You can also get the Child Tax Credit if your income is low enough.

There is a U.S.-Sweden tax treaty. It has a section covering students. It may exempt some or all of your income from U.S. tax.

Most universities provide free international tax programs for their international students and scholars. You should look to see if your school offers this. Don't go to outside tax filing places because those generally don't know anything about how to file for nonresidents.

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