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I am US citizen living in the US getting married to a non US citizen who is studying here on a non-immigrant J visa. While she is the in the US, she has and will have no income.

In a year or two, we are going to leave the US and so are not planning to apply for her to become a permanent resident. As I understand it, when we are living abroad, I can file for taxes as 'Married filing separately' and, as she is not a US person and has no US based income, she will not need to file any paperwork whatsoever with the IRS.

However, while we are living here, it seems like a good idea for me to file as 'Married filing jointly' as I will get extra deductions against no extra income.

My question is whether doing this will complicate matters after we leave and I want to start filing separately and avoid her having to report any of her foreign income, or whether I can just switch which box I check.

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Filing as Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately is a decision you guys can make each year independently of what you chose in previous years. Either way is absolutely fine as far as the tax laws go (just make sure you don't file "Single").

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as she is not a US person and has no US based income, she will not need to file any paperwork whatsoever with the IRS.

I don't know if she has or will applied for an SSN. If she appears on your 1040, you may also need to include her SSN on your jointly filed tax return 1040.

My question is whether doing this will complicate matters after we leave and I want to start filing separately and avoid her having to report any of her foreign income, or whether I can just switch which box I check.

While this election is made on a year by year basis, it's really hard to say what will increase the risk of audit from an IRS and state perspective. Once you move outside the U.S., you may not be required to file for most states. You will have to continue filing for federal purposes. If you live outside the U.S. and qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion of roughly 100,800 in 2015, this may not be a concern.

However, if you're balling and make more than 100,800 or the higher combined amount - it may be best to file separately and incur the potential audit risk. It's not that bad since you can just respond to the notice you receive explaining your situation.

https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Foreign-Earned-Income-Exclusion

  • "If she appears on your 1040, you may also need to include her SSN on your jointly filed tax return 1040." Or an ITIN if she doesn't have and isn't eligible for an SSN. – user102008 Jun 5 '16 at 8:51

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