Should you file single, separate, or joint tax returns for a green card?

OUR tax laws give you choices of filing status to prepare your income tax returns. Which one is appropriate for a married person petitioning (or being petitioned by) your spouse? I’m a tax professional, not a lawyer, so let’s discuss this case from a tax standpoint.

Case in point: I had a new tax client who had been filing as single. He had gone back home to his homeland and got married. He was petitioning his bride for immigration. I browsed through his prior tax returns and noticed a glaring item – he filed as single after getting married! I wondered how any government official would react to tax returns filed as single by a married person who is sponsoring a mate from another country. He decided to amend prior years and file the current year as joint. Yes, our tax laws allow you to elect to file joint with a non-resident spouse.

Let’s iscuss hese iling status choices:

• Single.

• Married filing separate.

• Head of household.

• Joint.

Single: No, you are not single. You can’t use this status. Filing as single may reveal a hidden agenda to marry for sponsorship purpose.

Separate: If your fiancé arrived and is now living in the US, why are you even sponsoring somebody who is separated from you?

Head of household: Taxpayers file as heads of household to avail of potentially lower tax brackets. However, be aware that tax rules for filing as head of household require that you:

1. Are unmarried on December 31, and

2. Pay more than half the costs of maintaining a home, and

3. Maintain that home for a dependent if you lived apart from your spouse before July 1 – December 31.

Assuming that you satisfy the first two – that you are unmarried and that you paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home – how would you satisfy the third? You are admitting that you lived apart from your spouse. This is a critical issue that you have to discuss with your lawyer.

Joint: Filing joint makes sense for a husband and wife. Your tax returns affect your sponsorship. Sponsorship is a big deal that affects your life with your new spouse here in good old US of A.

Provide a copy of your tax return for review by your immigration lawyer before filing.

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Victor Santos Sy graduated Cum Laude from UE with a BBA and from Indiana State University with an MBA. Vic worked with SyCip, Gorres, Velayo (SGV – Andersen Consulting) and Ernst & Young before establishing Sy Accountancy Corporation in Pasadena, California.

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He has 50 years of experience in defending taxpayers audited by the IRS, FTB, EDD, BOE and other governmental agencies.  He is publishing a book on his expertise – “HOW TO AVOID OR SURVIVE IRS AUDITS.” Our readers may inquire about the book or email tax questions at vicsy@live.com.

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