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HELP: I listed "single" on my Federal Tax Returns while Married
November 26, 2013
2:07 pm
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December 7, 2012
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I'm really confused about this. I'm filing form I-864 AOS, and I filed as "Single" for the past few years Federal Tax returns. My rationale was that my spouse had never been to America, and thus did NOT have a Social Security Number NOR a Green Card, and so there was no way to include that information on the tax return.

Is this a huge problem? Can I include an explanation along with the letter as to why I did this?

If this is going to be a problem, what must I do to go about fixing it?

Thanks!

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November 26, 2013
2:11 pm
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I dont really have an answer for you but I can say this past years tax returns I did the same thing. I receive no financial support from my husband and he is not here or contributing or have an SSN so I just filed what I always file single and head of household. Id like ot think there isnt going to be a major problem and they arent going to look at it with a fine tooth comb since its only to establish the ability to support your incoming spouse.

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November 26, 2013
2:16 pm
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if your married the file your taxes as married it does not matter if your spouse is in another country,or if they dont work. the IRS says if married the you must file as married, some couples file as single. and not joinly,if you file as married you should get a better refund,have your spouse go on line to the IRS.GOV website download the w-7 form for the itin number thats needed for your spouse tax retuns she signs it, sends it to you fill it out sign it, send it to the address listed on the w-7 along with your copy of marriage certificate, copy of us citizenship copy of ID, if you dont get the number by april 15 get amemed extension until oct 2013.wait for the itin number to come,its like a social security number,you can not work with that us only for to file taxes,and when your spouse comes to live in the united states you must call the IRS to let them know your in the us an dont need the itin number anylonger.

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November 26, 2013
2:26 pm
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I was told to file single as well on my taxes. The fact is my spouse is not here and no social security number in his name. When I fill out W2 forms for employment, it does state on the form that if your spouse is an immigrant or if your married but the spouse is not in the United States, use "single" as your current status. I do not think you will get penalized for this. However, I would not want to put am married on something and have to explain. Because don't you have to put spouse name, social, and employer, and address. If your petitioning for him/her to come am thinking that will look bad. My opinion.

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November 26, 2013
2:31 pm
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The available filing status choices for married people living apart are Married filing Jointly , Married filing separately and Single head of household. Just plain Single is NOT a valid option. You can correct your returns and pay/recieve monies based on the changes status. Your non US spouse will need an ITIN number. See IRS form 500 for details

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November 26, 2013
2:49 pm
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Thank you all for replying so quickly, I truly appreciate it!

The folks who mentioned that if you are married, then you have to file as "married" are right, but it is a bit complicated.

Upon further research I found the following link, and it is very helpful: (I can't post the link, so I'll just copy and paste the relevant info below:
So for those of you in this thread who were told to file as "single" or weren't sure how to go about doing it, check out the info above as it clarifies this complicated process a bit.

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November 26, 2013
2:53 pm
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You can file amended returns once she's here. Technically, you should have filed as married filing separately but I've never seen anybody, including me, be penalized by the IRS for paying too much in taxes or by a Consular Officer for filing single when married. Unless you're an IRS employee worried about losing your IRS job, just deal with it when you're ready.

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November 26, 2013
2:59 pm
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You make a really good point! It does indeed benefit the US government that I've decided to forgo the monies I could have received had I filed as married; so I do not think I'm in any trouble with the IRS on that front. Also, I do plan on amending the return once she's here; but knowing what I know now, I can breathe easy in that she won't be facing any complications at her visa interview!

Note: Also, I was referring to my tax forms for the 2010 and 2009 fiscal years. For the upcoming 2012 Tax season, I will be filing "Married filing Separately" and in lieu of my spouse's SSN I'll put "NRA"—-this appears to be the best way to go since I'm not claiming an exemtion for her.

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November 26, 2013
3:05 pm
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December 19, 2012
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When I filed last year had I filed married I would have been penalized for the child credit I get for my son. So I was advised to file single head of household.

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November 26, 2013
3:10 pm
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December 19, 2012
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I also went through this issue as whether I was "married" or "single". I consulted a CPA as well as speaking to the IRS directly. I also studied the W-7 issue. Here is the story that I got. The term "married" or "single"on your tax returns are legal terms for tax filing purposes. You can not file a tax return as "married" unless you can provide a social security number or ITIN. If you have an ITIN you can NOT use your spouse as a dependent, but you can of course file as married and in theory be taxed at the lower married rate. But, any income your foreign spouse earns IS taxable in the US. Your foreign spouse also has to sign your tax return as well as the W-7 form. I have not heard of or was told by the CPA or the IRS help line that you could simply write NRA (Non Resident Alien) where the social goes. If so, why would there be a W-7 form? The purpose of the ITIN is to track a person's tax history and tax status. You can't do that by writing NRA. You also can not amended you tax forms AFTER your non- US spouse comes to the US and gets a social security number. They were not eligible as dependents at the time and that does not change simply because they now have a social security number AFTER the fact. Amending the tax form from single to married to be taxed at the lower rate but then NOT claim them as a dependent (because they were not eligible at the time) will be too complicated to explain to the IRS (there is no "box" to check for that) and except saying that your tax preparer (if you had one) made an error when filing your taxes, how can you explain amending your taxes from single to married? Did you forget that you had a spouse? It is just inviting trouble. As a previous poster said the IRS is not going to get mad at you or are you going to get in trouble for paying too much tax. So, either you file as "single" or you go the W-7 route.

In my situation I decided to file as "single". In my opinion it was too complicated and stressful to be sending documents back and forth internationally and filing for an ITIN just for one year and the last thing I wanted to do was have to fill out another form and deal with another governmental agency (especially the IRS). As it turned out I will be filing as "single" again this year because VSC was so damn SLOW. I guess those are the breaks. If there is anyone with a spouse that will be out of the US for more then two years I say then go for the ITIN (W-7).

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November 26, 2013
3:21 pm
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Hi,

It seems that there are mixed messages out there. On the one hand, there are individuals, like yourself, who claim that filing as "Single" is the best way to go, especially if one doesn't want to go through the slightly lengthier W-9 process. And if I'm understanding you folks correctly, filing as "single" has no negative affects as far the the visa processing goes; am I correct?

On the other hand, there are a lot of folks who advocate that filing "Married Separately" and writing NRA instead of SSN is okay, AS LONG AS the spouse is not being counted as an exemption. Here is where I'm getting this information from, feel free to judge its credibility:

"You must file as married-separate or married-joint.
Based on extensive correspondence I've had with IRS a year ago, if your non-US spouse has no US income, and you do not intend to claim an exemption for her, you do NOT need an ITIN, and can write "NRA" in her SSN space (you won't be able to efile this way).
If, however, you want to file married-separate but claim a spouse exemption, you'll have to get her an ITIN by sending a US-Embassy produced "true copy" of her passport and a Form W-7 with your next tax return (filed with the special address in the W-7 instructions).
If you have a child, you can start to file as head of household." (User: edelman[/i]; Source: http://forum.gaijinp…-JN-w-no-social)[/i]

"You may file either joint or separately. Check out my very first post in this thread for a link that describes the options. Basically if you are filing jointly, you must declare all of her income on your return, even though she has no connection with the US. You must also apply for an ITIN number for her. There is also a declaration you must make – I think the info is in the link.
"You may also file as "married filing separately". In this case, if your wife has no connection with the US, the IRS doesn't care about her and you can simply write "NRA" in the space where her SSN would normally go, and she will not need to actually file a separate 1040. " (User: Majestic; Source: http://forum.gaijinp…-JN-w-no-social)

"In the end I filled out my federal and state returns online with TurboTax, filing as "married filing separately." Because my husband didn't have a social security number I couldn't e-file so I just mailed them in. Had no problems with my federal return- had my refund direct deposited a few weeks later. New York State sent me a letter a little while after I submitted the return saying something like, "We are missing some information, please tell us your spouse's SSN." I just wrote them a letter saying, "My husband is a non-resident alien. He has never lived or worked in the United States. My filing status is "married filing separately" and so his SSN is not required. My federal tax return was accepted without issue, please continue processing my return." Got my refund from them a few weeks after that. In retrospect I should've included that letter in the first place. I wouldn't waste time with the ITIN unless you need it for something else (adding your spouse to a bank accounts etc.). " (User: Imaisha--Platinum Member; Source: http://www.visajourn…ing-separately/)

"Just to point out that once you are married you cannot file as "single" -- you are married! You may file "married filing separately." You do not need an ITIN to file in this manner. Before we moved to the States, I had been living abroad for many years married to a non-USC. I was instructed by the IRS to file married filing separately to avoid the issue of the ITIN, and in the place on the 1040 for the social security number or ITIN, to write "NRA" for "non-resident alien." This was perfectly acceptable to the IRS." (User: the maven ; Source: http://www.visajourn…ing-separately/)

"I second the above post… I was married for 7 years before my husband applied for GC and we had NO ITTN# for him (Complicated story, but it was financially better that he did not have one and remain Non resident Alien)…
We filed married filing seperatly, in the space for the spouses SS#, you can write the NRA, None, Non-Resident etc… You will have issues electronically filing, but you can print the return out and mail it.
So you do not have to get an ITTN#. " (User: christeen Diamond Member; Source: http://www.visajourn…ing-separately/)

"U.S. citizen or resident married to non-resident.
If you are a U.S. citizen or resident who is married to a non-resident alien or a foreign person, you can only file as married filing jointly or married filing separately. You can file joint return even when your spouse has never been to the U.S. If you file joint return, you must both declare your worldwide income for the year. If you or your spouse paid taxes in a foreign country, you can file Form 1116 Foreign Tax Credit or/and Form 2555 Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. (Read U.S. Citizens or Residents with Foreign Income.)
If you are filing as married filing separately, you must enter your spouse's full name in the space provided and must enter your spouse's SSN or ITIN in the space provided unless your spouse does not have and is not required to have an SSN or ITIN. In that case, write nonresident or N R A in the space for SSN." [emphasis mine] [source:http://taxipay.blogspot.com/2008/02/filing-status-for-married.html)

"You should amend your return and put the correct filing status. As far as when you got married, your filing status is determined by your marital status as of the last day of the year. If you are married on 12/31, then you should file as married (whether jointly or separately is another question). I would say if you file married-filing-separately, you can get away with not having an itin for him. Just add nonresident alien after his name. You can't claim a spousal exemption without an ITIN or SSN, however." (user: Love's JAA; Source: http://www.visajourn…-the-interview/)

Also with regards to your following comment, "You also can not amended you tax forms AFTER your non- US spouse comes to the US and gets a social security number. They were not eligible as dependents at the time and that does not change simply because they now have a social security number AFTER the fact," it seems that the IRS has no problem with amendments. The following is excerpted from "IRS Publication 504":

"Joint return after separate returns. If either you or your spouse (or both of you) file a separate return, you generally can change to a joint return any time within 3 years from the due date (not including extensions) of the separate return or returns. This applies to a return either of you filed claiming married filing separately, single, or head of household filing status. Use Form 1040X to change your filing status." (source: http://www.irs.gov/p…blink1000175857)

In sum, there seems to be compelling testimonials to the efficacy of just inputting "NRA" in the "SSN" field when filing as "Married Separate." BUT your, and other members' suggestions of filing "Single" also appear very compelling. Now I outline all of this at length to get clarification on the following: Could it be that BOTH methods are effective? It's already been noted that there is considerable debate on which of these two methods is more effective and "correct," so perhaps we can clarify this a bit more.

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November 26, 2013
3:23 pm
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That makes sense in your case. But I don't have any dependents, and such I cannot file under "HOH." And I filed "single" last year, and I was planning on filing "married separately" this year. But I'm still getting mixed signals, so let's see how this conversation pans out. Perhaps we can come to some definitive answer to my situation soon.

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July 21, 2014
5:15 pm
John
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Did you contact your tax accountant? Thanks

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