I have a spouse who’s a nonresident alien (NRA), is it better to file jointly or separately?

In general, married filing jointly is the most beneficial filing method.

However, there are other issues which can complicate this, such as the desire to not include a foreign spouse’s income on a tax return.

You can make a one-time election (to treat a foreign spouse as a U.S. person for tax purposes), and you can revoke this choice only once. Please choose wisely when you do this as you cannot flip-flop each year.

When we are preparing your return (after the EL is signed), we will be able to advise you on whether filing jointly would be beneficial.

When you complete the Tax Questionnaire, please answer the question “Are you filing jointly with your spouse?” with Not sure.

Note that filing jointly means that your spouse will be considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes. Your bank will be required to request Form W-9 to obtain their Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), which may be either their Social Security Number (SSN) or their Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

My spouse doesn't have a Social Security Number. What should we do? Does that mean they need an ITIN?

No, they do not necessarily need an ITIN. 

If you are married to a non-U.S. citizen or a GC holder, you can choose to leave them off of your return.

If you wish to add your NRA (nonresident alien) spouse to your return, this can be done by filing for an ITIN (Form W-7 which we can prepare for you in conjunction with your return for an additional fee). This will allow you to e-file in the future and to file jointly with your NRA spouse.

More information on ITINs and whether or not you should include your nonresident alien spouse on your tax return:

What is ITIN and why you should get it for your Non-Citizen Spouse

To Include or Not to Include Your Foreign Spouse’s Income on Your US Expat Tax Return

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