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Please forgive my ignorance, I've only moved to the UK this past December to be with my new spouse (British citizen). I need to file my taxes and see there are numerous sites that have free e-filing programs. The problem I've run into is being required to put my spouse's SSN/ITIN number on the form - being a British Citizen she has neither, what do I do? Her National Insurance Number won't fit, I'm confused. I've spent a couple days reading through this forum to try and educate myself but I just feel more overwhelmed and even more ignorant now. I don't own properties, have dependents to claim or any of the other headaches, mine should be fairly simple I had thought. I don't know what much of the terminology I'm seeing means (FBAR, compliance and several others), I'm guessing it's not the same as Fubar from my military days lol. If anyone could please suggest a place to start learning - beginning with basic understanding, I'd much appreciate it. I've always filed my own taxes in the states, so I understand much, but I'm not living there anymore and know rules have changed. Thank you in advance for any assistance you may be able to provide in pointing me in a better direction.:confused::confused:
 

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You've got a couple options. One option is to obtain a U.S. ITIN for your spouse. The other, generally preferred option, as long as your spouse is not required to have a SSN or ITIN, is to write "NRA" in the SSN/ITIN box. Tax preparation software and Web sites may or may not like NRA in that box. If the latter, you may need to file on paper.
 

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If you're filing married, filing separately, and you aren't claiming your new spouse for anything, then she doesn't need an SSN, ITIN or any other identification number on your US tax returns.

The best place to start for how to file from overseas is to download Publication 54 from the IRS website. Or start here: U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad The page contains links to most of the relevant forms and publications.

Although there is an IRS office at the London Embassy, I recommend taking a look at the Paris IRS office website: Internal Revenue Service | Embassy of the United States Paris, France They seem to do a good job of presenting the most important information - just be sure to download and read their Tax Assistance Information book, referenced on the right side of the page. One of the best summaries I've seen for new overseas filers (and it includes conversion rates!).

There's also information about the FBAR (and yes, I refer to them as "fubars" too) - it's actually not too tough, though starting this year you must file them online. Still, it's only a pdf file that you fill in and then send/upload on the website. All explained or referenced on the Paris IRS office website.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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You didn't say if you are filing "jointly" or "seperately" most expats file seperately just to avoid having to report the spouses income. If this is the case, most online filings have a provision for declaring a spouse as a non resident alien (NRA). If you are filing "jointly" in order to claim more exemptions, then you must request an ITIN. If you file in paper form, you can request the ITIN at the time of filing. But beaware. If you do this, she is required to report her earnings each year there after. I think Pub 54 describes the scenario.

Sorry, Bev was quicker than me.

One more thing. If you only have "Earned Income" which are within the Foreign Eranded Income Exclusion limit then you have no need to register your spouse. Your entire earnings are excluded.
 

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If you do this, she is required to report her earnings each year there after.
That's not quite right. A non-resident alien spouse can elect to participate in a joint tax filing with a U.S. person. However, that election can be revoked as soon as the very next tax year if desired.

Once revoked future joint filings are no longer permitted unless and until that NRA spouse becomes a U.S. person (i.e. U.S. resident or citizen).
 

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Note that if your filing status is Married Filing Separately it is still possible to claim an exemption for your NRA spouse. There is no need for that spouse to have a SSN/ITIN because they have no US tax obligation. This is explained in the exemptions section of Publication 54.
 

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@maz57: Thanks, I have totaly overlooked that. (Probably because it is the very first paragraph under Exemptions). That would have saved me some FTC. Oh well, next year.
 

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That's true, but a couple points. One is that the NRA spouse apparently cannot have any U.S. source income whatsoever -- not even a U.S. bank account with a bit of interest. That's a bit contrived in many scenarios. Also, that NRA spouse needs a SSN or ITIN, so you have to jump through that hoop. Getting an ITIN is some distance toward disclosing information, and some people object to disclosure itself. And finally this exemption is not nearly as good (financially speaking) as joint filing in many scenarios, including my household's as it happens.

But it's certainly nice to have that option if you're filing separately.
 

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Publication 54 sure seems to say that, but if you search the IRS's Web site for the article "U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad - Nonresident Alien Spouse" it'll say so explicitly at the bottom. I'll just post the key sentence from that article: "If your spouse is a nonresident alien and you file a joint or separate return, your spouse must have either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)."

I think the only exception to the SSN/ITIN requirement for spouses and dependents you claim is for a child who is born and dies within the same tax year. In that one exceptional (and tragic) case the IRS waives the SSN/ITIN requirement.

You are not required to take an exemption for your NRA spouse, of course. But if you do, there are requirements.
 

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Found the article. This article is posted under "International taxpayers". I believe the paragraph you quoted and the ITIN requirement is if your NRA spouse and you file a joint US return or both of you file two seperate US returns. In this case, the NRA spouse would definitely Need an ITN.

Sorry, read further.
Under the artice ITIN it states:
"When Claiming Exemptions for Dependent or Spouse:
You generally must list on your individual income tax return the social security number (SSN) of any person for whom you claim an exemption. If your dependent or spouse does not have and is not eligible to get an SSN, you must list the ITIN instead of an SSN."
 

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Read even further.
In the W-7 Instructions under "Reasons to Apply", it states:
"A resident or nonresident alien spouse who is not filing a U.S. tax return (including a joint return) and who is not eligible to get a SSN but who, as a spouse, is claimed as an exemption, and
A resident or nonresident alien electing to file a U.S. tax return jointly with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or resident Alien. "

That means...ALWAYS if exempted!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thank you very much for your info, I will check out the Paris site and the IRS pub 54. I will be filing separately, and found one of the "free online filing programs" but it requires my spouses SSN/ITIN and won't allow NRA to be put in it's place. Guess that's not an option either. Just trying to keep it simple. I have no British income yet, so this will only be on the US income I made prior to coming here. Again I appreciate your guidance, thank you.
 

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Well there you go. As is often the case with IRS the instructions are clear as mud. Back when I was still doing US taxes, I read the Pub. 54 instructions, took them as gospel, and filed accordingly. I never had any reason to doubt what Pub 54 stated. Who would? They wrote the book.

Whether I did it right or wrong, I never heard anything from the IRS about my returns.
 

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Publication 54 also seems to say the same thing, but that separate article seals the deal. No SSN or ITIN, no spousal exemption.

It's long been drilled that everybody you're using for an exemption or deduction needs a SSN or ITIN with that one exception I mentioned. That happened back several years ago when the IRS decided a parent with a new child needed to get the baby a SSN or ITIN. It's also one of the more active areas of fraud investigations, settlements, and prosecutions -- there are lots of stories about Child Tax Credit fraud prosecutions, for example. Once the IRS finds a fraud pattern they tend to pursue that same pattern over and over, and they've been running that play a lot.

When the IRS introduced the SSN/ITIN requirement for newborns, the next year a huge number of "children" suddenly disappeared. Funny how that works. :)
 
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