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    StevoSmocilac's Avatar
    StevoSmocilac Posts: 2, Reputation: 1
    New Member

    Jan 30, 2007, 07:02 AM
    How to file if married & living in a foreign country

    I am an American citizen who has been living in South Africa for the last 7 years. I have just discovered that I need to submit an IRS tax return for the last year. I have also married a South African citizen last year. Neither of us has any income from the US.

    My question is how should I go about completing my return, should I file jointly with my wife or separately. If I file separately is my wife also required to file a return? Are we both entitled to the foreign earned income exemption?

    I have tried a few of the e-filing websites but they all require my wife to have a SSN. Is it possible for me to file online?
    AtlantaTaxExpert's Avatar
    AtlantaTaxExpert Posts: 21,836, Reputation: 846
    Senior Tax Expert

    Jan 30, 2007, 07:46 AM

    You cannot file on-line for 2006; you will need to mail it. You will see why in a minute.

    As a U.S. citizen, you must pay taxes on your world-wide income. That includes for the past SEVEN years, NOT just last year.

    So, from 2000 to 2005, you need to file a tax return filing as a single person. Yes, you can probably claim the Foreign Earned Income Exemption (Form 2555). If you made less than the exemption limit (which has gone up several times in the last seven years), you will owe no taxes and therefore no penalties or interest will be assessed.

    For 2006, you CAN file jointly with your wife, but if your annual income is less than $82,400, there is no need. Only if your income exceeds $82,400 and her income is low enough to make up the difference would it make sense to file jointly. If this is the case, she would have to download, fill out and sign Form W-7, staple a notarized photocopy of her passport, and paperclip it to you joint tax return. You would put her name under yours, leaving the SSN area BLANK. It needs to be mailed to the addresss in the W-7 instructions. The W-2 can be downloaded from Internal Revenue Service. If South Africa does not offer notary services, the photocopy can be certified as a true copy by the issuing agency of the South African government.

    I suspect you may need to get some professional tax help on this. Go to the nearest U.S. consulate; they can probably refer you to a local tax professional who is familiar with U.S. tax law.
    StevoSmocilac's Avatar
    StevoSmocilac Posts: 2, Reputation: 1
    New Member

    Jan 30, 2007, 08:59 AM
    Thanks for your speedy response.

    Just to clarify, my foreign income is less than $82,400, so I should just submit a return marking the filing status as "Married filing separately", and leave the section for my spouse's SSN blank?

    As a Non-resident alien married to a US citizen does my spouse not have to submit a return?
    AtlantaTaxExpert's Avatar
    AtlantaTaxExpert Posts: 21,836, Reputation: 846
    Senior Tax Expert

    Jan 30, 2007, 11:20 AM
    Your wife does NOT have to file a tax return. Put your wife's name in the form, but attach a statement to the return stating that she is a foreign national with no U.S. income and no U.S. tax liability to explain why you left the SSN area blank.

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