There are many features of US expat taxes that get ignored by people living overseas. Things like filing requirements, deadlines, and valuable deductions and exclusions are commonly unknown and are not reviewed.
If you are married, you can file as ‘Married Filing Jointly’, ‘Married Filing Separately’ status, or “Head of Household” (subject to certain other conditions). It is important to remember that you cannot file as “Single”, even if your spouse is a non-citizen and does not have a green-card i.e. if your spouse is a non-resident alien (NRA)
Which way you proceed can sometimes be a complicated decision, and depends on whether you are OK with subjecting your spouse to US taxation and information requirements or not.
If, like most US citizens, you would prefer not to bring your spouse into the realm of the IRS, you will have to file either as “Married Filing Separately”, or “Head of Household” (again, to file as HOH there are other requirements that must be met).
If your spouse has no income and/or assets and is unlikely to have either in the coming few years, then it may, in some cases, make sense to take advantage of the option to file jointly.
In this case, you will need to obtain a TIN (tax identification number) for your spouse and attach a statement to your return stating that your spouse will be treated as a US resident/national for tax purposes. Of course, your spouse’s income will then be subject to US taxation (but he/she will be able to avail the various exclusions and credits available to expat Americans)
For more on this procedure, check out:
If you need any assistance or advice relating to a non-resident alien spouse with respect to your US expatriate taxes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org . We’ll be happy to help.