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Video: Tax Guide for Resident and Non Resident Aliens

Updated for Tax Year 2015


Have you recently moved to the United States from a foreign country or just spend a lot of time there? If so, you may want to know about some of the federal income tax rules that you might be subject to.

Hello, I’m Tammy from TurboTax with some information about the income tax filing obligations of resident and non-resident aliens.

Have you recently moved to the United States from a foreign country or just spend a lot of time there? If so, you may want to know about some of the federal income tax rules that you might be subject to.

For federal income tax purposes, the IRS treats resident aliens in the same way it does citizens. This means that as a resident alien, you must file an annual tax return and report all income you receive—regardless of whether you earn it in the U.S. or abroad. The IRS will treat you as a resident if you are lawfully residing in the U.S.—meaning you have an alien registration card, which is more commonly known as the green card. However, even if you don’t possess a green card, you are still considered a resident if you are physically present in the U.S. for at least 31 days in the current year and for a total of 183 days over the last three years. The calculation for the 183 days requirement is tricky. We recommend visiting IRS.gov for the details.

If you don’t have a green card and aren’t physically present in the U.S. for a sufficient number of days, you are considered a nonresident alien—but this doesn’t mean you are exempt from U.S. tax. As a non-resident, you must prepare a U.S. tax return on Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. But unlike resident aliens, you only report the income you earn that comes from the U.S. For example, if you are self-employed, in the U.S., and provide services to a U.S. company for a 30-day period, your earnings during those 30 days are subject to U.S. income tax. However, the money you earn in other countries during the other 335 days isn’t taxable. It is also possible to be both a non-resident and resident in the same year—which the IRS refers to as dual status. This occurs when you live in the U.S. for the entire year, but don’t receive your green card or become a resident based on the number of days in the U.S., until sometime after January 1st of the next year. In this case, you can file on a 1040 form, but for the period you are a non-resident, you only pay tax on the income you earn that relates to the U.S. Therefore, you need to provide the IRS with a document that shows how you are allocating your income between the two periods.

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The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

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