Tax Season Overseas: Couples can file joint tax return despite non-resident status
January 11, 2010
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany- This year, filing a joint tax return allows the Servicemember and spouse $3650 per person. That's $7300 in personal exemptions, before calculating other exemptions and tax credits. The amount of exemption went up $50 from last year, but if the Servicemember is married to a non-U.S. resident, the couple does not get to take advantage of the more favorable tax treatment, unless the non-resident alien spouse applies for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
An ITIN is a nine-digit tax processing number that remains valid for the life of the tax filer; however, an ITIN is not an identification, work-permit, or immigration registration number.
Since resident alien spouses generally do not qualify for a Social Security Number, said Tracy Cooklin, 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command's tax center coordinator, "An ITIN allows the Servicemember and spouse to file jointly, which gives them a higher standard deduction, lower taxable income and hopefully a higher refund."
Individuals needing an ITIN must submit a Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, and attach certified or notarized copies of IRS approved documents to prove identity and foreign status. The IRS Form W-7 can be downloaded from the IRS website www.irs.gov and should be sent to:
IRS, Austin Service Center
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342
For proof of identity and foreign status, the IRS will accept a certified or notarized copy of valid foreign passport, so long as it is unexpired. Individuals without a valid foreign passport may submit two or more of the following:
Aca,!Ac National identification card (must show photo, name, current address, date of birth, and expiration date)
Aca,!Ac U.S. military identification card
Aca,!Ac U.S. or foreign driver's license
Aca,!Ac Foreign voter's registration card
Aca,!Ac Foreign military identification card
Aca,!Ac U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) photo identification or Visa
Aca,!Ac Civil birth certificate (required for dependents under 18 years old)
Aca,!Ac School records (dependents and/or students - under 18 years old - only)
Aca,!Ac Medical records (dependents - under 14 years old only)
It takes about four to six weeks for the IRS to issue an ITIN, said Cooklin.
"Tax payers may also file an ITIN application with a paper tax return. When doing so, the application is attached to and mailed along with a joint tax return," she said. "The IRS ITIN unit will process the ITIN application, transfer the new ITIN number to the paper tax return, and forward the tax return to the appropriate service center for filing."
Tax centers in Ansbach, Illesheim, Bamberg, Grafenwoehr, Hohenfels, Schweinfurt and Vilseck open beginning Feb. 1, 2010. Information on locations and phone numbers for each is available at http://www.hqjmtc.army.mil/Organization/Special_Personal_Staff/Staff_SJA/Staff_SJA_TaxOffice.html.
Tax preparers are available to assist filers with any tax questions, said Cooklin.
Those applying for an ITIN may call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to check the status of their application.
Note: Special thanks to Tracy Cooklin, JMTC tax center coordinator, and Brad Huestis, chief of Client Services Division at the JMTC Office of the Staff Judge Advocate for compiling the facts used in this article.