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How Do I File My Taxes?

blog11.pngNow that we are into tax season, many foreign nationals wonder whether and how to pay taxes and report their income to the U.S. This can be a complicated and daunting process, but by working with a knowledgeable immigration attorney and international tax specialist, a lot of problems can be avoided.

To start, while the IRS uses terms like "resident" and "non-resident" alien, they are often different from their meaning in immigration law. So while you may not have legal permanent residence in the U.S., you may still be treated as a resident for tax purposes. Thus, it is very important to work with a tax professional who is familiar with both immigration and international tax law. They will ensure that you are accurately reporting income and will help avoid potential issues.

For tax purposes, a foreign national is considered a "resident alien" if they (1) are a Green Card holder at any time of the year or (2) pass the "Substantial-Presence Test." To have substantial presence in the U.S., a foreign national must be physically present in the U.S. for at least 31 days during the current year and at least 183 days during the past three years. In essence, if you were physically present in the U.S. for more than half the year, you will be considered a "resident alien" for tax purposes. This definition is important to understand, because while you may have a non-immigrant visa, you may still be considered a "resident alien" for tax purposes.

For "non-resident aliens" (generally a foreign national who spends less than half the year in the U.S.), they will only have to report income they have earned inside the U.S. "Resident aliens" by contrast must report all world-wide income when filing their taxes including overseas salaries, investments, and bank holdings. This does not mean that the foreign national will have to pay taxes on foreign income, but it will have to be reported. Particularly for foreign nationals with diverse income portfolios, it is important to speak with an international tax adviser before planning to spend long periods of time in the U.S.

In sum, just as it is for U.S. Citizens, U.S. tax laws can be confusing and complicated. It is important to work with an accountant who specializes in international tax law as well as an immigration attorney who can help guide you through this process.

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Chong Immigration Law PLLC
1629 K Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006

Phone: 202-798-7328
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