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If you are married and your spouse is a nonresident alien without either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), you may need to paper file your state return. Although the spouse's SSN or ITIN may not be required on your federal return in certain situations (see IRS instructions below), some states require the SSN or ITIN for both the taxpayer and the spouse on all joint or married filing separate returns.  

Whether you can e-file your return depends on the rules for your state. Note. Any paper filing requirement is imposed by the state and is not a TaxAct limitation.

Per IRS Publication 17 Your Federal Income Tax (For Individuals):

Page 12: Nonresident alien spouse. If your spouse is a nonresident alien, your spouse must have either an SSN or an ITIN if:

  • You file a joint return,
  • Your spouse is filing a separate return.

Page 22: How to file. If you file a separate return, you generally report only your own income, credits, and deductions.

Per IRS Publication 519 U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, page 9:

Nonresident Spouse Treated as a Resident

If, at the end of your tax year, you are married and one spouse is a U.S. citizen or a resident alien and the other spouse is a nonresident alien, you can choose to treat the nonresident spouse as a U.S. resident. This includes situations in which one spouse is a nonresident alien at the beginning of the tax year, but a resident alien at the end of the year, and the other spouse is a nonresident alien at the end of the year.

If you make this choice, you and your spouse are treated for income tax purposes as residents for your entire tax year. Neither you nor your spouse can claim under any tax treaty not to be a U.S. resident. You are both taxed on worldwide income. You must file a joint income tax return for the year you make the choice, but you and your spouse can file joint or separate returns in later years.

How To Make the Choice

Attach a statement, signed by both spouses, to your joint return for the first tax year for which the choice applies. It should contain the following information:

  • A declaration that one spouse was a nonresident alien and the other spouse a U.S. citizen or resident alien on the last day of your tax year, and that you choose to be treated as U.S. residents for the entire tax year. 
  • The name, address, and identification number of each spouse. (If one spouse died, include the name and address of the person making the choice for the deceased spouse.)

Additional information available in this section of IRS Publication 519:

  • Suspending the Choice
  • Ending the Choice
  • Special Situations

IRS Publication 54 Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, page 7 outlines the choice to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for the nonresident alien spouse chosen to be treated as a U.S. resident.


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