Colombian Spouse | Married Filing Jointly
U.S. Expats that have a Colombian spouse (U.S. nonresident alien), can choose to file a joint tax return. This allows the Colombian spouse to be treated as a U.S. resident for tax purposes. The majority of my clients have seen a sizable reduction in their taxes or a substantial increase in their tax refunds when they elect to be married filing jointly (MFJ).
Same sex marriages also qualify for this treatment.
To qualify for MFJ, the marriage needs to have occurred before the end of the tax year, the nonresident spouse must request a tax ID number, and a signed MFJ declaration must be submitted along with the filed tax return. This type of tax return must be paper filed.
If the nonresident spouse earned income during the tax year, that worldwide income must be included when filing MFJ. However, the $24,000 MFJ standard deduction ($24,400 for 2019) combined with the ability to exclude foreign earned income will generally have an overall positive impact for most U.S. taxpayers.
Additionally, some clients have filed amended tax returns for prior years in order to include their Colombian spouse. This has resulted in tax refunds.
Two other options include married filing separate (MFS) and head-of-household (HOH). However, these types of filing status have specific requirements and rarely have the net positive impact as MFJ.
In short, MFJ is almost always the best option for a U.S. Expat who is married to a Colombian spouse.