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us expat tax guide – france

What does “Married Filing Separately” mean for US citizens in France?

Many people mistakenly think they should file as “single” if their marriage occurred outside of the US or if their spouse isn’t American. This is not correct. According to IRS rules, if you’re legally married in any country, the US considers you married. If your spouse isn’t a US citizen or resident, you generally can’t file jointly, so “Married Filing Separately” is your appropriate status.

Why is this filing status important for US citizens in France married to a non-US person?

It is important because it affects your taxes in several ways. For instance, if you are married to a non-US person, you are still considered married for tax purposes. You have two main options:

  • Married Filing Separately: You report only your income, and your filing threshold is very low—just US$5.
  • Head of Household: This may apply if you have dependents or a qualifying child, offering potential tax benefits, though there are specific criteria you must meet.

Is it true that earning even a small amount requires filing a US tax return under “Married Filing Separately”?

Yes, even a small amount of income, such as US$5 from bank interest, requires you to file a US tax return if you choose the “Married Filing Separately” status. This requirement can be surprising but it emphasizes the need for all married individuals, regardless of where their spouse is from, to consider their filing obligations very carefully.

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