skip navigation
Search Help
Navigation Help

Tax Map Index

Tax Topic Index

Affordable Care Act
Tax Topic Index

Exempt Organization
Tax Topic Index

Tax Topics

About Tax Map Website
Publication 3

Tax Returns of Aliens(p31)

For tax purposes, an alien is an individual who is not a U.S. citizen. An alien is in one of the three categories discussed below: resident, nonresident, or dual-status. Placement in the correct category is crucial in determining what income to report and what forms to file.
If you are an alien and in the Armed Forces. (p31)
Most members of the Armed Forces are U.S. citizens or resident aliens. Under peacetime enlistment rules, you generally cannot enlist in the Armed Forces unless you are a citizen or have been legally admitted to the United States for permanent residence. If you are an alien enlistee in the Armed Forces, you are probably a resident alien. If, under an income tax treaty, you are considered a resident of a foreign country, see your base legal officer. Other aliens who are in the United States only because of military assignments and who have a home outside the United States are nonresident aliens. Guam and Puerto Rico have special rules. Residents of those areas should contact their taxing authority with their questions.
If you have questions about your alien status or the alien status of your dependents or spouse, you should read the information in the following paragraphs and see Pub. 519.

Resident Aliens(p31)


What are the tax consequences of being a resident alien?(p31)

Generally, resident aliens are taxed on their worldwide income and file the same tax forms as U.S. citizens.

Am I a resident alien?(p31)

You are considered a resident alien of the United States for tax purposes if you meet either the "green card test" or the "substantial presence test" for the calendar year (January 1–December 31).
You may be able to choose to be treated as a U.S. resident for part of 2016 if you: See First-Year Choice in Pub. 519. These tests are explained in Pub. 519.

Treating nonresident alien spouse as resident alien.(p31)

A nonresident alien spouse can be treated as a resident alien if all the following conditions are met.
Making the choice.(p31)
Both you and your spouse must sign a statement and attach it to your joint return for the first tax year for which the choice applies. Include in the statement:
Once you make this choice, the nonresident alien spouse's worldwide income is subject to U.S. tax. If the nonresident alien spouse has substantial foreign income, there may be no advantage to making this choice. Also if you make this election, you may forfeit the right to claim benefits otherwise available under a U.S. tax treaty.
Ending the choice.(p31)
Once you make this choice, it applies to all later years unless one of the following situations occurs. For specific details on these situations, see Pub. 519.
If the choice is ended for any of these reasons, neither spouse can make the choice for any later year.
Choice not made.(p32)
If you and your nonresident alien spouse do not make this choice, the following restrictions apply.

Nonresident Aliens(p32)


Am I a nonresident alien?(p32)

You are a nonresident alien if you are an alien who does not meet the requirements discussed earlier for being classified as a resident alien.

What are the tax consequences of being a nonresident alien?(p32)

If you are required to file a federal tax return, you must file either Form 1040NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return, or Form 1040NR-EZ, U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents. See these forms’ instructions for information on who must file and filing status.
If you are a nonresident alien, you generally must pay tax on income from sources in the United States. Your income from conducting a trade or business in the United States is taxed at graduated U.S. tax rates. Other income from U.S. sources is taxed at a flat 30% (or lower treaty) rate. For example, dividends from a U.S. corporation paid to a nonresident alien generally are subject to a 30% (or lower treaty) rate.

Dual-Status Aliens(p32)


Am I a dual-status alien?(p32)

You are a dual-status alien if you are both a nonresident and resident alien during the same tax year. This usually occurs in the year you arrive in or depart from the United States.

What are the tax consequences of being a dual-status alien?(p32)

If you are a dual-status alien, you are taxed on income from all sources for the part of the year you are a resident alien. Generally, for the part of the year you are a nonresident alien, you are taxed only on income from sources in the United States. See the Instructions for Form 1040NR for more information.