Helpful Quick Bits: To File Jointly or Not?

Ah, the joys of a new international marriage and figuring out what to do about our taxes. It’s complicated! Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • As a nonresident alien, Stuart does not have to report any income to the IRS. That’s good.
  • Because Stuart and I were married this year, I’ll have to file “married filing separately”, and that means higher taxes. In fact, I’ll lose what would have been a very nice refund. That’s bad.
  • However, we have the option to elect to have Stuart treated as a resident alien for tax purposes and file jointly. That’s good.
  • But if we do that, Stuart will be taxed on his worldwide income until such time as we rescind “the choice” as it is called. And that choice can only be made once in a lifetime. Now might now be the time. That’s bad.
  • That’s because, right now, we’ve decided to settle in France, meaning there’s really no reason to drag Stuart into the US tax system. That’s good.
  • But apparently, I’ll still need to file US Income Tax as well as the infamous FBAR on all bank accounts, even those I share with Stuart. That sucks.
  • And once I establish myself and my microentreprise in France, I’ll have to file taxes in France and the US. That really sucks.
  • Fortunately, there are things like tax treaties, foreign earned income credit, and foreign tax credit. That’s good.
  • And thank God there are financial planners and accountants who specialize in the confusing, complicated web of expat taxation. That’s even better!

(Well…I am TRYING to end on a positive note.)

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Where to Land Continued: USA

Last post, I discussed the various pluses and minuses of relocating to the UK as the non-EU spouse of a UK citizen who is currently living in France. Today, I’m clicking my heels and asking, “Is there really no place like home?”

I’ve lived in the US my whole life. Though I’ve been lucky enough to do some traveling, I’ve never been gone for long. In fact, the longest trip outside the US was actually to the UK with my sister in the 80’s. We stayed 3 months, and I’d never been so happy to see the backside of a country upon my return. But I’m a different person now…happier, more mature, more cultured…I hope.

I love America and the ideals for which it stands…or at least stood. Let’s face it. It isn’t what it once was. It has entered a rather ugly adolescence of violent crime, political bickering, biased media, and corporate greed. It is tainted by an absolutely dreadful educational, health, and corrupted financial system with imbalances and senses of entitlement bordering on the insane. Will it continue the plunge into the shadowy depths  of overweight, undereducated sheeple led by a government of bullies, manipulators, and liars before it re-emerges as an adult nation with a better sense of responsibility and the intentions of our forefathers…which I’m sure it will…one day?

That said, it’s home to me and therefore “the devil I know”. Here I have a house, a business, friends, and family. I live in a great city, one of the best, which has isolated me from a lot of the worst parts of US living. My life has been good.

The question is, if we were to go through the 6-9 month process (the longest of all three possibilities) of applying for a CR1 visa for Stuart, would it be worth it?

Yes: Stuart could eventually become a US citizen (and despite everything I’ve written so far, this is still a pretty awesome country). That would make things a lot easier legally and financially should something happen to either of us. Eventually, Stuart and I would both be able to come and go as we please, too.

No: I alone cannot meet the financial requirement to bring him here. It would involve getting a sponsor, which we do have, but I’m not crazy about the idea of burdening a loved one.

Yes: Because of current exchange rates and the fact that Stuart’s income is the Pound, our standard of living would be significantly higher here…and wow, wouldn’t I like to experience that for once!

No: Enter US taxes…on worldwide income. As it is, because we married this year, I will no longer be getting what would have been an over $500 tax return unless we choose to file jointly…and we can only elect to do that once in a lifetime. But frankly, I can’t see dragging Stuart into the US tax system prematurely.

Yes: I’d be near friends and family. Business relationships and musical collaborations would go on as before.

No: Obamacare. As a single, poor person, I was really excited about Obamacare. I would have had health insurance for the first time in 12 years for a whopping premium of FREE. But now that I’m married, that premium has jumped to over $4000…and that’s just for me. And if we don’t buy, we face increasing penalties. Compared to the healthcare systems of our other options, the US doesn’t stand out.

Yes: From coast to coast, America can’t be beat for landscape, cool cities, an abundant lifestyle, and all the things that make America the amazing melting pot it is. And…we both understand the language. And…I already have a driver’s license.

There’s always culture shock to consider too. But of course, that will happen for one of us no matter where we go.

So…now that I’ve summarized the pros and cons of life in our three countries of choice, what do you think? Where would you go? France, the UK, or the US?