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U.S. Tax Implications for Green Card Holders

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This post provides an overview about the connection between immigration and taxes for a lawful permanent resident (LPRs).

LPRs, popularly known as green-card holders, are typically concerned about how their immigration status will affect their taxes. This concern is particularly important for those that have either newly acquired a green card, have moved abroad for short-term work or have retired to their native country.

There is a common misconception amongst many LPRs that you become tax residents only if you spend at least 183 days in the United States. To clarify, the 183 day rule is only applicable to non-immigrant visa holders.

As soon you acquire a green card, you are automatically classified as a US tax resident and all green-card holders, like US citizens, are required to report worldwide income by filing a federal income tax return each year (IRS Form 1040) by April 15th. So, whether you live or work outside the United States you continue to be treated as a resident for U.S. tax purposes and are obligated report your world-wide income to the IRS and this reporting requirement applies irrespective of whether the income was earned within the country or internationally.

Therefore, under the relevant regulations, you must file an annual tax return unless (a) the LPR status has been revoked or (b) if it has been administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned or (c) the US residence status is affected by an international income tax treaty so that you are not subject to double taxation.

However, in practice these regulations may create seemingly inconsistent situations between U.S. Immigration law, U.S. tax law and income tax treaties. For instance, consider a situation where an LPR is absent from the US for a long time, and on their return a determination is made by the USCIS that the LPR has not maintained his/her green card status and thereby abandoned the U.S. as his/her permanent residence. Until that determination has actually been made, the income tax filing requirement and any tax obligations will continue for that LPR. The USCIS does not know an LPR’s status until s/he tries to return to the United States after a length of time. Therefore, although an LPR’s green card may be invalid upon entry into the United States and his/her status considered abandoned, the individual must continue to file tax returns until a final determination of revocation or abandonment has been made by the USCIS. A final determination of abandonment may not take place many years after the actual act of abandonment.

For sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that failure to file US taxes can not only hurt an individual’s chances of seeking US citizenship but may also be a criminal offense which could result in loss of green card and eventual deportation from the country.

This is a complicated area of law and if you are seeking further advice about your specific situation, it is recommended that you discuss your circumstances with an experienced attorney or CPA who can guide you about your best options.

Written by MithrasLaw

January 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm

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