My Situation:

  • Both my wife (J2) and I (J1) are currently in US.
  • We do not fullfill the physical presence test, nor will we fullfill it at the end of the tax year.

When I received my first pay check my allowance was set to 0 and I was stated as single for both federal and state (CA for the case it matters) taxes. As a non-resident alien I'm maximum allowed 1/Single as far as I understood from the W4, same goes for the state withholding.

This question concerns the end of the year tax return. According to this we cannot file jointly. My question is however if I can claim deduction on her behalf. Or in other words if we look at this table if we both file as single or both as married. I'm interested in both the federal and the state case.

Bonus question: Would the situation change if she would be working?

  • Check if your university has any tax assistance programmes. If your wife never worked (never had a work permit, which would be necessary for J2), she likely doesn't even have to file.
    – Kuruma
    Apr 25, 2015 at 18:44
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about tax witholding. More appropriate for money.SE
    – Karlson
    Apr 25, 2015 at 23:14
  • @Kuruma. Thank you for your comment. The question that borders me is if I can deduct my wife at then end of the year from my salary. My past experience with Visa/SSN/... questions is that they are not terribly well informed themselves.
    – magu_
    Apr 26, 2015 at 1:14
  • 2
    @Karlson. While I agree that I could have also been posted at money.SE I still think this is the right side for it, since this question only arises when you move into a new Country (paying income taxes under a visa status).
    – magu_
    Apr 26, 2015 at 1:16
  • @Karlson I agree with magu_, this question has little to do with finances and everything to do with the significant difficulty caused to foreigners by the USA's uniquely confusing and complicated tax rules.
    – Kuruma
    Apr 26, 2015 at 1:54

1 Answer 1


You cannot deduct your wife, she's not an object and you didn't pay for her.

With regards to dependents - you claim exemptions, not deduct them. But since you're a non-resident, you cannot claim exemption for your wife. You can only claim for yourself.

There are some specific exceptions to this general rule listed on this IRS site.

In California, if you file a resident return (form 540) - you can claim exemption for your wife as well. Pay attention: California defines who can file non-resident returns differently from the Federal government.

  • Thank you for your Answer. This seems to be a bit discriminating but nothing I can do here I guess. Addressing the other part of your question, I changed the wording of my question. I chose the word deductions as a sloppy translation from German, were you informally say that you deduct certain things, like children/spouse/house/...
    – magu_
    Apr 26, 2015 at 6:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.