Who is Required to File a U.S. Tax Return?

With increased cross-border traffic and commerce, Canadians (or others that are residents of Canada for Canadian tax purposes) may occasionally need to concern themselves with US taxes.
As a resident of Canada, one may have to file a US income tax return in certain circumstances.
Common reasons that would trigger a US tax filing requirement include:

1. One who is a US citizen
2. One maintains a green card, or one who is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.
3. One has spent considerable time in the US, in the current year or in the past 3 years (this criteria is often referred to as the substantial presence test).

Note persons falling in the above categories, including those who are US citizens or residents, are generally required to file Form 1040, reporting worldwide income. Under the third reason above, or for persons who meet the substantial presence test, there may be some discretion as to whether Form 1040 or Form 1040NR is filed (the latter form is somewhat less costly and less complicated to prepare as only US source income is required to be reported compared to Form 1040 which requires one to report worldwide income)

If one is neither a US citizen nor a resident, one may be considered a non-resident alien (“NRA”) as far as the US tax authorities are considered. If one is deemed a NRA, they would normally be required to file Form 1040NR if they:

4. rented out US real estate,
5. sold US real estate,
6. had gambling winnings in the US,
7. were an employee, or they performed employment services in the United States,
8. were self-employed, and they performed work for a client while physically in the United States, or
9. owned a partnership interest, in a partnership that operated in the United States.

Note that there may be substantial penalties for failing to file a US tax return. We shall discuss such penalties in greater detail shortly.

Note that in addition, to US federal filing requirements in the above situations, one may also be required to file a tax return in a specific US state. One common example, illustrating a state tax filing requirement, would be a situation where one earned employment income in a specific state. Typically, the state in question, would have (state) tax withheld at source. Such tax would offset any ultimate state tax liability.


North American Tax Services - Attention: Joseph Soussan

2510 Yonge Street, Suite 322A
Toronto, Ontario, M4P 2H7
Tel: 416-489-4829

Email: jsoussan@usatax.ca

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