Pre-immigration planning – Welcome to the US Tax Culture

The US taxes its residents on their worldwide income. The statue of liberty was established generations ago and ever since it has welcomed immigrants from all over the world with the following quote: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” (Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”). But lady Liberty does nor warn us about the US tax system and how it affects all immigrants. Be informed about your taxes before you immigrate to the US. Consulting a lawyer like Julia M. Williams for pre-immigration planning can help minimize these taxes.

Immigrants can come to the US on visas or with a greencard in hand.  Once an immigrant has a greencard and enters the US, they are considered a US “permanent resident” and have to pay tax on worldwide income.  Even a visa holder can be considered a US tax resident. It is essential to know the differences between the following: the foreigner is considered either ‘residents for tax purposes’ or ‘non-residents for tax purposes.’ The status is determined on the immigration status for the period of their stay. Julia M. Williams will be able to assess your tax status and give you the guidance you need to plan accordingly.

Green card holders and anyone who meets the substantial presence test are responsible for filing US tax returns. Even if you leave the US before the fiscal year ends you have to file US tax return. Pre-immigration planning will help layout your options and minimize costs that you may encounter in the process.

More importantly, the US tax system has a different evaluation process for estate taxes. A person can be a ‘resident for tax purposes’, but fail to meet the domicile rules, and thus be taxed differently at their death. Non-US persons (even if they are a resident for income tax purposes) are only taxed on property in the US, but they also only have a $60,000 estate tax exemption. In comparison, a person who is a US tax resident for estate purposes is taxed on worldwide assets, but gets the advantage of a $10,000,000 estate tax exemption.

The tax dilemma can be pretty complicated, and it is easy to get lost in all requirements, timelines, and laws. That is why it is essential to consult a professional that will be able to help you on a personal basis.  An attorney will help you find ways to prevent higher taxes with pre-immigration planning.


Contact Julia M. Williams. She is ready to hear your story and will put you at ease with pre-immigration planning. For a free consult visit our website or give us a call (858) 371-4995