International Student Tax FAQs
International students are subject to taxation for money made while in the United States. We recommend using a professional tax preparation service to properly file your tax return. We have partnered with Sprintax, who specialize in preparing fast and low-cost tax returns for international students.
While we can’t provide any specific tax advice, here are some of the most frequently asked questions from international students studying in the United States. This can be helpful as you work with a tax professional, or if you decide to file your own taxes.
Am I required to pay taxes?
Every international student is required to file a tax return as a condition of your visa, but not everyone will pay taxes to the American government. International students are entitled to a number of benefits and exemptions, so many will not owe anything. In fact, if you paid too much tax throughout the year, you may be entitled to a refund check.
Do I have to pay taxes on income I received from my home country?
As long as you are a nonresident alien for tax purposes and you file a proper tax return here in the United States, the US will not tax your income from non-American sources.
When do I need to file my tax return?
Your federal forms must be postmarked by April 18th. However, other forms such as state tax returns and Form 8843 have different deadlines. See our tax homepage for more detailed information on tax deadlines.
Does it cost anything to file my taxes?
If you do it yourself, it is free. Professional tax preparation services charge a fee. The Sprintax fee structure is as follows:
|State Tax Forms||From $25.95|
|Full Tax Filing Upgrade||$75.00 (all inclusive)|
How do I know if I’m a nonresident for tax purposes?
International students on F, J, M, or Q visas are considered “exempt individuals,” which means you are excused from the Substantial Presence Test for the first 5 years you are in the US if you are an international student or the first 2 years if you are a scholar. After this period you will be subject to the Substantial Presence Test, which is used to determine if someone was in the US long enough to be considered a resident.
How do I know if I made US source income?
If you earned wages from a job in the United States, received scholarship money from an American organization, or made interest on money in an American bank account, you made US source income. The full list of potential income sources can be found on the IRS website.
What do I need before I prepare my tax return?
First and foremost, you will need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). If you don’t have one, you’ll need to apply for one in conjunction with filing your tax return by filling out a W-7. Depending upon whether you had US source income, you may also need W-2’s, 1042-S’s, and 1099’s, which will be mailed to you from the university and your employer. For more on these documents, see our Student Tax Return page.
How do I know if I’m eligible to claim a tax treaty benefit?
You must fulfill four criteria in order to claim a tax treaty benefit:
- You must be a nonresident for tax purposes (this is different than your immigration status).
- You must receive US source of income from salary and/or a scholarship.
- You are on an F-1, J-1 or an H1-B visa.
- You were a resident of one of the following countries immediately prior to coming to the US:
|Country||Tax Treaty for Salary||Tax Treaty for Scholarship|
|People’s Republic of China||Yes||Yes||Yes (excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan)|
|Trinidad & Tobago||Yes||Yes||Yes|
What forms do I have to fill out?
That depends on your residency status and whether you made US source income in the previous calendar year, whether you need to apply for an ITIN, whether you will claim a tax treaty benefit, and whether you will claim a refund on Social Security and Medicare taxes. All the forms can be downloaded from the IRS website.
|Form Name||Description||Form Help|
|Form 1040NR-EZ||U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. Most international students use Form 1040NR-EZ to file their tax return and tax advantage of the tax treaty benefits.|
|Form 1040NR||U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return (long form of nonresident tax returns. Allows additional deductions and credits for certain categories of nonresident aliens)|
|Form 8843||Statement for Exempt Individuals (exempts international students from being treated as residents for tax purposes). All international students nonresident for tax purposes MUST file Form 8843!|
|Form 843||Claim for Refund (used by international students to claim a refund for Social Security and Medicare taxes held in error by their employers. Nonresident students are NOT subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes)|
|Form 8316||Information Regarding Request for Refund of Social Security Tax Erroneously Withheld on Wages Received by a Nonresident Alien on an F, J, or M Type Visa. Must be attached to Form 843 to apply for a refund from Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld in error.|
|Form W-7||Application for Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) (most commonly used by international students without a Social Security Number claiming a tax treaty benefits and by spouses of nonresident aliens on F and J visa)|
|Publication 519||U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens - a complete guide to filing your 2010 tax returns for non-resident and resident aliens.|
In addition to these federal tax forms, you may need to fill out state tax forms as well depending upon the state where you attend university.
How do I file a tax return?
A more detailed guide is available on our Student Tax Return page. However, follow these steps:
- Determine your residence status.
- Determine whether you had any income from US sources.
- Determine whether you need an ITIN.
- Gather the required documents by downloading and printing them from the IRS website.
- Gather the documents you received from your income sources.
- Follow the instructions for filling out each required form, making sure you fill each out completely with your correct mailing address.
- Determine whether you owe additional taxes and if so, write a check for the exact amount.
- Mail your tax forms, along with copies of your W-2’s, 1099’s, and 1042-S’s, and a check if you owe anything. Click here for the appropriate addresses .
How does the process work/ How to file?
- Step 1 - Find out which forms you need to file, and download them from the list above.
- Step 2 - Complete the forms with your information and details.
- Step 3 - Print off the forms and mail to the IRS
PLEASE NOTE - The IRS does not allow electronic filing (efile) for nonresident aliens, so all international students will need to send in your tax return by mail. You will need to send your forms into:Internal Revenue Service Center, Austin, TX 73301-0215, U.S.A.
How much does it cost?
Nothing! There is no cost to submit your taxes to the IRS - there will only be a cost if you use a service, like Sprintax, or if you need the help of a certified public accountant (CPA) who will charge for their services.