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 prepare and 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 file a tax return?
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 17th. 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 tax return?
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|
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) or Social Security Number (SSN). 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. If you need to complete Form 8843 you can also check out our free Form 8843 Wizard.
|Forms||Non-resident?||Made US source income?||Need an ITIN?||Tax Treaty on Salary?||Tax Treaty on Scholarship?||Refund for FICA taxes?|
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?
Below are the general steps you need to follow when filing a US tax return. You can also find more detailed guide on our Step by Step page.
- 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.Try using our Wizard for your Form 8843.
- 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 to: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.