The U.S. tax system is complicated; there’s no doubt about that. If you’re an international student attending an educational institution in the United States, that process may seem even more convoluted. With tax season in full swing, we’ve broken down the basics that you should know about filing a tax return.
Please note: The following guidelines are for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial or legal advice. Please consult your own tax or financial advisor with any specific questions. We cannot and will not provide tax advice to any individuals.
The U.S. tax year runs from January 1st to December 31st, with a filing deadline of April 15th of the following year. It is every student’s responsibility to understand and comply with U.S. tax regulations in a timely manner.
In the U.S., taxes paid by the employer are withheld from the employee’s paychecks – which results in the amount you see withheld on your paycheck. Since the amount withheld is only an estimate, employees can reconcile the amount taken out with how much was actually owed by filing an annual “tax return” with the IRS. It’s usually not exactly right, so the IRS will refund you if too much money was withheld, or you must send payment to the IRS if not enough money was withheld.
What is my residency status (for tax purposes)?
Despite your current immigrant or student visa status, you may be considered a resident for tax purposes. When filing a tax return, you must know your status in order to determine which forms to fill out.
- Residents (for tax purposes): All U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and nonresident aliens for immigration purposes who have met the Substantial Presence Test.
- Nonresident aliens: All others, regardless of immigration status.
Now that I know my status, do I have to file a tax return?
All individuals in the U.S. who have U.S. income must file a U.S. federal and state tax return. If you are a resident for tax purposes with income, you will have to complete Form 1040 (or Form 1040 EZ). If you are a nonresident for tax purposes with income, you will have to complete Form 1040 NR (or Form 1040 NR EZ) and Form 8843. If you are a nonresident for tax purposes without income and are still within the “exempt individual” period, you will have to complete Form 8843 and report your days of presence in the U.S.
What else should I know?
- File ASAP.
- Preparing a state tax filing is a separate step after you file your federal tax return.
- Keep a printed copy of your tax return for your records.
- IRS will never contact you via email. Never include your SSN/ITIN/or other personally identifying information in an email. If someone asks for it, it is probably a scam.
- Read publications available at www.irs.gov
- View tax information specific to foreign scholars and students: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Foreign-Students-and-Scholars
- Download federal tax forms at: www.irs.gov/formspubs/index.html.
- For help with your federal income tax return, call 800-829-1040 or visit www.irs.gov.
- Your school’s International Student Office