International Office Corner: What International Students Need to Know about Taxes

In this new Flywire blog feature, International Office Corner, we’re talking to International Student Offices all over the U.S. and providing you with helpful advice on topics relevant to you as an international student.

Marisa professional photo

Every year in the United States, April 15 marks Tax Day—the day when tax returns are typically due to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As an international student, you may be wondering how Tax Day applies to you as well as what exactly you need to pay taxes on. We went to Marisa Atencio, the Director of International Student and Scholar Services at Georgia Tech, to provide insight into filing taxes as an international student.

What to File Taxes For

One way students can look at taxes is that they refer to the year that just passed. “The first question to ask yourself is, were you physically in the U.S. any day during 2015,” said Atencio. “If not, then you have no tax obligations for that year.” If you were here, then you’ll need to prepare a Form 8843. This form, which can either be found here or at your college’s International Student Office (ISO), is used by those with non-immigrant status to file taxes and has to be filed regardless of whether or not an income was earned. For guidance on filling out your 8843 form, contact your ISO or check out some online resources—there are plenty of great ones out there! And this form isn’t due until June 15, so while you don’t want to procrastinate, you do have a little more time to complete it.

In addition to the Form 8843, you must file taxes on earnings from employment, some types of fellowship or scholarship, and U.S. investments over the course of last year. If you already have taxes automatically deducted from your paycheck, you may actually receive money back. As a non-resident, you aren’t eligible for all of the same tax deductions available to U.S. residents and must file the non-resident (NR) tax forms, but keep in mind that the U.S. does have tax treaties with many other countries which, if applicable to you, may reduce the amount you have to pay. These taxes are due on April 15.

How to File Taxes

Now that you know what taxes you owe, you’ll need to actually file them. According to Atencio, some colleges purchase tax software licenses for students to use for free, so first inquire if your college has any available. If they don’t have free services, they’ll most likely have a list of recommended services you can utilize for a small fee.

Why You Should File Taxes

Remember that if you don’t file your taxes, you’ll end up having to pay a hefty penalty later. Should you ever want to become a citizen, tax evasion will negatively affect your chances and would complicate the entire process since you may qualify for immigration benefits. The government requires everyone who applies for permanent status to have followed all government rules. Avoid legal and immigration issues in the future by simply paying your taxes.

Taxes may seem complicated, but don’t worry. Rely on the many helpful resources available at your college and online to provide guidance and useful tips, and you’ll have completed this year’s taxes in no time.


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