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Even if you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you may be required by the Internal Revenue Service to file U.S. federal income tax forms if you were present in the U.S. during 2019. The deadline for filing (except in certain circumstances) has been extended to July 15, 2020 due to COVID-19. Even if you have had no income in 2019, you must file IRS form 8843; the deadline to file is June 15, 2020. Dependents in F-2 and J-2 status must also file Form 8843. If you are a non-resident for U.S. tax purposes, you are not eligible to file your income tax return electronically. Commercially purchased tax software will not complete the forms correctly.
There are a number of things to be aware of as you prepare to file a tax return:
- It is a legal requirement that you submit a return. Not filing a return may have a negative impact on your future immigration and employment situation in the U.S.
- The tax laws and explanatory materials are quite complex, but most non-resident (non-immigrant) returns are fairly straightforward in nature.
- You should keep a permanent record of all materials and applications involved in a tax return.
- For legal reasons, the Center for International Education can only provide
yougeneral guidance and information. We CANNOT help you complete or verify the accuracy of your tax return.
Resident or Non-Resident for Tax Purposes
In legal terms, non-citizens of the U.S. are called “aliens.” There are three types of aliens for tax purposes: (1) nonresident; (2) dual-status; and (3) resident. These categories are for tax purposes only and are not related to your immigration status. You may be in F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant status and considered a resident for tax purposes.
Nonresident aliens generally meet the substantial presence test if they have spent more than 183 days in the U.S. within the last three years. Having substantial presence in the U.S. generally means you will be considered a resident alien for tax purposes.
Any person who is temporarily exempt from the substantial presence test. Time spent in this category does not count toward the 183 days in the U.S. that normally will convert a nonresident alien into resident alien for tax purposes.
F-1 and J-1 students maintaining status are exempt from the substantial presence test for 5 years. J-1 scholars are exempt from the substantial presence test only if they have been in the U.S. no more than 2 out of the last 6 years.
Tax Filing Information Documents
U.S. tax filing season arrives in January at which this time you should begin receiving tax forms from the university and/or any employers. Following is a brief description of the tax forms you might have received.
Form W-2: shows the amount paid by the university during 2019, through payroll. You will get a W-2 if you were employed and you did not claim tax treaty benefits.
Form 1042-S: will show the amount of money that you received in qualified, U.S. tax reportable scholarships (such as room and board) or tax treaty benefits for either payroll income or reportable scholarships (or both). The university is required to mail Form 1042-S to you NO LATER than March 15.
1095-B (or C): documents that you are covered with health insurance meeting the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and are not subject to a tax penalty for not having health insurance. This is only applicable for people who are U.S. residents for tax purposes. If you are a non-resident for tax purposes, disregard the form. However, if you receive the form, you should keep it in your tax documentation file.
Form 1098-T: shows the tuition and fees paid during 2019. This has no relevance for international students who are non-residents for U.S. tax purposes. It is referred to as the "useless" form. However, you should keep it in your tax documentation file.
You may be eligible to use the 1098-T to claim education tax credits if you are in one of these categories:
- U.S. Citizens
- Permanent Residents (PR)
- Married to a citizen or Permanent Resident
- Can legally be claimed as a dependent by a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident, or
- Have been in the US long enough to file taxes as a resident for federal tax purposes
Most international students are not eligible to claim education tax credits. For more information about eligibility, please review I.R.S. Publication 970.
Unusual Income types: Under IRS guidelines capital gains and stock/mutual fund dividends are taxable to the individuals receiving them whether they are U.S. residents for tax purposes or not. This includes stock market and mutual fund transactions as well as virtual currency transactions like bitcoin. Failure to report these transactions appropriately can lead to penalties and interest. Tax non-residents should report these transactions/income sources on the 1040NR form.
Tax Forms to be Completed
- IRS form 1040NR or 1040NREZ: If you are a non-resident for U.S. tax purposes. Generally, this is if you are in F or J student status and in the U.S. five years or less; or J-1 status and in the U.S. under three years. All others may be required to use the form 1040 series of forms.
- Form 8843: ALL individuals in F- or J- status who are non-residents for U.S. tax purposes MUST COMPLETE and submit this form even if you did not have any U.S. source income (pay from the university/employer, tuition awards and/or other scholarships). Forms must also be submitted for dependents in F-2 or J-2 status.
If you received no U.S. source income in 2019 and you are a nonresident alien for tax purposes, you must file Form 8843 by June 15, 2020.
If you received U.S. source income in 2019 and filing form 1040, 1040NR, or 1040NR-EZ, your forms, including the 8843, must be postmarked no later than midnight on July 15th, 2020.
THE INTERNET: All tax forms and instructions can be downloaded and printed off the Internet. The web site for the Internal Revenue Service is the
STUDY IN THE STATES- FIling information for International Students available on Study in the States website.
CONTACT THE IRS: The local offices of the IRS are in Oakland and San Jose. The offices do not accept phone calls, but do take walk-ins:
Internal Revenue Service
1301 Clay Street
Internal Revenue Service
55 South Market
San Jose, CA
PUBLICATIONS AND FORMS: Your most comprehensive tax advice is ‘Publication 519 – ‘U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens’. This is a downloadable form - IRS publications
TAX TREATIES: Be aware that if you are considered a non-resident for tax purposes, tax treaties between the U.S. and your home country may positively affect your tax liability. For more information, refer to “Publication 901 U.S. Tax Treaties” (IRS publications).
- Obtain your own tax records (W-2, etc.).
- Do your research of tax treaties and your tax status.
- Obtain the necessary IRS documents and forms – start with Form 1040 NR-EZ and Form 8843.
All tax forms and instructions can be downloaded from the Internal Revenue Service website. Sections of particular interest include:
- Publication 519–U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens
- Publication 901–U.S. Tax Treaties (If you are considered a non-resident for tax purposes, tax treaties between the U.S. and your home country may positively affect your tax liability.)
NOTE: Most student tax returns are basic in nature and can be completed using Form 1040NR-EZ and Form 8843. However, if you have a more complicated situation, you will need to obtain the services of a commercial tax preparation organization or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Please note that links to other sites are provided only as a service to F-1 students. These links do not constitute an endorsement of products, services or information provided by other sites.