Taxes for International Students
The Deadline for Tax Forms 2020 is May 17, 2021
All international students in the United States in 2020 are required to file income tax forms with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) even if they did not receive any taxable income.
- If an international student/a nonresident alien has any amount of taxable income from United States sources, a tax return on form 1040NR (PDF) must be filed.
- A form 8843 (PDF) must be filed with the student’s tax return or, if no return is required, by itself in order to claim nonresident status.
A quick guide to United States tax laws as they apply to foreign students can be found at Publication 4011, Foreign Student and Scholar Volunteer Resource Guide (PDF). More detailed guidance can be found at Internal Revenue Service Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens (PDF).
The Office of International Student Services has purchased a limited number of access codes for UIS international students to use Sprintax to complete, sign, and mail their required federal tax forms. Currently, enrolled F-1 students at UIS have first priority to receive an access code, followed by students who graduated in December and are on OPT. The students who need a Sprintax code can apply through the UIS Sprintax Code Request Form. This form starts on Monday, February 8, 2021.Our office strongly recommends you start filling the form after February 12, 2021 as the IRS starts accepting tax forms on the day. If you have any questions about the instructions and the access codes, please contact Erika Suzuki at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note the following:
- ISS does not provide tax advice. Limited tax software is provided as a helpful service to the students, but ISS is not qualified to answer any tax-related questions.
- Income tax reporting and payments are the obligations of each individual student.
- Tax-related questions can be addressed to Sprintax or to any other tax service with expertise in international student tax issues and tax treaties.
- International tax forms, when completed and typed online, must be printed, signed, and mailed to the appropriate IRS office.
- 2020 tax forms must be filed by May 17, 2021.
- Sharing Sprintax access codes with any other person is strictly prohibited.
- A student can be provided only one access code
Q: Who is considered Resident or Nonresident for Federal Tax Purpose?
A: Generally, most international students who are on F-1 visas are considered nonresidents for tax purposes. International undergraduate students on an F-1 visas are automatically considered nonresidents for their first
five calendar years in the US. If you’ve been in the US for longer than the five year periods, the Substantial Presence Test will determine your US tax residency. Office of International Student Services recommends you to check your US tax residency every year before filing your tax form.
Q: What is the basic background of US taxes? I just don’t understand it.
A: When students get a paycheck from a campus job, or GA/GPSI (or get a scholarship or tuition waiver in exchange for performing services for a college or earn interest on an account at a local bank), you may owe income tax to the US government and to one or more states.
For example, if a student is supposed to make $300 in a month, his or her paycheck is always a little bit less than the actual wages (like maybe $250) because an estimated amount of tax has been “withheld” from it. Students need to fill out and mail in tax forms to the IRS (or file the forms electronically) for any year in which they received taxable income by April 15 of the following year. (For 2020, the due date is May 17, 2021.)
If more tax was withheld than the student owes, he or she will receive a refund. If more tax is owed, it must be paid when the return is due. When filling out tax forms, students will include information on how much money they made, how much money was already taken out in “tax withholding” from their paychecks, how long they’ve been in the US, and what country they are from.
After completing the federal tax forms using Sprintax, students can fill state tax forms with Sprintax on their own. Note that your Sprintax access code covers the only services for federal tax forms. Not all states have an income tax, and the tax laws for the states that do are considerably different, but the general rule is that any state return you must file is due on the same date as the US return. Illinois is a state that has a state income tax so students in Illinois must also file a state income tax form.
Q: What will Sprintax help me with?
A: Sprintax will help you…
- determine which tax forms you need to complete
- determine your “residency for tax purposes”
- determine if are eligible for tax treaty benefits or a standard deduction
- assist with completion of the 1040NR form
- prepare a completed federal tax form for you to print, sign, and mail in and what documents to attach to it.
Q: How do I get started?
A: After you receive your Sprintax access code and have gathered the required documents (see next question below), go to Sprintax, create an account, and complete the online questionnaire. You will need to enter your access code in the box on the ‘Review your order’ page at the end.
Q: What documents do I need in order to use Sprintax?
A: You will need the following…
- your access code available from ISS
- Social Security Number (SSN) or ITIN if you had any US sources of income
- US entry and exit dates found stamped in your passport or accessed in the travel history portion of your I-94 record on the CBP website
- foreign and US addresses
- Tax forms that have been mailed to you or that you have been instructed to download from the University (including, but not limited to W-2, 1042-S, and 1099). Be aware that you may not have any of these, or you may have more than one. For example, the W-2 is used by an employer to report how much salary they paid to an employee during a year, and what taxes were withheld, and a copy of the W-2 is sent to the employee. If you did not work as an employee, you will not receive a W-2. If you worked for 3 different employers, you will receive a W-2 from each of them.
- Academic institution (name, address, phone)
Q: I had an income from the campus job last year. Where can I find my W-2 form?
Contact University Payroll and Benefits office at email@example.com. They will assist you with tax statements.
Q: What if I did not make any money last year and did not receive any taxable scholarships?
A: You still have to complete a basic form. In general, students who were inside the US last year but had no income must:
- Complete IRS Form 8843 (PDF) -top section, parts 1 and 3 and signature on the back, then mail it to the address listed on the instructions, which you can find in “When and Where To File” in page 3
- All dependents of F-1 students are also required to complete IRS Form 8843.
Q: I am an F-1 student who came to the US last year and had an income. Can I use TurboTax for my tax filing?
A: No. As a non-resident for tax purposes, you cannot use TurboTax to prepare your tax returns. They only support Resident returns. Find services that can support nonresident tax returns (Form 1040NR and Form 8843) like Sprintax or GTP. However, if your US tax residency is determined “Resident for tax purposes” by the Substantial Presence Test, you may use TurboTax. You can find your US tax residency also in Sprintax website.
Q: I am a nonresident alien/F-1 student. Can I claim an education tax credit with the 1098-T?
A: The University issues Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, to students, including international students. This form is used to report to the student the amount of tuition and related expenses that the University received from the student and reported to the Internal Revenue Service. This document is used by the student to verify to the Internal Revenue Service the correct amount of education expenses paid by the student that qualify for one of the education credits.
In its Publication, “U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens,” at page 31, the Internal Revenue Service explains:
If you are a nonresident alien for any part of the year, you generally cannot claim the education credits. However, you may be able to claim an education credit under the following circumstances.
1. You are married and choose to file a joint return with a U.S. citizen or resident spouse as discussed under Nonresident Spouse Treated as a Resident in chapter 1.
2. You are a dual-status alien and choose to be treated as a U.S. resident for the entire year. See Choosing Resident Alien Status in chapter 1.
Accordingly, unless an international student falls into one of these exceptions, and files a return on Form 1040 computing and paying their tax as if they were a U.S. resident, they cannot claim a credit for the amounts shown on the Form 1098-T. There is no place to claim the credit on the Form 1040NR, which are the correct forms for filing by nonresident alien students.
Q: Do I need 1095-B, or C to file my tax returns?
A: This reports health care coverage. The information is not needed for nonresident alien tax returns. However, you should keep it yourself.
You may also find these resources helpful especially if you decide not to use the Sprintax service:
- All students should fill out and file Form 8843(PDF), regardless if he or she had any income
- Students with any income will also need to file Form 1040NR(PDF). They are the forms for nonresident aliens. Check the front page of the forms to be sure you have the correct form. Note that the form 1040 is NOT the one for a nonresident alien.
- Other information for students and scholars can be found on the Internal Revenue Service website.
- Your country may have a tax treaty with the United States that affects your tax obligations. If that is the case, you must attach a Form 8833 (PDF) to your return stating how the treaty affects you.
- You may also have an obligation to file a return with the State of Illinois if you lived or worked in Illinois in the previous calendar year. Here is the IL-1040(PDF). If you have any questions on filing Illinois state tax forms, you can contact or visit the Illinois Department of Revenue (101 W Jefferson St, Springfield, IL). State tax assistance is available in the department. You may also purchase a service to fill out state tax forms, for instance, IL-1040, from Sprintax. The 2020 Illinois Tax Filing deadline is May 17, 2021.
- If you lived and/or worked in more than one US state during the calendar year you may have to file tax returns in all the states in which you lived or worked that have state income tax. You should check the state revenue website of the other state(s) where you lived and worked to figure out your tax filling obligations. You can find information on other states at the Federation of Tax Administrators
NAFSA: Association of International Educators has prepared a brochure (PDF) that you may find helpful in understanding more about your obligations to file an income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service. This brochure has not been updated since 2011, but it contains some additional resources.