Tax Information

As a non-resident student with a F-1 visa you must file forms each year with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), even if you earned no income.

Taxes and the IRS

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. government agency that collects taxes. It is each individual’s responsibility to understand and meet his or her tax obligations. Generally, tax returns are due every April based on earnings from the previous year.

While employers do deduct money from your paycheck throughout the year and send it to the IRS, it may not equal the exact amount owed at the end of the year. If you paid too much, you may be eligible for a refund. Or, perhaps not enough was deducted and you will owe more. Salary from a job is not the only kind of earnings taxed; many types of income are taxable. Even if you did not work and do not owe any taxes, you still need to submit a form to the IRS.

U.S. tax laws can be complex and confusing and the laws that apply to international residents are not the same as those that apply to U.S. citizens. The resources on this page should help you to better understand your tax obligations, learn what and where to research, and successfully submit your tax forms.

Please note: DigiPen staff and faculty are not able to give tax advice about individual cases, as we are not tax professionals.

How to File Taxes

  • You may download forms, instructions, and tax-related publications from IRS Forms and file by mail.
  • Tax professionals and certified tax accountants, who charge for their services, can help.

Which Forms to Use

Your individual situation determines which form(s) you need to file. Forms come with instructions.

  • If you received no income from U.S. sources in 2011 you must file Form 8843 by June 15.
  • If you received wages or taxable scholarships from U.S. sources, you must file Form 8843 and 1040NR-EZ or 1040NR by April 15. The 1040NR-EZ is shorter and limited to specific situations, while the 1040NR accommodates all types of income.
  • Depending on how much time you have spent in the United States, you may be considered a resident for tax purposes. This is not related to your immigration status, as you may be in F-1 nonimmigrant status while a resident for tax purposes only. If you are considered a resident for tax purposes, you will be taxed like a U.S. citizen and will file a 1040EZ or 1040 instead of the 1040NR.

1040NR or 1040?

  • Are you a 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: nonresident, dual-status, and resident. These categories are for tax purposes only and are not related to your immigration status. You may be in F-1 or nonimmigrant status and considered a resident for tax purposes.
  • Substantial Presence: Nonresident aliens generally meet the substantial presence test if they have spent more than 183 days in the United States. Having substantial presence in the United States generally means you will be considered a resident alien for tax purposes.
  • Exempt Individual: 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 United States that normally will convert a nonresident alien into resident alien for tax purposes. F-1 students maintaining status are exempt from the "substantial presence" test for five years.
  • More information and instructions for the substantial presence test can be found online.

1040NR-EZ or 1040NR?

From Chapter 7: Filing Information, Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens

You can use the 1040NR-EZ if all the following conditions are met:

  • You do not claim any dependents.
  • You cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else's U.S. tax return.
  • If you were married, you cannot claim an exemption for your spouse.
  • Your taxable income is less than $100,000.
  • You are not claiming any itemized deductions (other than for state and local income taxes).
  • Your only U.S. source income is from wages, salaries, tips, taxable refunds of state and local income taxes, and scholarship or fellowship grants. (If you had taxable interest or dividend income, you cannot use this form.)
  • You are not claiming any adjustments to income other than the student loan interest deduction or scholarship and fellowship grants excluded.
  • You are not claiming any credits.
  • The only taxes you owe are:
    • The income tax from the Tax Table.
    • The social security and Medicare tax on tip income not reported to your employer.
  • You are not claiming a credit for excess social security and tier 1 RRTA tax withheld.
  • This is not an "expatriation return." See instructions for Form 1040NR for more information.

If you do not meet all of the above conditions, you must file Form 1040NR.

Documents to Save

  • Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement: W-2 forms are mailed to current and former employees. This form shows how much you earned last year and how much was taken out for taxes.
  • 1042S: The 1042S form will be given only to nonresident alien students who have received scholarship or fellowship money that exceeds their tuition and related fee charges. You will not receive a copy of the 1042S form if you have only a tuition waiver on your account and do not receive any checks.

Resources

Internal Revenue Service

Publication 519: U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens

Publication 597: Information on the U.S.–Canada Income Tax Treaty

Publication 901: U.S. Tax Treaties

2006 Foreign Student and Scholar Text: This is a guide for volunteers trained to help people prepare their returns. The language is more “user-friendly” than that in the various IRS Publications and it covers the same topics.

VITA: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Programs are volunteer-run, community tax assistance groups.

Seattle Public Library offers free tax preparation services. Reservations are required at some locations.

Important Concepts

  • Tax Treaties: The United States has income tax treaties with many different countries. Residents of these countries may be taxed at a reduced rate or be exempt from U.S. income tax withholding on specific kinds of U.S.-source income. Treaties vary among countries. If the treaty does not cover a particular kind of income, or if there is no treaty between your country and the United States, you must pay tax on the income in the same way and at the same rates shown in the instructions for Form 1040NR.
  • Taxable Income: Some kinds of income are taxed while others are not. For students and scholars who are considered nonresidents for tax purposes, interest income is not taxed if it comes from a U.S. bank, a U.S. savings and loan institution, a U.S. credit union, or a U.S. insurance company. Generally income from foreign sources is not taxed. Wages that appear on form W-2 are taxable. Scholarship or fellowship income that requires services (i.e. teaching assistant) will be treated as wages (like employment). Scholarships, fellowships, and grants may be partially taxed. For degree-seeking students, portions used for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and required equipment are not taxed; portions used for other expenses, like room, board, and travel, are taxable.
  • Social Security and Medicare: Nonresident students on F-1 visas, who are also considered nonresidents for tax purposes, should not have Social Security or Medicare taxes withheld from pay. If these taxes have been withheld, contact your employer for reimbursement. If you cannot get a refund from your employer, use Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement, to request a refund from the IRS. Further instructions can be found online.
  • Resident for Tax Purposes: If you have determined, based on the substantial presence test or marriage to a U.S. citizen or resident alien, that you are considered a resident for tax purposes, then you will generally have the same federal income tax requirements as a U.S. citizen. Note that in this context, the term “resident” applies only to your tax requirements and is not related to your immigration status. See Publication 17: Your Federal Income Tax Guide.
  • Filing Tips
    • Make photocopies of your documents for your records.
    • Be careful to complete the correct form; it is easy to mix up 1040NR with the 1040, for instance.
    • Sign and date all forms and be sure to mail them before the stated deadline.

Form 8843

Certain individuals with no income must file Form 8843.

Who must file Form 8843?
All nonresident aliens who are present in the United States under an F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1, M-2, Q-1, or Q-2 immigration status must file Form 8843 “Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals With a Medical Condition”—even if they received no income. Form 8843 must be filed if an individual is:

  • Present in the U.S.
  • A nonresident alien and
  • Present in the U.S. under an F, J, M, or Q immigration status (either the "-1" or the "-2")

What is Form 8843?
Form 8843 is not an income tax return. Form 8843 is merely an informational statement required by the U.S. government for certain nonresident aliens (including the spouses or dependents of nonresident aliens).

Do I need a Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to file Form 8843?

Generally, no. Nonresident aliens who are not required to file an income tax return (Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ), but who are required to file Form 8843, need not apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). If, however, an SSN or ITIN has been assigned, the number must be included on Form 8843.

An exception to this rule is for individuals who can be claimed as dependents on a U.S. income tax return. Such individuals must have an SSN or ITIN. Only nonresident aliens from a very limited number of countries may claim an exemption for their dependents on their U.S. income tax return (Form 1040NR). In such a case, any dependent who is claimed must have a SSN or ITIN. An exemption for spouse and/or dependents is only applicable if the country of tax residence is:

  • American Samoa
  • Canada
  • Japan (only under the old U.S.-Japan treaty)
  • Korea
  • Mexico
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • India (applicable only to F-1, J-1, and M-1 students)

How do I submit Form 8843?

  • If you are required to file an income tax return (Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ), attach Form 8843 to the back of the tax return.
  • If Form 8843 is for a spouse or dependent eligible to be claimed as a dependent on a federal tax return, Form 8843 must be attached to the back of the tax return on which they are claimed.
  • If Form 8843 is not filed in connection with a federal tax return, the form must be sent to Internal Revenue Service Center, Philadelphia, PA 19255 and is due by June 15. Please note that each individual who files Form 8843 must send the form separately from any other form or anyone else’s forms.