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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. government agency that collects taxes. As a nonresident F-1 or J-1 student, you may need to file forms each year with the IRS, even if you earned no income. It is your individual responsibility to understand and meet your tax obligations. Generally, tax returns are due every April 15th based on earnings from the previous year, though there are exceptions to this deadline if April 15 falls on a weekend day (Saturday or Sunday). This year the deadline is April 15, 2013.
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 too much was deducted, 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 earning taxed; many types of income are taxable. Even if you did not work and do not owe any taxes, you may need to submit an informational form to the IRS.
U.S. tax laws can be complex and confusing--we all get headaches during tax season--and the laws that apply to internationals are not the same as those that apply to U.S. citizens. These resources should help you to better understand your tax obligation, to learn what and where to research, and to successfully submit your tax forms. This page is meant to be a general introduction. Our staff are not tax professionals, so this cannot be considered legal tax advice. You are advised to review the information from the IRS specifically addressed to foreign students and scholars.
Please note: Advisers in the Global Education Office are not able to give tax advice about individual cases as we are not tax professionals.
How to File
Before you begin the filing process, be sure you have all the necessary information with you.
In legal terms, noncitizens 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 nonimmigrant 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 students maintaining status are exempt from the substantial presence test for 5 years.
Even if you pass the substantial presence test, you might still be considered a nonresident for tax purposes if you qualify for the The Closer Connection Exception to the Substantial Presence Test for Foreign Students.
Which Form to Use
Your individual situation determines which form(s) to file. Forms come with instructions.
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.