International Students & Taxes

icon of gold circle with exclamation mark in middleThis information provided here should be taken as information only and should not be considered in any way as tax advice. Advice related to the information here should be sought from qualified tax professionals or the IRS. 

Note: The words "non-resident" and "resident" in this section only refer to your status as a U.S. taxpayer, not as student at UAA for tuition purposes nor does it correspond to your U.S. immigration status.

Most international students and scholars are liable for taxation on any income earned in the United States (U.S.) from the beginning of their arrival in the U.S. Income can include: salary, scholarships, fellowships, money earned from U.S. mutual funds or U.S. bank accounts.

U.S. taxes are filed every year for the previous year's earnings. Persons in the U.S. at any point in a calendar year are required to provide the IRS with tax documentation the following year.

Determining Status as a Non-Resident Alien (NRA) or Resident for Tax Purposes

Being a non-resident (i.e., F or J visa holder) for immigration purposes does not automatically make a student or scholar a Non-Resident Alien (NRA) for tax purposes.

  • F-1 and J-1 students and their dependents are usually considered NRAs for tax purposes for their first five years in the U.S.
  • J-1 scholars are usually considered NRAs for their first two years in the U.S. 

To determine status as a Non-Resident Alien (NRA) or Resident for tax purposes, refer to IRS Publications 515 and 519. For further questions, visit the IRS web site, or call 1-800-829-1040.

If a student is deemed a non-resident for tax purposes, they may not use TurboTax or any other resident tax preparation software as non-resident tax forms must be mailed to the appropriate address.

F-1 and J-1 students and their dependents are usually considered NRAs for tax purposes for their first five years in the U.S.

F-1 and J-1 students are able to apply for an exemption to be treated as non-residents for US tax purposes. Persons are able to apply for this exemption up to 5 times in their life. This exemption must be formally requested by providing Form 8843 to the IRS.

Persons who have been in the US more than 5 calendar years should seek professional tax advice and will use the Substantial Presence Test to determine if they are a resident for tax purposes.

Non-Resident Students (for Tax Purposes) with No Income

Students who were in the U.S. for any part of the year and have not worked in the U.S., and who have not had any scholarship provided to them during the year, should compete and file Form 8843 with the IRS by April 15 the following year.

Tax Forms

The following are tax-related forms you should be familiar with:

  • 8843 – This form must be filed by all international students, with or without income. It identifies you as a non-resident and prevents any of your income from abroad from being taxed.
  • 1099-int – Your bank will send you this form showing how much interest income you earned. Non-residents are not taxed on this interest, however you may need to include this form with your tax return.
  • 1042-S – If you receive scholarships, the giving organization will send you this form. For students, this form will be provided by UA HR via Glacier. Only scholarship money used for room and board is taxable. Scholarship money used for tuition, fees, and books is not taxable.
  • 1098-T Form is provided to some students to notify them that they may be eligible for federal income tax credits. The majority of international students and scholars are not eligible to claim education expense tax credits on their federal tax forms. These claims can only be made by residents for federal tax purposes.
  • W-2 – Your employer will provide you this form by the 31st of January for the prior year’s income. It shows how much you’ve earned and how much was withheld in taxes.
  • 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ – You will use one of these forms to file a federal tax return. The simplified form (1040NR-EZ) is sufficient for most students.

How to File U.S. Taxes

F-1 and J-1 students and scholars in the U.S. are responsible for filing their federal and state taxes each year. ISS cannot advise on tax-related issues. Students and scholars can consult with one of the qualified tax professionals suggested below for individual assistance or self-file.

Non-Resident Alien 

  • Sprintax Tax Preparation Software
  • Self-file; refer to: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 

Resident Alien

  • Self-file; refer to: Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Tax Preparation Vendors for Hire, such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block

Amended Returns

When F and J students and scholars submit tax forms to the U.S. government, they are making a legal and recorded statement of status and eligibility which must be correct.  False filings can seriously impact future immigration eligibility and status. If a student or scholar has filed incorrect tax forms, ISS strongly encourages seeking assistance from either a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), tax attorney, or licensed tax firm to make corrections as soon as possible to avoid any penalties. These services will incur a charge to be determined by the service provider.

Avoid Scams

Be aware of tax and IRS scams.

The IRS initiates most contacts with taxpayers through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. However, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as:

  • When a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill,
  • To secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or
  • To tour a business, for example, as part of an audit or during criminal investigations.

Even then, taxpayers will generally first receive a letter or sometimes more than one letter, often called notices, from the IRS in the mail.

Avoid telephone scams

Criminals impersonate IRS employees and call taxpayers in aggressive and sophisticated ways. Imposters claim to be IRS employees and sound very convincing. They use fake names and phony IRS identification badge numbers. They’re demanding and threatening – and do not reflect how the IRS handles enforcement matters.