International Student & Scholar Services

Tax Obligations

The information provided here is intended only to give you a general sense of taxpaying requirements and should not be considered financial or legal advice. Due to legal restrictions, the staff of the Office of International Student & Scholar Services is not able to advise on tax issues, answer individual tax questions, or prepare tax forms for individual students or scholars. 

Information for International Students & Scholars

2018 Income Tax Filing Guide
Tax Workshop 2018 
Tax Year 2018 Information for International Students and Scholars

Tax Filing Forms for Tax Year 2018

Form 843
Instructions for Form 843
Form 8843
Instructions for Form 8843
Form 1040-NR
Instructions for Form 1040-NR
Form 1040-NR-EZ
Instructions for Form 1040-NR-EZ

Summary of Tax Obligations

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the United States government agency responsible for the collection of federal income taxes. All non-immigrants in F or J status (both the principal and all dependents) are required to file an individual income tax return if they were physically present in the U.S. during the tax year, even if they had no U.S. source income of any kind. Please be aware that there are penalties for failure to file a tax return.

International students and scholars who are studying, teaching or engaged in research activities in the United States are subject to federal and state income taxation. Some visa holders are also subject to the federal Social Security tax (FICA) on wages earned by themselves or their family members. The U.S. tax treatment of international students and scholars and their families depends chiefly on their status as residents or nonresidents (for tax purposes) and the type of income they receive. In some circumstances, country of origin may also play a part, since the United States has tax treaties with some countries which exempt citizens and/or residents of those countries from U.S. income tax. Since tax liability depends on personal circumstances, you are responsible for determining your own tax obligations.

All F and J visa holders (students, scholars, professors, trainees, etc.) are generally considered nonresident aliens for U.S. federal tax purposes for an initial period of time ranging from 2-5 years. These individuals must file a 1040NR or1040NR-EZ federal tax return if they have U.S. income subject to tax.Nonresident alien students and trainees who are temporarily in the U.S. under an F, J, M, or Q visa and who have no income subject to U.S. tax, do not have to file Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. However, they must still file Form 8843.

Federal Tax Withholding

All employers are required to "withhold" or deduct applicable federal, state and city taxes from paychecks. These "withholdings" are recorded by your Social Security number. The payroll office will determine the appropriate amount of tax to be "withheld" from each paycheck. At the end of each year, anyone who has been employed will receive a "W-2 Form" from their employer. This form totals the income paid and taxes withheld for the year. From this statement, it can be determined whether you owe additional tax or whether the U.S. government owes you a refund by checking the tax table in the instruction book. You must send the appropriate copy of the W-2 with your income tax return.

Non-resident aliens in F-1 or J-1 status are exempt from Social Security (FICA) withholdings if the income is received for services performed to carry out the purpose for which the alien was admitted to the U.S. This includes employment pursuant to a scholarship, fellowship, assistantship or other financial aid award, approved on and off-campus employment, authorized employment due to economic necessity and practical training employment [26 U.S.C. 3121 (b) (19)]. However, students who have been on F visas over 5 years and are not from countries covered by tax treaties (2 years for J visa holders) are subject to Social Security unless they can prove to the IRS that they do not intend to stay in the U.S.

For more detailed information, please read the Internal Revenue Service's Publication 513.