INTRODUCTION TO U.S. INCOME TAX REGULATIONS

All students in F1 status are required to file tax returns, even if you have earned no income in the United States. You can either pick up the federal forms in the international student office, or go to IRS web site for the forms.

The deadline for filing tax forms is usually April 15. Students who filed tax returns last year may receive both U.S. federal and state income tax forms for the New Year in the mail in January. If you were employed in the U.S. at anytime during the year, you are required to file an income tax form, whether you are a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or F1 non-immigrant. (Forms 1040NR-EZ and 8843)

International students in F1 status for 5 years or less (since 1998 or later) and their dependents, file tax forms as non-residents. If you did not earn any U.S. income during the year other than bank or credit union interest, then you need only file form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition. The purpose of the 8843 is to verify that the non-resident qualifies to exempt days of presence, and thus shields the non-resident from being taxed as a resident. Being taxed as a U.S. resident allows the IRS to tax your worldwide income.

To all International Students without a social security number:

Those students and their dependents are required to file tax forms each year, whether or not they earned any income! When completing the tax forms, you are required to indicate your U.S. Social Security Number. However, many individuals in F-2 status and other non-immigrant statuses are not eligible for social security numbers.

The deadline for filing your income tax returns is April 15 each year if you received wages or other income subject to tax withholding. Otherwise, if you had no income and are filing only form 8843, the deadline is June 15 each year.

INCOME TAX TIPS FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

The following information is designed for international students in F-1 status who have been in the U.S. in F-1 status for 5 years or less years (1998 or later) and are therefore eligible to file as non-residents for tax purposes. The material here comes from Internal Revenue Service publications, discussions with IRS staff, and other income tax publications and materials.

What can happen if an F-1 student fails to file tax forms yearly? Unfortunately, there can be immigration consequences for failing to file tax forms. For example, applicants to change from F-1 to H-1B (the professional worker visa) can be asked by the Immigration Service to submit copies of previous years' income tax forms as part of their H-1B application. Applicants for permanent residency ("green cards") can be asked to show copies of tax forms filed for previous years. A person who appears at a U.S. consulate abroad for consular processing of a permanent residency visa application may be asked to produce U.S. income tax forms from their previous years in the U.S.

Federal forms and publications are available by calling 1-800-829-3676, or visit their web site at www.irs.ustreas.gov. California State forms and publications are also available by calling 1-800-338-0505, or visit their web site at www.ftb.ca.gov.

Unfortunately, U.S. income tax laws can be very complex. If you are a Resident Alien for income tax purposes and want to prepare your own return, see if you are eligible to file the "short" Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ. If you must file the 1040 "long" Form, you may want to consider asking for help. It’s usually well worth it. Tax preparation services may charge $50 - $75 for a tax return, but some will usually save you at least that much in deductions that you would have missed.

If you are a Non-Resident Alien for income tax purposes, most tax preparers will be unfamiliar with the special tax Forms 1040NR and 1040NR-EZ. Be careful that you choose someone who knows what they are doing.

If you want to prepare your own tax return, we strongly recommend that you obtain the following publications from the IRS.

PUBLICATION NUMBER               TITLE
519                                               U.S. Tax Guide For Aliens
901                                               U.S. Tax Treaties
Forms 1040NR & 1040NR-EZ           U.S. Non-Resident Alien Tax Return Forms & instructions

INCOME TAX PREPARATION SERVICES

CINTAX is a web-based tax return preparation system designed exclusively for foreign students, scholars, teachers, researchers, trainees, and their dependents who are nonresident aliens to aid in preparing U.S. federal income tax Forms 1040NR and 1040NR-EZ. For the foreign visitor to the U.S., CINTAX is designed to take the time and confusion out of filing a U.S. tax return - it takes only about 20 minutes to complete and print a tax return!

The International Student Counselor is neither qualified nor permitted to give individual tax advice. Students with complicated tax situations may wish to consult with a tax preparation service, professional tax accountant, or tax attorney who is knowledgeable about nonresident tax law.