Income Taxes and IRS Forms
What is Income Tax?
F-1 and J-1 visa holders pay tax only on gross income or scholarships from sources within the U.S.A. Usually, these taxes are deducted from your paycheck. The IRS is notified of your earnings and/or scholarships from U.S. sources by your employers or sponsors. You should receive a Form W-2 in the mail from your employer in January or February which shows your earnings and any deductions from your pay for the previous year. Scholarships are reported on Form 1042S. There is a possibility to get a refund if you paid too much tax in payroll deductions. The U.S. government requires you to submit a federal tax form if you earned any money or received a scholarship in the previous calendar year. The due date to submit your tax return is April 15th. If you did not work or receive any American scholarship funds, and you do not meet the Substantial Presence Test, then you only need to file the Form 8843.
Substantial Presence Test
Sometimes students and scholars on J-1 and F-1 visas can be considered a resident for tax purposes. There is a Substantial Presence test calculation and there are tax treaties with some countries. Use these resources to determine if you qualify as a resident for tax purposes.
- Substantial Presence Test
- IRS Publication 4011: Foreign Student and Scholar Resource Guide
- IRS Publication 519: U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens
If you do meet the qualifications of the Substantial Presence Test, or otherwise qualify as a resident for tax purposes, then you will not file the 8843 or the Non-Resident Tax Forms. You would be considered a resident for tax purposes and would file the regular 1040 or 1040 EZ Forms.
Tax treaties may allow residents of foreign countries to be taxed at a reduced rate, or to be exempt from U.S. income taxes on certain items of income they receive from sources within the United States. See the IRS Tax Treaty Web page.
Form 8843 with instructions - required by everyone who does not meet the Substantial Presence Test who was in the USA the previous year. Submit your completed Form 8843 and a copy of your W-2 form (sent to you by your employer) with your federal tax return. If you don't have to submit a tax return, then just submit the 8843.
The Cal Poly International Center has created these tips and sample forms for completing the Form 8843:
Scholars and non-enrolled graduate students
Non-Resident Federal Income Tax Forms
- Form 1040-NR tax return long form - if you made money or received a scholarship from USA organization
- 1040NR-EZ - short form
- Instructions for the 1040NR-EZ – read instructions to see if you qualify to use the 1040NR-EZ form
- California State income tax Long form - if you made money and received a scholarship and are not eligible to use the 540NR Short Form
- Long form instructions
- California State income tax Short form - [if you made money but did not received a scholarship from USA organization]
- Short form instructions - Read this to determine if you are eligible to use the short form.
If you earned wages or collected a scholarship funds while you lived in another U.S. state besides California last year, you need to submit a tax return to that state.
Filing Deadlines and Where to Mail Forms
The filing deadline is the date by which you need to be sure the post office will send your forms out (also known as a post-mark date).
For individuals who earned U.S. wages (shown on a Form W-2) or academic and athletic scholarships, (reported on Form 1042S), the filing deadline is April 15. The 8843 is sent in with your federal tax forms. For individuals who did not receive wages or scholarship from US sources, mail the 8843 by itself by June 15.
If you are filing a form 1040NR tax return, you can submit your 8843 with the 1040NR. If you are not filing a tax return, you submit the form 8843 to the address on the instructions sheet.
The IRS provides information through free publications and a telephone information line. The phone number for general tax information is 800-829-1040 (ask for technical division). To order any of the federal publications or forms mentioned here, call the IRS tax forms and publications division at 800-829-3676, or access the forms online.
Mail your tax return to the address on each form. Send your 8843 with your Federal tax form 1040NR or 1040NR EZ.
Retain photocopies of the completed statement and/or tax return form and any documents submitted.
Do NOT bring your forms to the International Center. We are not tax experts and we cannot submit your forms for you.
- IRS Guide for Foreign Students/Scholars
- IRS Guide for substantial presence test and tax treaty list
- Ten Most Important Tax Facts for Internationals
- Three Reasons to File Tax Returns
- IRS Substantial Presence Test: To determine if you are to be considered a resident or non-resident for tax purposes – which is completely different than for immigration purposes.
Tax Preparation Services
- Cal Poly VITA Program - Get free income tax assistance on campus
- Sprintax Non-Resident Tax Filing is an online service where you answer questions, the software does the calculation and you print and mail the tax forms.
- Gary R. Engler & Company, Certified Public Accountants & Advisors tax preparation service for international students and scholars.