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Tax FAQs

For Nonimmigrant Students

Federal

Am I required to file a tax return even if I didn’t have any earned income in the U.S.?

You are not required to file a tax return if you had no earned income. However, every nonimmigrant F-1 and J-1 student and dependent is required to file Form 8843.

As a nonresident filing a 1040NREZ or 1040NR, is it possible for me to file my tax form electronically?

No, these forms cannot be submitted for electronic processing. The above forms should be sent to the Internal Revenue Service Center in Austin.

My employer didn’t issue me a tax form. What should I do?

A lot of times, the W-2 or 1042-S is sent to the nonresident’s permanent residence in his/her home country. If you do not receive a form, you should contact your employer and have them issue a duplicate copy.

I was employed during the tax year, but I didn’t make a lot of money. I don’t owe any taxes, and I am not due a refund from the IRS. Am I required to file a tax form?

By law, you are not required to file a tax form if you made under a certain amount of money for the tax year and you are not filing for a refund, but keep in mind that the USCIS requires that you show that you have complied with all tax laws when you apply for certain immigration benefits. For example, a person who applies for an adjustment of status to permanent resident is required to show at least three years of tax forms that were filed with the IRS.

As a nonresident taxpayer, which tax forms am I required to file?

The vast majority of international students and scholars at WFU will file Form 1040NR EZ. If, however, you are a nonresident taxpayer who is eligible to claim dependents or you are reporting earned income that is not reported on your 1042-S or W-2 forms (i.e. dividends, stock sales, gambling income, etc.), you will need to file Form 1040NR. In addition, all nonimmigrants are required to file Form 8843. This form can be filed with your 1040NREZ or your 1040NR. All forms can be downloaded at www.irs.gov.

What is the deadline for filing?

The deadline for filing state and federal taxes is April 15.

I am due a refund from the IRS, how long will it take for me to receive that refund?

This all depends on when you file your return. If you are a procrastinator and wait until April to file your return, it may take six to eight weeks for the IRS to process your refund. If, however, you file in late January or early February, it usually only takes about three weeks. Direct deposit refunds are typically quicker than a check.

Where do I mail my completed tax return?

All nonresident tax filers will mail their 1040NR and 1040NREZ to the following address:

Internal Revenue Service
Austin, TX 73301-0215

(A street address is not necessary)

Taxable and Nontaxable Income

I am a teaching assistant in the graduate school, and my salary is a part of my overall scholarship. Therefore, I shouldn’t be taxed on the money that I receive for teaching. Is this correct?

No, the money that you receive from teaching is provided in addition to the money that you receive for tuition, books, and other fees directly related to your educational expenses. Any money that is not used directly for tuition and/or other direct educational expenses is taxable.

I am an athlete and I noticed that quite a bit in taxes was withheld from my scholarship money. Why is this so, and is it possible to get a refund of this money?

Chances are that the scholarship that you are receiving from WFU also pays for your room and board. Only scholarship money received for tuition, fees, and books is tax free. Scholarship funds received for food and housing are considered taxable. You are, however, eligible to file for a refund of some or all of these taxes.

I received a tax document from my bank that informed me that interest that I earned on my account is being reported to the IRS. Am I required to report this as income on my tax form?

No, generally nonresidents are not required to pay taxes on any interest that was paid by a bank. This includes interest earned on certificates of deposit.

Dependents

I am married and have children. Can I claim my spouse and children as dependents on my tax form?

If you are not a resident of Canada, Mexico, Republic of Korea, India, or Japan, chances are that you will not be able to claim your wife and children as dependents. Residents of the above listed countries may be able to claim dependents if they meet certain eligibility requirements.

Filing for Past Tax Years

Last year when I came to this country I didn’t know that I could file a tax return and get a refund of taxes that were overpaid. Can I still file a return for last year’s taxes?

Yes, you are allowed to file a late return and claim the money that is owed to you by the IRS. There is, however, a time limit for filing. For more information on filing a late return, please go to www.irs.gov.

Resident vs Nonresident Filers

From a tax standpoint, it would be advantageous for me to file as a resident instead of a nonresident alien. Can I do this even though I am in F-1/J-1 student status? I have only been in this country for two years.

Current tax rules say that this is not possible for students until you have resided in the U.S. for a period of five tax years or longer. As a nonimmigrant in F-1/J-1 status, you are required to exempt all of your days of presence in the U.S. until you meet the five-year rule. For most J-1 scholars, the maximum period of exemption is two years.

A nonimmigrant can also become a resident for tax purposes when they marry a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or when he/she is granted permanent residence status by the USCIS.

Example: Mr. Schwarz came to the U.S. to study in F-1student status on 08/20/2000. He became a resident for tax purposes on 07/02/05 (A person’s presence in the U.S. for any part of a calendar year counts as a full year for tax purposes.).

Treaties

I am from China and I have been here for over five years. I am currently in F-1 status and studying on a full-time basis. I will file this year as a resident for tax purposes. Does this mean that I will not be able to take advantage of the tax treaty between the U.S. and China?

No, if you are a citizen of China and you are attending school as a full-time student, you can take advantage of the U.S.-China tax treaty regardless of whether you are a resident or nonresident for tax purposes.

Standard Deduction

As a nonresident taxpayer, am I allowed to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing deductions? I would save a lot more money on my taxes if I could do this.

Owing to a special treaty clause, only residents of India are allowed to take the standard deduction on the 1040NR and 1040NREZ.

Tax Credits

As a nonresident, can I claim such tax credits as the Hope Credit or Tuition Tax Credit?

No, these credits are only available to those who are classified as residents for tax purposes.

Deductions

I contributed to a standard IRA account this year, and my friend told me that I could deduct this amount from my taxes. As a full-time student, is this possible?

No, full-time students are not allowed to take the IRA deduction.

I realize that I am taxed for any income that I receive from the sale of stocks or other equity funds, but can I also deduct any losses?

No, unfortunately nonresident taxpayers are not eligible to take a deduction due to a loss on the sale of equities.

I am trying to reduce my tax burden. What are some of the itemized deductions that are available to me as a nonresident taxpayer?

1) state and local taxes

(all state and local taxes are fully deductible for the year paid; just keep in mind that you are also required to add back to your income any refund that you received of state and local taxes)

2) charitable contributions

(contributions made to a foreign organization are not deductible)

3) casualty or theft loss

(the loss must have occurred in the U.S., and the amount cannot exceed 10% of one’s income; the first $100 of a loss is not deductible)

4) job expenses not reimbursed by employer

(i.e. travel costs, etc.)

Dual Status Taxpayers
(nonimmigrants who change their nonimmigrant status during the course of a tax year)

My nonimmigrant status changed from F-1 to H-1 on July 02,2013. Does this mean that I will be filing as a dual-status taxpayer for the 2013 tax year?

No, after your change of status, you do not automatically become a resident for tax purposes. A person officially becomes a resident after he/she has been in the U.S. for 183 days. Since your change of status was approved on 07/02/13, you started counting days of presence since you were no longer residing in the U.S. as a nonimmigrant student in F-1 status. (Remember that all F-1 and J-1 students are able to exempt days of presence). You officially became a resident for tax purposes on 01/01/2014. You will file as a resident for tax purposes for the 2014 tax year.

How do I file a dual-status tax return?

Filing this type of return can be rather complicated. You should consult the IRS web page or talk with a tax professional who is familiar with nonresident taxes.

Social Security and Medicare Taxes Paid in Error

Last year I did an internship with an off-campus employer. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the fact that as an F-1 student I was exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes. These taxes were withheld from my salary in error. How do I get this money back?

The first thing that you need to do is contact your employer and request a refund of these taxes. If your employer will not cooperate, you will need to file the following forms and documents with the IRS:

  • Form 843
  • Form 8316
  • copy of I-94 card
  • copy of visa page of passport
  • copy of W-2 form
  • copy of work authorization (i.e. EAD card issued for OPT or economic hardship or 1st and 3rd pages of I-20 or DS-2019 that was authorized for CPT/Academic Training)
  • written statement that attests to the fact that you tried to obtain a refund from your employer and were not successful

Please keep in mind that it may take up to 4-6 months for you to receive a refund of these taxes.

Tax Assistance

Where should I go to get help with my taxes?

The IRS website has a page that deals specifically with international tax issues:
http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/index.html

North Carolina Taxes

Why doesn’t NC allow nonresident aliens to take the standard deduction?

I don’t know.

I ended up paying more in state taxes than I did in federal. Is this normal?

Yes, without the standard deduction, nonresident taxpayers often end up paying more in taxes to the state of North Carolina.