Who needs to file an income tax return?
If you are visiting the U.S. from another country on an F, J, M or Q visa and are classified as a nonresident for U.S. tax purposes, you are required to file an income tax return each year that you have U.S.-source income. If you did not earn any income, you must file IRS Form 8843. Form 8843 must also be filed for every family member who is in the U.S. on an F-2 or J-2 visa.
If I did not earn any U.S.-based income, do I need to file any tax forms?
Yes, even if you did not earn income in the U.S., you and all family members must file a Form 8843.
Do I need to file an income tax return if I already had taxes withheld from my paycheck?
Yes. Taxes are withheld from your pay as you earn it. You are obligated to file federal (IRS), state, and city income tax forms after the end of the calendar year to reconcile the withholdings from your paycheck with your actual tax liability.
I arrived in the U.S. in December and I didn’t work. Do I still have to file IRS Form 8843?
Yes. If you were in the U.S. only for one day of that particular year you must file IRS Form 8843. If any family members are here with you, they must also file Form 8843.
What happens if I fail to file an income tax return?
If you owe taxes and don’t file an income tax return, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can charge you penalty and interest on any tax owed. Fines and penalties can often amount to more than the original tax debt. If you are eligible for a tax refund and do not file an income tax return, you will not receive a refund. There can also be immigration consequences for failing to file an income tax return. For example, applicants for permanent residency (“green card”) are frequently asked to provide proof of tax filing for previous years in the U.S.
What if I am being paid by a foreign employer?
If you are a non-resident for tax filing purposes, this income is not taxable. Nonresidents are taxed on their U.S.-source income only.
I did not have enough money taken out of my paycheck. And I received a 1099 form. What can I do? What happens if I do not pay all of my taxes?
If an insufficient amount of money was withheld from your paycheck, you must pay the additional tax when you file your income tax return. Please note that the IRS receives copies of all Forms W-2 and 1099 and matches these forms against your income tax return. If the IRS determines that you did not report some of your income, it will send you a notice reflecting this failure to report income. Failure to report all income can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment.
What is the difference between Form 1040NR and Form 1040NR-EZ? Which form should I use? Will using the longer form save me some money?
It is always advisable to use the simplest form that will accommodate all of your income and deductions. The instructions to the forms explain who can file the form. Using the longer form will only save you money if you have items to list on it that you could not list on the shorter form (e.g. gifts to U.S. charities).
I worked in another state last year and paid state taxes. How do I report this on my federal income tax return? Am I required to file a state income tax return?
You may claim an itemized deduction on Form 1040NR-EZ or Form 1040NR for any state taxes withheld. You may also be required to file a state income tax return in addition to the federal income tax return. Check with the tax department of the state you worked in.
Does OIS offer tax assistance?
OIS is here to provide you with resources that will help you fulfill your tax filing requirements. However, OIS staff are not trained tax professionals and will not be able to provide individual assistance with tax issues.
I’m married and have a child who was born in the U.S. Can I claim personal exemptions for my wife and child?
Maybe. Only students and scholars from the following countries can claim exemptions for their dependents: Mexico, Canada, Korea and Japan (if you choose to use and are eligible to use the old treaty with Japan). In addition, nationals of India are sometimes able to claim exemptions for their children. However, there are restrictions on how this is done. Nationals of India should see page 27 of IRS Publication 519 U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, to find out if it is possible to claim a personal exemption for a child born in the U.S.
I’m from one of the countries that can claim an exemption for my spouse and/or child. Can I claim them if they don’t have a Social Security number or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)?
No. In order to claim personal exemptions for dependents, they must have valid Social Security numbers or ITIN’s.
To apply for ITIN’s, your spouse/dependents should fill out Form W-7 and attach the form to the 1040-NR along with the required documentation. DO NOT send original documents to the IRS. Instead, you should send certified, notarized copies of your documents. Instructions for the Form W-7 can be found here.
How do I know if the U.S. has an income tax treaty with my country?
You can refer to IRS publication 901 U.S. Tax Treaties for more information.
How does a tax treaty help me on my income tax return?
Tax treaties generally allow you to exclude a specified amount of U.S.-source income on their U.S. tax return. This in turn reduces the tax liability because you do not have to pay taxes on that amount.
I am a student from the People’s Republic of China currently studying in the U.S. How does the income tax treaty between the U.S. and China apply, especially for students with scholarships and fellowships?
If you are Chinese and in the U.S. solely for the purpose of your education, you may be able to exclude up to $5,000 of income that you receive from work performed in the U.S. Under the U.S.-China treaty, taxable scholarships and fellowships are also excluded from income. For additional information, please refer to IRS Publication 901 U.S. Tax Treaties.
If my total wages do not exceed the amount which is exempt because of a tax treaty, do I still need to fill out IRS Form 8233?
What does the term “unlimited” mean in the amount column of the charts in IRS Publication 901, U.S. Tax Treaties?
“Unlimited” means that there is no maximum limit on the dollar amount that the individual can exclude. For additional information, see IRS Publication 901 U.S. Tax Treaties.
I had a teaching or research assistantship. Is this the same as a scholarship or fellowship?
NO. Teaching and research assistantships are payment for services and are not considered scholarship or fellowship income. This income is not excludable under the scholarship/fellowship income rules. For additional information, see IRS Publication 970 Tax Benefits for Higher Education.
What is a 1042-s? Where can I get one?
University of Pittsburgh recipients of scholarship, fellowship, and/or grant money and those who qualified for tax treaty exempt earnings will receive the 1042-S form. This form allows you to apply for tax treaty benefits when filing your Federal returns. You should receive this form in the mail by the end of March.
If you have questions about your W-2 or 1042S forms contact your employer.
If your employer is the University of Pittsburgh, contact Pitt’s payroll department via e-mail: email@example.com
Can I deduct the cost of a computer as a valid educational expense?
No. Generally, equipment, such as computers or educational supplies that are not required course items, are not deductible expenses.
Can I deduct my books from my assistantship income?
Which forms do students who hold U.S. government scholarships (e.g. Fulbright) have to fill out?
Students who hold U.S. government scholarships must file Form 8843 if they are a non-resident for tax purposes. They must also file Form 1040NR if any part of their scholarship is taxable (e.g. used for room and board).
My employer withheld Social Security and Medicare taxes from my salary. Can I get this refunded?
Yes, if you are a non-resident for tax filing purposes. F-1 and J-1 visa holders who are nonresidents for tax purposes are not subject to Social Security or Medicare taxes for work within the restrictions of their visa category. Refund of these taxes may be requested from your employer. If your employer is unable to refund these taxes, you may file IRS Form 843 with certain attachments for a refund.
What is the form 1098T?
Form 1098T indicates the amount of tuition you paid last year. This is useful for those that are eligible to claim deductions such as the, “Hope or Lifetime Learning Education credits, or Earned Income Credit (EIC)” Non-resident filers are not eligible for this credit.
All tax information provided by OIS is intended for international students and scholars of the University of Pittsburgh ONLY. The University of Pittsburgh makes no warranty as to the accuracy of this information and shall not be held liable for use of any of the information provided. You should contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or a tax professional if you require clarification or have any questions about filing your taxes.