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International Students: Your Tax Obligations

If you are an international student in the U.S., you are required to file tax documentation (a tax return) each year with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You must do so even if you have not earned income in the U.S.

Resident or Non-resident for tax purposes

Before filing your tax return, you should know if you are a “resident alien” or “non-resident alien’’ for tax purposes. Most international students on F, J, M or Q visas are non-residents for tax purposes. U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and non-resident aliens who have met the Substantial Presence Test are considered residents for tax purposes.

Please note that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Internal Revenue Service use the terms "resident" and "nonresident" to mean different things. So being a resident or non-resident for tax purposes is not related to your immigration status.

Form 8843

If you had no job, did not earn any wages, received no US source income (such as scholarship, stipend, grant award etc.), then you do not need to file a full tax return, however you still need to file Form 8843. All international students in the US who are (tax) non-residents, must file form 8843. You do not need a Social Security Number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to complete Form 8843.

Basic information on how you’re taxed in the U.S:

If you get a job in the U.S., you will need to fill out a W-4 Form so your employer knows what income should be withheld from your wages as taxes. The taxes are then paid directly to the U.S. Treasury (and/or the appropriate state agency) on your behalf. Similarly, if you received a grant, scholarship or stipend, some of this may be classified as income and have tax implications.  At the end of the tax year, you need to prove that you’ve paid the correct amount by filing your tax return! Remember, even if you didn’t have a job, you must still file your tax return each year.

Generally, you will only be taxed on your income based on U.S. sources. This includes on-campus employment, scholarships, fellowships, graduate assistantships, practical or academic training, and compensation for labor. Many students come from countries that have tax treaties with the U.S. This means you may be able to earn a certain amount in the U.S. without paying federal tax. Make sure you research this: Tax Treaty for Fellowship Payments.

In your tax return, you must declare all sources of U.S. income such as:

  • Income from employment in the U.S.
  • Scholarship, fellowship or grant
  • Any other source of income

Forms to complete:

If you earned income in the U.S. you should complete Form 1040NR / Form 1040 NR-EZ and Form 8843. If you did not earn any U.S. income, you still must file Form 8843.

To file your tax 1040NR / 1040NR-EZ, you will need either a Social Security Number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which is used where you don’t have a SSN.

Important deadline:

April 17th  : In 2017, April 17th is the last day for residents and non-residents who earned U.S. income to file Federal tax returns for 2016.

Documents/info you’ll need:

  • Social Security Number or ITIN
  • Passport
  • All U.S. entry and exit dates
  • All tax forms, including Forms W-2, 1042-S and/or 1099 - if you received them
  • Visa/Immigration Status information: Including Form DS-2019 (for J visa holders) or Form I-20 (for F visa holders)
  • For State Tax Return(s) preparation: A copy of your prepared Federal Tax return

Tip: Make sure you have your payment documents (1042S, W2 etc.) for the tax year you’re applying for.

To assist you with your tax preparation, Lindenwood University has arranged for Free access to a tax preparation software – Sprintax.

Sprintax will determine your tax status, identify which forms you need to complete, and then complete the forms for you, based on the information you enter. If you need to do a Form 8843 a State return, or apply for an ITIN or a FICA refund, Sprintax can do this too.

International students can create a profile and log in to Sprintax. The first time you log in, you will need to create a UserID and password. 

Sprintax will guide you through the process, firstly determining your tax residency status, then identifying which forms you need to complete based on your own personal circumstances.

If you have any questions about Sprintax, or questions when completing your tax using Sprintax, please use the ‘live chat’ function which is available within the system.

Sprintax Demo Video - This video will give you a short overview of the system.

If you have any general questions about tax preparation for non-resident international students, please visit:

Sprintax FAQ

Once you are ready, please proceed to log into Sprintax.

Please remember to check your student email for individual access codes to offset some of the filing cost.

2017 on campus Sprintax session

Resident for tax purposes?

If you are unsure of your tax status, please use Sprintax to determine if you are a non-resident for tax purposes.

There are many resources for filing as a resident for tax purposes:

  • The IRS provides a good overview in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax
  • "Free File" online federal tax preparation and electronic filing through the IRS for individuals with an adjusted gross income of $57,000 or less. See the Free File page on the IRS web site.
  • Commercial tax preparation such as:

Disclaimer option 1

This information is intended only for international students and scholars with income sources and level typical of students and scholars at Lindenwood University.  Although the information contained in this site has been reviewed carefully and should be adequate to assist most international students and scholars, it is not a substitute for advice obtained from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or a qualified tax accountant.  If your visa status has changed in the past year, or you believe you have a complicated tax issue, please consult the IRS or a qualified tax accountant.

In addition, while the tax preparation software, Sprintax, is being provided to help you with your tax filing obligations, you are individually responsible for verifying that the correct information has been entered into the tax preparation software and included on all forms and/or other documents printed or derived from the tax preparation software, and ultimately responsible for any errors or omissions.

Disclaimer Option 2

DISCLAIMER: International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) and Lindenwood University are NOT permitted to assist any student/scholar with any IRS tax form preparation or tax related questions. The information below is intended for your benefit. Any questions or concerns should be directed to a certified tax preparer or a local IRS field office.

Lindenwood University
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