All international students (and accompanying dependents) are required to complete an income tax return annually. For many students, this will mean completing the form 1040NR-EZ (U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return) and a form 8843. They are required to file an income tax return even if they have no income from U.S. sources, or if the income is exempt from U.S. taxes due to treaties between the U.S. and their home country. While funds from a scholarship are tax exempt, it is still considered income and must be included on a tax return and schools who have issued scholarships should issue form 1042S to their students.
The U.S. tax system encompasses many different types of taxes (e.g. income tax, Social Security tax, sales tax, personal property tax) and three layers of taxation (local, state, and federal). International students have obligations at several levels.
Sources of U.S. income may include on-campus employment, scholarships, fellowships, graduate assistantships, practical or academic training, and any compensation received for labor. International students do not have to pay taxes on interest paid to them by U.S. banks.
Note that “income” is not limited to wages paid in cash, but also includes that portion of scholarships, fellowships, or assistantships that is applied to housing and meal expenses. The portion applied to tuition, fees, books, and supplies is not counted as income. Be sure to inquire about the applicability of any tax treaty that might exist between a students’ home country and the United States. IRS publication 901 lists all tax treaties.
Important Dates, Documents, and Forms
- April 18, 2022: The last day on which residents and nonresidents who have earned wages from U.S. Sources may file their U.S. federal income tax returns for 2021.
- June 15, 2022: The last day on which nonresident students and their dependents who have no wage income from U.S. sources may file their income taxes returns for 2021.
- 519: “U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens,” an IRS publication. This is essential for individuals from nations having tax treaties with the United States.
- 8843: “Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition.” This one-page document must be completed and returned with the 1040NR and 1040NR-EZ filed by residents for tax purposes. It is not interchangeable with those forms. The IRS publishes an instruction booklet to accompany the form.
- 1040NR-EZ: “The U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens with No Dependents.” This is a simplified version of the 1040NR. Most F-1 students may file the 1040NR-EZ. The IRS publishes an instruction booklet for this form.
- W-2: “Wage and Tax Statement.” A form issued annually by employers (normally during the month of January). Copies of the W-2 must be filed with federal, state, and local tax returns.
- W-4: “Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate.” A form issued annually by employers at the time of hire to indicate how much tax is to be withheld from the paycheck.
- 1042S: “Foreign Persons U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding” A form used to report total scholarship/fellowship payments, income tax withheld, and other information relating to grant payments. It is also used to show treaty benefits claimed and honored on payments made by an employer.
- W-8BEN: “Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding.” A form used to certify an individual’s foreign status for tax purposes. Typically used by universities for students who have received “unqualified” scholarships.
The IRS provides information through free publications and a telephone information line. The phone number for general tax information is 1-800-829-1040 (ask for the Technical Division). The IRS publishes forms online at: https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs.
Tax Assistance Workshops
If you were present in the United States during the 2021 calendar year in F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, H-1B, TN or O status, you are required by law to file a 2021 Federal Income Tax Return, even if you did not receive income from U.S. sources or if your income is exempt. The deadline to file a 2021 Federal Income Tax Return is April 18, 2022. The deadline for those who received no income from a U.S. source during 2021 is June 15, 2022. Failure to file a tax return could result in visa denials, denial of immigration benefits (such as permanent residency or H-1B petitions), or being fined for not paying taxes. If you were in the U.S. anytime during the 2021 calendar year, you must complete Form 8843 and submit to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is the U.S. government agency that collects taxes and enforces tax laws.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free appointments for international students and scholars each year to assist with filing taxes. Access the link below to request an appointment time.
- Completed Form 8843
- Entry visa
- Current I-20 or DS-2019
- W-2 or 1099 forms received
- Bank and account information
- Any and all other tax forms
For Fee Services
- Sprintax – US Tax Preparation for Nonresidents (State & Federal) – International students and scholars may use an online tax preparation service for nonresidents (for a fee) as an alternative to a tax appointment. Marshall University does not currently offer a code for this service.
- Glacier Tax Prep – US Federal Tax Preparation for Nonresidents (Federal only) – International students and scholars may use an online tax preparation service for nonresidents (for a fee) as an alternative to a tax appointment. Marshall University does not currently offer a code for this service.
- There are other paid preparer services such as H& R Block or Jackson Hewitt, by way of example. Please feel free to consult your own tax consultant, however, please be sure to find out if they are familiar with the particular issues related to non-resident filers.
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – Find more information on the Internal Revenue Service and how to file taxes.
- International Taxpayer Information (Foreign Students and Scholars) – Information from the IR on filing taxes as an international taxpayer.
- West Virginia State Tax Department – Some students and scholars must file state income tax reports in addition to federal income tax reports. Find more information on filing taxes in the state of West Virginia.
- U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens
- U.S. Tax Treaties
The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal or tax preparation advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek independent professional advice regarding individual legal and tax preparation issues.
Marshall University makes no guarantees, warrantees, or promotions of concerning the information or resources contained herein, nor does it endorse the abilities of any person or service on this page and assumes no liability for their work. Persons using the information and services agree they are independently making personal decisions based upon their needs with regard to the tax professional or service they decide to contact or retain to assist them.