Tax Assistance for International Students and Scholars
As an international student or scholar in the United States, it’s important that you understand the tax requirements of your visa and your filing obligations with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).
All F- and J- status visitors must file tax forms if they were in the United States during the previous calendar year. If you arrived for the first time in F or J status before January 1, 2021, you are required to file at least one tax form, and your dependents must also file forms independently. For the first 5 years of your F- status and first 2 years of J- status, you generally remain a "nonresident for tax purposes." If you did not work or receive any income in the US during 2020, and you are a non-resident for tax purposes, you are legally obliged to file the Form 8843. If you worked or received a stipend, grant, scholarship covering more than just tuition, or allowance in the USA (over a certain amount) you must also to file the Form 1040-NR or 1040-NR-EZ.
If you have been here in more than 5 consecutive calendar years in F status or more than 2 years in J- status, you may have become a "resident for tax purposes" -- even if you are still in F or J status for immigration purposes. If you are a resident for tax purposes, you are taxed on your world-wide income, and file your tax forms the same way an American citizen or legal permanent resident would.
While there are many tax forms you can complete and file yourself, the Center for International Education has arranged free access to Sprintax Tax Preparation, which will guide you through the tax preparation process, prepare the necessary documents and even check if you are due a refund. It can also guide you through the State of Colorado tax process for an additional fee.
Sprintax was used by over 165,000 international students and scholars last year, and the average Federal refund received by eligible students was over $1,087.
All you need to do is:
- Register and follow the simple instructions
- Complete the online questionnaire
- Enter the unique code in the box on the ‘Review your order’ page. Please contact UNC International Student & Scholar Services if you need the UNC Sprintax Code.
- Sprintax will prepare your tax return.
- Print, sign, and mail the required documents. Be sure to keep a copy for your records.
If you have any questions, please use the live chat function on Sprintax and their team will be happy to help.
Taxable non-service scholarships
Athletes and other students with taxable scholarships or fellowships (those that include living expenses and require no work activities), who have no other employment in the U.S. should work with ISSS to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) as early as possible (ideally in the fall term). ITINs are required for tax reporting on those scholarships.
Students who apply later may wish to visit an ITIN Acceptance Agent with their completed, signed tax return documents (before mailing to the IRS), so that they do not have to send original passports and other documents to the IRS with their applications. The IRS keeps a list of legitimate ITIN Acceptance Agents , and you should only work with one of these authorized companies. The ITIN Acceptance Agent can help authenticate copies of documents that can then be attached to your tax return when you send it to the IRS. Please carefully investigate the fees of an agent you are considering using – they may range from less than $25 to several hundred dollars.
You do not need an ITIN if you have a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN), or are eligible for an SSN or if you are only required to file IRS Form 8843.
- Getting ready to file your tax forms as a nonresident alien for tax purposes
- IRS Foreign Students and Scholars page
- IRS Link & Learn "Foreign Student Course"
- IRS Tax Residency information
- IRS Substantial Presence Test to determine tax residency status
- IRS Publication 519 Tax Guide for Aliens
- IRS Publication 4152 Electronic Toolkit for Nonresident Alien VITA/CTE Sites
- Tax Treaty overview information and IRS Publication 901 U.S. Tax Treaties
- Individual Taxpayer Identification Number information for students and scholars (with taxable scholarships but no employment)
- NAFSA Tax Brochure - This document is a little out of date in some details, but has a very good overview of the US tax system as it relates to visiting students and scholars
The information contained herein is provided as a service to the international students, faculty, staff, employees and/or administrators of the University of Northern Colorado, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax or other matter. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of legal counsel or qualified tax professional. The University of Northern Colorado is not responsible for the results obtained from the use of any information provided herein.