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Taxes in the U.S.


Taxes can be confusing. Here are some frequently asked questions regarding taxes: 

1. I’m an F-1 or J-1 student and I had no U.S. earned income or scholarships for 2017. Do I need to file?

Yes. You must file IRS form 8843. Dependents in F-2 and J-2 status must also file Form 8843.


2. I only arrived in the U.S. in December of 2017 and I didn’t work. Do I still have to file Form 8843?

Yes. If you were in the U.S. even 1 day in 2015, you must file Form 8843.


3. I am a non-resident for tax purposes. Can I claim the HOPE or Tuition Tax Credit or the Earned Income Credit?

No. Non-resident aliens cannot claim the HOPE, Tuition Tax Credit or the Earned Income Credit. Once you qualify to file as a resident alien for tax purposes, you may be eligible to claim these credits.


4. I have a student ID that looks like a social security number. Can I use this number as my Taxpayer Identification Number?

No. You must have a valid social security number or an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).


5. I just received my W-2 for the wages I earned in 2017. Can I file my taxes now?

Not necessarily. If you are from a country which has a tax treaty with the U.S., or you received a U.S. based scholarship or fellowship, you may also receive Form 1042-S from Accounting Services. This form is generally mailed about 1 month later than Form W-2 and you will need to have both forms before you can file.


6. I had a Teaching Assistantship or Graduate Assistantship at CSU. Is this the same as a scholarship or fellowship?

No. TA and GA salary payments are not considered scholarships or fellowships. Income from TA and GA positions and tuition remission is considered earned income and is taxable.


7. I had a TA or GA position. Can I deduct or exclude the cost of my tuition, books and/or fees?

No. Only those students who had bona fide scholarships or fellowships (no work was required as a condition of receiving the award) may deduct expenses paid for tuition, books and fees up to the amount of the scholarship/fellowship.


8. Can students and scholars claim itemized deductions?

Yes, but they are limited itemized deductions for nonresident aliens. You can claim itemized deductions for state & local taxes, charitable contributions to churches or charities, casualty and theft losses, certain unreimbursed job expenses and tax preparation fees. For those claiming only deduction for state and local taxes, you may use Form 1040NR-EZ. For those claiming other itemized deductions, you must use Form 1040NR.


9. Should I keep copies of my tax return and other tax forms?

Yes. Always keep copies of your tax return, W-2, 1042-S, 1099 bank interest statements and any other pertinent forms as proof that you have filed. The IRS can audit individual returns for up to 3 years following the filing deadline and your tax records are essential in proving your case.


10. What is the deadline for filing my tax return?

If you are filing Form 104NR-EZ or Form 1040NR, the deadline to file is April 15. If you are filing Form 8843 only, the deadline is June 15.


11. If I owe tax, to whom do I make the check payable?

If you owe taxes, make checks payable to United States Treasury. Make sure that your social security number is on the check and that in the memo section you write, “For 2017 income taxes.”


12. Where do I mail my tax return?

Forms 1040NR-EZ, 1040NR and Forms 8843 should be mailed to:                                                                          

Internal Revenue Service Center                                                                          Austin, TX 73301


13. I’m unable to file by the deadline, what do I do?

File Form 4868, “Extension of Time to File”, which extends the deadline to file until August 15. If you owe any taxes though, you must still mail your estimated tax payment by April 15 or you will be assessed penalty and interest as of April 15, on any payment owed.


14. I need tax forms or additional help or information. Where can I get the necessary forms or assistance?

For questions about refund checks call 1-800-829-4477 or 1-215-516-2000 (not toll free)                               

For problem resolution, call Technical Services Division of the IRS at 1-800-829-1040                                          

To download tax forms and publications, go to the IRS website.


15. I am leaving the country before I can file my taxes. What should I do?

Make sure the Payroll Office has your foreign address so that your Form W-2 and/or Form 1042-S can be mailed to you. Download the appropriate forms and instructions and file your U.S. taxes from abroad. Save copies of all forms submitted for your records.


16. My employer withheld Social Security and Medicare taxes from my salary. Can I get this refunded?

Yes. F and J visa holders are not subject to Social Security or Medicare taxes as long as they are considered a “non-resident alien for tax purposes” (IRS Publication 519). Refund of these taxes may be requested from your employer. If your employer is unable to refund these taxes, you may file Form 843 and Form 8316 for a refund from the IRS.


17. I worked or attended a university in another state and paid state taxes. How do I report this on my federal tax return and am I required to file a state tax return?

You may claim an itemized deduction on Form 1040NR-EZ (line 11) or Form 1040NR (line 36) 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.