Tax return is a required procedure for everyone who got incomes in United States. Nevertheless, rules for non residents are not the same as the one for residents, some deductions don’t apply but other can apply. This article aims to help international students to understand tax return.
What is tax return?
Incomes taxes are withdrawn on the salary directly and total withdrawal doesn’t correspond to the amount of tax to pay so tax refund has to be calculated to be reimbursed or to pay.
This article is only addressed to international students who have a job, F-1 Visa (usually part time job, 20 hours a week, like research assistant -RA- or teaching assistant -TA or Instructor). It only applies the first five years of employment when they are considered as non resident alien. Usually, monthly tax rate is defined by the form W4 when you have to claim a number of allowance. Small number of allowance corresponds to a maximum to tax withdrawal each month and more allowance to smaller taxes. However, for international the maximum number of allowances to be claimed is 01.
How to proceed
Tax are filled using a software GLACIER. Students who are required to fill taxes received an email for the Payroll Office.
For student who arrives in August for the Fall, first email should come during the fall to create an online account on the GLACIER website and enter employment information. Depending of the country of origin, you will be able to claim a tax treaty benefits by filling the form W8-BEN provided, usually $5000 which means that the first $5000 will not be taxable. A list of the countries under a tax treaty can be found the the IRS-tax website. Documents should then be submitted to the Payroll Office. It includes:
- Form W4 that will define the amount of tax you will pay.
- Form W8-BEN that established your non residency for tax purpose
- Form 8233 that states the tax treaty benefits, if any.
You also need to provide a copy of your visa, I-20 and I-94 (that is only online now)
Second email should come during the Spring of the following year to fill the tax return. It is required to fill it and deadline is April 15 . It can be mailed at the main IRS office as shown on GLACIER website or deposit at the local IRS office. GLACIER software allows you to deduct donations made to US non profit organization. As a student, there is nothing more you can deduct. Tuition deduction is not allowed for non resident. The documents needed are:
- Form(s) W2 that correspond to taxable incomes and can be printed from the University website
- Form 1040-NR that is filled online from the GLACIER website and has to be signed.
If you claimed any tax treaty exemptions, you will have to provide also:
- Form(s) 1042S that correspond to the non taxable incomes (under the tax treaty) and can be printed online or mailed by the Payroll Office
- Form 8843 that is provided by the GLACIER website and corresponds to the tax treaty.
Form 1098-T that corresponds to tuition should not be included since it is transferred automatically to the IRS office by universities.
What to expect?
While resident can expect a high amount of tax refunds, non residents refunds are usually much less. Depending on your W-4 and the number of allowances you claimed, you tax return varies a lot from other (international) students. Depending of your country of origin, non taxable incomes can differs also so don’t expect to have same refund as everybody else and don’t worry if the amount is different. It takes usually couple of weeks after April 15th to get a refund.
Do not use a tax resident software (commercial software), it’s prohibited by the law and users could be sue for tax evasion.