Tax Information for F-1 & J-1 Students
The U.S. tax system may seem confusing to international students, however, it is your responsibility to understand your U.S. income tax obligations as an international student and understand how to file your income taxes each year.
U.S. Tax System
The U.S. tax system is organized according to the calendar year and is a pay-as-you-go system. This means taxes may be deducted from your salary, stipend, and/or scholarships if from U.S. sources. In most cases, taxes are automatically withheld from your pay. Your available income after taxes may be less than anticipated and subject to federal, state and/or Social Security taxes ranging from 14% to 30% of your total income. The amount of taxes you will pay depends on the type of income you receive and your tax status in the United States.
There are many tax treaties between the United States and other countries. Such treaties may exempt earnings, scholarships, and stipends from taxes. In order to claim a tax treaty benefit you must have either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).
Filing Income Tax Returns
All F-1 and J-1 international students are expected to complete and file tax forms with the U.S. federal government, whether or not you have earned income during the tax year. Even if you received no income during 2012, you will still need to file Form 8843. F-2 and J-2 dependents are also required to file certain tax forms.
If you have received a W-2 form for wages earned for employment in the United States during 2012, it is recommended to file an income tax return.
Federal and state income tax forms are completed annually in the United States and submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) between January 1 and mid-April for the previous tax year (2012 tax forms will be due by April 15, 2013).Tax forms must be completed if you were in the United States during any part of 2012 on any visa other than a tourist visa.
If you are an F-1 student, you may elect to complete your required tax forms through GLACIER, an online tax software system designed specifically for non-U.S. citizens and non-residents. GLACIER will allow you to complete the necessary tax forms you are required to submit and also help determine your residency status. GLACIER does not allow for online tax filing. You must send hard copies of all your tax forms to the IRS. Note: this service is offered at the cost of the student ($39); however, this cost is comparable to online tax software systems that U.S. citizens and residents have access to.
For additional information regarding your taxes, you may wish to contact tax-aid.org, a Bay Area non-profit organization that offers free tax advice for qualified individuals.
If you were present in the United States during any part of 2012 on an F or J visa, there is at least one tax form you must complete. Federal tax forms are due to the IRS by April 15, 2013. California state tax forms (if necessary) are due to the Department of Revenue by April 15, 2013. If you were not in the United States at all during 2012 you do not need to complete any tax forms at this time.
For more information, download these Frequently Asked Questions.