Who must file tax forms for 2020 tax season?
Even if you did not earn any income, if you were physically in the U.S. on F or J status anytime between 1 January – 31 December 2020, you're obligated to file a Form 8843 with the IRS (the Internal Revenue Service, or ‘IRS’, are the US tax authorities).
Meanwhile, if you earned more than $0 of taxable US source income, you may need to file a federal tax return with the IRS. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may also need to file a state tax return(s).
Tax Filing Deadline:
15 April 2021 is the last day for residents and nonresidents who earned US income to file Federal tax returns for the 2020 tax year.
Who is considered Resident or Nonresident for Federal Tax Purposes:
Generally, most international students & scholars who are on F, J, M or Q visas are considered nonresidents for tax purposes. International undergraduate students on J-1 & F-1 visas are automatically considered nonresident for their first five calendar years in the US, whilst Scholars/Researchers on J visas are automatically considered nonresidents for two out of the last six calendar years in the US.
If you’ve been in the US for longer than the five or two year periods, the Substantial Presence Test will determine your tax residency.
How to File:
We have teamed up with Sprintax to provide you with an easy-to-use tax preparation software designed for nonresident students and scholars in the US. We (and all other university staff) are not qualified or allowed to provide individual tax advice.
After you login to Sprintax, you will be asked a series of questions about the time you have spent in the US over recent years. Sprintax will then determine your tax status. If it determines that you are a "nonresident alien" (NRA) for federal tax purposes, you can continue to use the software to respond to a series of guided questions. Sprintax will then complete and generate the tax forms you need to send to the tax authorities.
However, if Sprintax determines that you are a resident alien for federal tax purposes, you won't be able to continue using the software.
Step by Step guide on How to File Your Nonresident Tax Forms (F and J):
1) Gather the documents you may need for Sprintax
✔Visa/Immigration information, including form I-20 (F status) or form DS-2019 (J status)
✔Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (if you have one)
--This is not needed if you had no income and the 8843 is the only form you have to file.
--This form reports your wage earnings if you worked. If you had more than one employer you should get a W-2 from each employer. It is issued by the end of January for the previous year. Make sure all employers from last year have an up-to-date address for you.
--This form is used to report:
1. Stipend, scholarship, fellowship income and travel grants (not tuition
reduction or exemption)
2. income covered by a tax treaty
3. Payment for other types of services (eg by the semester as a note-taker)
4. If you received this type of income, the 1042-S will be mailed to you by 15 March by the payer.
Note: Only Nonresident Aliens receive this form. If your tax status changes to a Resident Alien you will not get a 1042-S. Login to Sprintax to check your tax status if you're not sure.
✔US entry and exit dates for current and past visits to the US
--In addition to passport stamps, you can review or print your US travel history here
--This form reports miscellaneous income. Can be interest on bank accounts, stocks, bonds, dividends, earning through freelance employment
--This form is NOT needed and can NOT be used for a nonresident tax return because NRAs are not eligible to claim education expense tax credits.
2) Create a Sprintax Account:
You will receive an email from the international student office providing you with a link to Sprintax to set up your account as well as your unique code to use on Sprintax. This unique code will cover the costs of the federal tax return and 8843 at no cost to you. Open your new Sprintax account by creating a UserID and password or if you have an existing account on Sprintax you can login using your existing credentials.
3) Follow the Sprintax instructions
If you did not earn any US Income: Sprintax will generate a completed Form 8843 for you and each of your dependents (if you have any).
If you did earn US Income: Sprintax will generate your "tax return documents", including either a 1040NR-EZ or a longer form 1040NR, depending on your circumstances.
4) (With U.S. income only) If required, complete your state tax return
After you finish your federal return, Sprintax will inform you if you need to complete a state tax return. If so, you will have the option to use Sprintax for an additonal fee. However, it is your choice to use them or to do the state tax return on your own.
5) Read the instructions for filing/mailing your returns
Remember to read the instructions that Sprintax provides.
You will be required to download, print and sign your federal tax return and mail it to the IRS. If you have a state filing requirement, you must also mail this to the tax authorities.
Finally, if you only need to file Form 8843, this will also need to be mailed to the IRS.
Need Sprintax Support?
If you need help while using Sprintax, you can contact their support team using the options below
Email - email@example.com
24/7 Live Chat Help
Sprintax Educational Tax Videos and Blog:
You also have access to the Sprintax YouTube account where there are a number of educational videos on nonresident taxes. These will provide further clarity on nonresident tax and how to use Sprintax. Sprintax also offer a range of useful content on their blog to help you file your return.
DISCLAIMER: International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) and the school are NOT permitted to assist any student/scholar with any IRS tax form preparation or tax related questions. The information provided is intended for your benefit. Any questions or concerns should be directed to Sprintax, a certified tax preparer or a local IRS field office.
NEW RESOURCES FOR CPT, POST-OPT, AND STEM-EXTENSION OPT RECIPIENTS!!
It’s important to be aware that as you begin your OPT/CPT employment, your employer will likely need you to fill out pre-employment tax documents such as, for example, a W-4 and other tax related forms.
These tax forms can be difficult to understand and equally difficult to fill out but are important to make sure you are taxed correctly on your pay.
It might be useful to know that there is a new service, SprintaxTDS Personal, which helps to prepare your pre-employment tax forms for you, such as the W-4, 8233 and will outline important tax information ahead of your employment.
SprintaxTDS Personal will guide you through a tax questionnaire in order to determine your tax residency, FICA exemption, tax treaty eligibility and will generate any applicable tax forms on your behalf.
Please Follow The Steps Below to Get Started:
1. Register an account
2. Complete the online questionnaire
3. Complete the payment page
4. Sprintax TDS Individual will prepare your tax documents to sign and provide to your employer
Please note that this software is not the same as Sprintax Tax Prep which helps to prepare Federal and State income Tax Returns.
If you have any questions, the Sprintax team will be happy to help via their 24/7 live chat facility or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who is required to file?
All F-1 students are required to file taxes each year, regardless of whether or not you were employed during that time. This does not necessarily mean you will owe money. The due date for submission of tax forms is normally on the 15th of April.
If you did not work or receive taxable payments during the reporting year, you are required to complete and file Federal Form 8843.
If you worked or received taxable payments during the reporting year, you are required to complete and file:
- Federal Form 8843
- Form 1040-NR or 1040-NR-EZ
- Form 540-NR or 540-NR-EZ for California taxes
These forms can be downloaded from the following sources:
- Federal Income Tax Forms 8843 and 1040-NR or 1040-NR-EZ
*Refer to page 15 for 1040-NR or 1040-NR-EZ and page 69 for Form 8843
- California State Income Tax Form 540-NR or 540-NR-EZ
Other Tax Assistance Resources
The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) are programs which offer free help for taxpayers who qualify. You can learn more about these services on the IRS website. If you plan to seek volunteer tax assistance, you must call in advance to confirm whether or not you qualify for their services, and if the volunteers can assist you with questions regarding non-resident taxes.
For additional information, see What International Students & Scholars Should Know About U.S. Tax Laws & Tax Filing