Taxes and the IRS

All resident and non-residents are required to complete a tax return if you were present in the U.S. during the tax year, whether or not you earned income.  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. government agency that collects taxes. As a nonresident F-1 student, you may need to file forms each year with the IRS, even if you earned no income. It is your individual responsibility to understand and meet your tax obligations. Generally, tax returns are due every April 15th based on earnings from the previous year, though there are exceptions to this deadline. This year the deadline is April 18, 2016. (The Washington D.C. Emancipation Day holiday will be observed on April 15 instead of April 16, 2016; Tax Day is on the following Monday, April 18, 2016).

While employers do deduct money from your paycheck throughout the year and send it to the IRS, it may not equal the exact amount owed at the end of the year. If too much was deducted, you may be eligible for a refund. Or, perhaps not enough was deducted, and you will owe more. Salary from a job is not the only kind of earning taxed; many types of income are taxable. Even if you did not work and do not owe any taxes, you may need to submit an informational form to the IRS.

U.S. tax laws can be complex and confusing–we all get headaches during tax season–and the laws that apply to internationals are not the same as those that apply to U.S. citizens. These resources should help you to better understand your tax obligation, to learn what and where to research, and to successfully submit your tax forms. This page is meant to be a general introduction. We in ISS are not tax professionals, so this cannot be considered legal tax advice. You are advised to review the information from the IRS specifically addressed to foreign students and scholars.

Please note: Advisers in International Student Services Office and the Multicultural Center are not able to give tax advice about individual cases as we are not tax professionals.  We encourage you to seek advice from the Internal Revenue Service, the Oregon Department of Revenue, or a qualified tax professional. 

Before You File: Documents to Save

Before you begin the filing process, be sure you have all the necessary information with you.

  • Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement: W-2 forms are mailed to current and former employees. This form shows how much you earned last year and how much was taken out for taxes. You will only receive this form if you have been employed.
  • 1042-S: The 1042-S form will only be given to nonresident alien students who have received scholarship or fellowship money that exceeds tuition and related fee charges. You will not receive a copy of the 1042-S form if you only have a tuition waiver on your account and do not receive any checks. 1042-S forms will be issued by EOU Payroll Office no later than March 15. If you expect to receive a 1042-S form, wait until it is issued before filing your tax return.
  • Passport
  • I-20 (F-1 status)
  • Social Security number or Individual Tax Identification number (generally not required if you will file only Form 8843)
  • Address information (current U.S. address and foreign address)
  • U.S. entry and exit dates for current and past visits to U.S.
  • Academic institution or host sponsor information (name, address, phone)
  • Scholarship/fellowship grant letter (if any)
  • A copy of last year’s federal income tax return, if filed

Resident or Nonresident for Tax Purposes

In legal terms, noncitizens of the U.S. are called “aliens.” There are three types of aliens for tax purposes: (1) nonresident; (2) dual-status; and (3) resident. These categories are for tax purposes only and are not related to your immigration status. You may be in F-1 nonimmigrant status and considered a resident for tax purposes.

Substantial Presence

Nonresident aliens generally meet the substantial presence test if they have spent more than 183 days in the U.S. within the last three years. Having substantial presence in the U.S. generally means you will be considered a resident alien for tax purposes.

Exempt Individual

Any person who is temporarily exempt from the substantial presence test. Time spent in this category does not count toward the 183 days in the U.S. that normally will convert a nonresident alien into resident alien for tax purposes. F-1 students maintaining status are exempt from the substantial presence test for 5 years.

Even if you pass the substantial presence test, you might still be considered a nonresident for tax purposes if you qualify for the The Closer Connection Exception to the Substantial Presence Test for Foreign Students.

TAX Forms

Your individual situation determines which form(s) to file. Forms come with instructions.

Form 8843 due by June 15, 2016

  • If you received no U.S. source income in 2015 and you are a nonresident alien for tax purposes.

Form 8843 AND 1040NR-EZ or 1040NR by April 18, 2016

  • If you received wages or taxable scholarships from U.S. sources and you are a nonresident alien for tax purposes. Form 1040NR-EZ is shorter and limited to specific situations, while the Form 1040NR accommodates all types of income. You must determine whether Form 1040NR-EZ or 1040NR better fits your tax situation. You can use the 1040NR-EZ if all the following conditions are met:
    • You do not claim any dependents.
    • You cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s U.S. tax return.
    • If you were married, you do not claim an exemption for your spouse.
    • Your taxable income is less than $100,000.
    • You are not claiming any itemized deductions (other than for state and local income taxes).
    • Your only U.S. source income is from wages, salaries, tips, taxable refunds of state and local income taxes, and scholarship or fellowship grants. (If you had taxable interest or dividend income, you must use Form 1040NR instead of 1040NR-EZ.)
    • The only adjustments to income you can claim are the exclusion for scholarship and fellowship grants or the student loan interest deduction.
    • You are not claiming any credits.
    • The only taxes you owe are the income tax from the Tax Table and/or unreported Social Security and Medicare tax from Forms 4137 or 8919.
    • You are not claiming a credit for excess Social Security and tier 1 RRTA tax withheld.
    • This is not an “expatriation return.” See instructions for Form 1040NR for more information.
    • If you do not meet all of the above conditions, you must file Form 1040NR.
  • If you are considered a resident for tax purposes, you will be taxed like a U.S. citizen and will file a 1040EZ or 1040 instead of the 1040NR.

Filing Tips

  • Make photocopies of your documents for your records.
  • Be careful to complete the correct form; it is easy to mix up 1040NR with the 1040, for instance.
  • Sign and date all forms, and be sure to mail them before the stated deadline.
  • has a list of tax companies that you can use to assist you in filing.  Refer to the International Student Services for local tax accounting firms.