Taxes for International Students

April 9th, 2013 by Ben Cohen

shutterstock_131714795Tax time in the United States is here, with the IRS’s filing deadline of April 15th quickly approaching. Taxes are confusing for anyone, but taxes for international students can add another layer of difficulty given the varying classifications that international students can fall under.

The first thing for international students to determine at tax time is whether they are filing as residents or non-residents. Taxes for international students will mostly fall under nonresident filing status, but to make sure what category you fall under you should go to the Substantial Presence Test on the IRS website. Note that residency status is different from your immigration status, and depends on a number of factors revolving around the dates, length, and nature of your stay in the U.S.

If you find that you need to file as a resident, you can proceed to complete your taxes as any U.S. resident would. Remember that this includes your total worldwide income, not just money earned in the U.S.

But as most taxes for international students are filed as nonresident status, you’ll likely find yourself moving on to the next step: determining whether you’ve had a U.S. source of income. What exactly counts as a U.S. source of income is also outlined in detail on the IRS website.

All nonresidents must file Form 8843. Those without a U.S. source of income get to stop there; nonresidents with a U.S. source of income must also fill out a 1040 NR or 1040 NR-EZ. To fill out either of these latter forms you will need either a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). If you do not have one, you can apply for an ITIN at the time of your filing.

Tax time is a notoriously stressful period for anyone in the United States, and international students certainly aren’t spared. Get started navigating the process as soon as you can so you have time to sort out any snags, and don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, family, or school advisors for help! Check out our partner, International Student’s Tax Return Help, for more information.

* Tax, budget and calculator photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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