Don’t Forget to File Your U.S. Tax Forms!
Do I have to file?
All international students must file a Federal tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and a State tax return with the Missouri Department of Revenue regardless of whether they have worked during 2017 or not. U.S. Tax laws distinguish between residents and non-residents for U.S. tax purposes. Most F visa holders are considered non-residents for their first 5 calendar years in the U.S.
What is a Tax Return or Tax Filing? Why Do I Need to File?
Any of your earnings in the U.S. are subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes. Filing tax paperwork, such as a tax return, is a reconciliation that compares what you paid in taxes throughout the year to what you should have paid in taxes.
When you start a new job or receive taxable money, you typically will complete Tax Withholding paperwork, which dictates how much tax should be withheld from your payment. Employers and schools then withhold estimated taxes from your paychecks or other taxable income (such as stipend payments). If the estimated taxes that were withheld from your payment are higher than what you should have paid, you will get a refund after filing your tax return (“tax refund”). If taxes were not withheld, or insufficient tax was withheld, then you will owe money at the time of filing your taxes. You declare your income and account for the taxes owed on a form or set of forms called a “tax return.”
Even if you didn’t receive any taxable income, you may be required to file some forms with the IRS.
What Forms Do I Need to Complete?
Tax forms may vary depending on your individual residency status for tax purposes and employment status. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), an agency of the U.S. government, determines tax residency based on the two classifications outlined below. Before you file your taxes, you must determine your tax residency status, which may be different from your immigration status.
- Residents for tax purposes (also called ‘resident alien’): All U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and nonresident aliens for immigration purposes who have met the Substantial Presence Test. Information on how to file as a resident alien is not covered on this page.
- Non-residents for tax purposes (also called ‘non-resident aliens’): all others, regardless of immigration status. All tax information on this page is pertaining to non-resident aliens for tax purposes.
IMPORTANT: The tax residency categories above are for tax purposes only and are NOT related to your immigration status. You may be in F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant status and be considered a resident for tax purposes.
When do I Need to File With The IRS?
The deadline for filing your tax paperwork with the IRS depends on whether or not you received any taxable income in the previous calendar year. You must file your 2019 tax return before the tax deadlines listed below:
- April 15, 2021
What Documents do I need?
Before you complete your tax paperwork, you will need the following documents:
- Valid Passport
- Most recent immigration status documents (e.g. I-20 or DS-2019)
- All relevant tax documentation from employers**, stipend providers, or other relevant entities who distributed taxable money (e.g. W-2, 1042-S and/or 1099), if you received taxable income.
- If you received any taxable income, you must wait to receive all relevant documents before completing your tax return. You will not able to alter or edit your tax documents after you submit them to the IRS.
- All US entry and exit dates
- You can look up your travel history on the I-94 website for reference.
- Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), if you have one
- We highly recommend you attend a tax workshop before filing tax documents. Please see below for more information on our tax workshops.
**If you received taxable money in the previous year (e.g. income, salary, taxable scholarships, grants, or awards), you will need to have any/all relevant tax forms before you can file your tax paperwork. These tax forms might come from U.S. employers, stipend/scholarship providers, or schools. The forms, (e.g. W-2, 1042-S, etc) provide information about the amount of money you were paid and what amount was withheld from your payment for tax purposes.
IRS website provides enriching information on filing your tax return forms as an international student under this link.
What Happens if I Don’t File Tax Documents with the IRS?
Filing tax documents each year is an important part of maintaining your immigration status and is a federal requirement for international visitors and their dependents. Not filing your required taxes could lead to penalties, such as fines, or even negatively impact your immigration status.
If you apply for future immigration benefits, such as H-1B, Permanent Residency, or other statuses, you will likely be asked to provide copies of tax filings for all previous years you were in the U.S. If you forgot or didn’t file in previous years when you should have, the IRS recommends that you file now for previous years. You can find the relevant forms from past years on the IRS website.
The IRS expects you to file your taxes each year. Penalties for late filing may include fines, interest on taxes owed, or other consequences. Visit the IRS website for information on Filing Past Due Tax Returns. You can follow up with the IRS or a foreign tax expert if you have questions.
You are responsible for filing for Federal and State tax returns. MO tax returns are filed online for free using this link: https://dor.mo.gov/personal/individual/
Please note that the staff of the Office of International Student Success are not trained in tax laws and cannot give tax advice. However we will assist with the filing of your return by providing a FREE code for an online tax solution software, SPRINTAX, and by holding tax workshops to help clear some of the confusing rules regarding U.S. tax filing on these following dates:
March 23, 2021 6pm – https://maryvilleu.zoom.us/j/94554389956
March 29, 2021 6pm – https://maryvilleu.zoom.us/j/94554389956
April 7, 2021 6pm – https://maryvilleu.zoom.us/j/94554389956
With SPRINTAX, you can:
• Prepare either your 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ
• Access previous tax returns
• Determine your tax residency status (resident/nonresident or dual status)
• Find out about tax treaty benefits
• Get answers to frequently asked questions and understand the various tax laws, regulations, and forms.
If you are employed in the United States, your employer will send you a statement of earnings, called a Form W-2, by the end of January that details your income and any taxes withheld during the previous year. If you receive benefits of a tax treaty for employment, scholarship or fellowship income, you will receive a Form 1042-S by mid March that details your income and treaty benefits. You will need these documents to complete your tax forms. Be sure to keep copies of all your tax documents.
STEP 1: Email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive an access code to waive the fee for SPRINTAX.
STEP 2: Go to: Maryville Sprintax Website
STEP 3: Complete the registration form and sign in with the username and password you created. Once you have your documents completed, you are ready to fill out the forms!
STEP 4: Use the code you have received from Esra when prompted to pay for the Federal tax return to waive the fee. You will need to pay for the Missouri State tax return yourself or file for free here: https://dor.mo.gov/personal/individual/
4 MISTAKES TO AVOID:
- FILING THE WRONG DOCUMENTS: If you earn an income while int he US as a nonresident, you should file FORM 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. TurboTax offers an excellent online tax filing service – but this service is for US residents mainly. Nonresidents who file with TurboTax will not be compliant with the US tax law. Sprintax is TurboTax’s preferred partner for nonresident tax preparation.
- FORGETTING TO FILE FORM 8843: Even if you did not earn any income during your time in the US as a nonresident, you will still need to file a Form 8843 before the tax deadline.Find out more about filing your Form 8843 here
- MISSING THE DEADLINE: The federal tax deadline has been extended to 15 July. But why wait for the tax deadline rush to prepare your documents? After all, if you miss the tax deadline and your tax return is filed late, you may be hit with penalties. If you’re filing your return from outside the US it’s important to keep in mind that, due to COVID-19, delivery times may take longer than normal. This is why it’s a good idea to file your documents as soon as possible to ensure they reach the tax office on time.
- STIMULUS CHECKS: The US government passed an act which authorized the IRS to begin delivering a new round of pandemic Economic Impact Payments to taxpayers – via direct debit and paper checks. However, if you received the $1200 or $600 payment from the IRS, it is important to be aware that you are not necessarily entitled to it. In order to be eligible for this payment you must be a US citizens, permanent resident or resident for tax purposes (and have a valid SSN). In other words, nonresident aliens (from a tax perspective), temporary workers and immigrants who are in the US illegally are not eligible to claim the second stimulus payment. Here is how to amend it.
The IRS has resources available to help with the filing of both nonresident and resident returns.
- Main IRS website
- International Taxpayers
- Foreign students and scholars
- Nonresident Aliens
- Resident Aliens for Tax Purposes
- International Taxpayers Explanation Videos on IRS YouTube page
- National IRS Hotline: (800) 829-1040
The Missouri DOR also has resources available to help with the filing of your Missouri state return. (Remember, this is different from the federal return.)