Federal Tax Information
International students are required to complete U.S. income tax forms each year, even if they did not earn income here. Everyone who was physically present in the United States at any time from January 1st and December 31st of the past year must file a tax form in the current year.
Forms you must complete
|8843||ALL students and dependents (F, J, M, and Q status) must complete this form, whether or not the student earned money in the United States during the past year.||June 15th*|
|1040NR or 1040NR-EZ||Students who earned any income last year must complete one of these forms. Sources of income include:
Employment on or off-campus for which you received compensation
Practical Training (CPT or OPT)
Money from scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships used for housing or meal expenses.
Where to Get Tax Forms
- Online: www.irs.gov (official IRS website)
- Request forms by mail: 800-829-3676 (toll-free number)
Additional Tax Resources
Information contained on this page should not be used as the sole source of information for making decisions that may affect one's legal status in the United States. Please note that International Programs staff members are NOT trained to give you individual tax advice. If the questions you have cannot be answered by contacting the IRS, you should contact an accountant or a company that specializes in income tax preparation, e.g. H&R Block.
Why Should I File a Tax Return?
Many students choose to ignore U.S. taxes, but this is NOT a good idea. It's possible that requests for visa renewals or change of status (especially to permanent resident) will be denied if you do not file tax forms. If you ever apply for permanent residency (green cards), the Department of Homeland Security may ask you to show proof of tax filing for previous years in the United States. It is strongly recommended that you complete all the required forms!
Information and Instructions to Help You With Your Tax Return
The booklet "Publication 519: U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens" can answer many of your questions. It contains information about residency status and how to prepare your tax return papers.
Glossary of Terms
- Tax return: This is the paperwork that must be completed. It may be just one form or several forms depending on your financial situation. Even though it is called a Federal Income Tax Return, not everyone who files a "return" is going to get a refund. Many of you will find out that everything will balance out to "0", and some of you may find out that you owe more taxes to the Federal Government
- Filing: The process of completing the paperwork and sending it to the IRS.
- SSN vs. ITIN: You do not need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or a valid Social Security Number (SSN) for the required IRS tax form 8843. You may need an ITIN or SSN for other tax forms. If you are not eligible for a SSN, you may choose to apply for an ITIN using Form W-7. (The form and instructions can be downloaded from the IRS web site.) It may take 6-8 weeks for the IRS to process your request, so apply as soon as possible
- W2 / "Wage and Tax Statement": If you worked in the U.S. during the year, your employer will send you this information form; it tells how much money you earned last year. It will include several copies of the same information. One copy should be mailed to the IRS with your tax forms; keep the others for your records. If you did not receive this form, contact your employer
- Form 1098-T: Typically, international students do not receive the IRS Form 1098-T, "Tuition Payments Statement". However, if you are a US resident for tax purposes (most international students are not), you may be eligible to claim a tax credit on your federal tax return if you paid qualified educational expenses to any of the Seattle Colleges. Any student wishing to receive a 1098-T must have a Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification number. If you qualify but did not receive a 1098-T and you have a SSN or ITIN, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (206) 934-6300. The college cannot provide any tax advice or make a determination as to whether students qualify for tax credits (for that information, students must consult with their own personal tax advisor).
- 1099INT: Your bank will send you this form if you earned interest on checking or savings accounts. This income is not taxable.
- 1099DIV: This form reports interest earned on U.S. investments (stocks, bonds, dividends, etc.). This is taxable income.
- 1042S: Scholarship information. You may not receive this form, depending on your situation.
- You will need your passport, Visa, I-94 card, and I-20 or IAP-66 in order to complete the tax forms. It will also help to have the dates you entered and left the U.S. during the year.
- Always make copies of your tax return documents before you mail them to the IRS. Keep copies of other forms also (W-2, 1042-S, 1099 bank interest statements, etc.).
- If you go back to your country, you should still complete the proper forms and mail them from your home country. You can download the forms and instructions from the IRS web site.
- It's a good idea to start looking at the paperwork early. Then if you have questions you will be able to talk to someone before the deadlines.