Tax Overview for International Students
The information provided here is intended to give you a general sense of taxpaying requirements. All international students are required to file tax forms with the United States tax department (Internal Revenue Service) and possibly with the New York State tax department if they were present in the U.S. during the previous calendar year. For example, if you were in the United States as an international student from Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2018, you need to file tax forms in spring 2019. If you came to the U.S. in 2019, you will file forms in spring next year (for calendar year 2019).
If you were present in the U.S. during 2018, tax forms must be filed whether or not you earned income in the United States during the 2018 calendar year. You must have a Social Security number or a Tax ID number to file tax forms in the U.S.
U.S. tax law is extremely complex and each student's situation varies. Staff at the International Student Programs office are not qualified to answer individual questions from students regarding their specific tax liabilities, but can refer you to resources to help you with taxes in the U.S. It is the responsibility of each international student to understand his or her own tax situation.
1.) FEDERAL INCOME TAXES
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the United States government agency responsible for the collection of federal income taxes. All non-immigrants in F or J status (both the principal and all dependents) are required to file an individual income tax form-even if they have no U.S. source income of any kind-if they were in the U.S. during the tax year. The tax year begins Jan. 1 and ends Dec. 31. As the penalties for failure to file are severe, you should read this section carefully.
If you or your dependents hold F or J (student category) immigration status, usually you are considered a nonresident for tax purposes for a period of five "tax years". If you enter the United States at any time during the tax year - in August, for example - the entire year is counted toward the five years during which you must file as a nonresident for tax purposes.
- If you were in the U.S. during the 2018 tax year, but did not earn any money, you need to file form 8843 ONLY, no later than June 15, 2019.
- If you were in the U.S. during the 2018 tax year and you earned money, you need to file form 8843 AND 1040NREZ (or 1040NR) no later than April 15, 2019.
2.) NEW YORK STATE INCOME TAXES
If you worked in New York State in 2018, you might also have to file New York State income tax forms.
Do I have to file New York state income tax forms?
- If you filed form 8843 ONLY, you do NOT have to file New York state income tax forms.
- If you earned income in New York State, file form IT-203 by April 15, 2019.
Withholding is the term used to describe a portion of your check amount that an employer is required to pay directly to federal, state, and city taxation authorities. The check you receive, therefore, is for less than you earned during the pay period. The amounts withheld are credited toward your tax bill so that most taxpayers will have to pay relatively little additional money at annual tax filing time and many will qualify for a refund of money over-withheld.
Currently the U.S. has tax treaties or agreements with roughly 40 countries and territories under which their citizens may be tax exempt from all or part of U.S. income tax. To see if your country is among these and how a treaty may affect your tax status, check IRS publication #901 U.S. Tax Treaties.