As an international student or scholar, you are responsible for complying with U.S. state and federal tax regulations. Failing to comply with U.S. tax regulations may impact your current immigration status and future U.S. visa applications.
The information on this page is for guidance only and should not be considered financial or legal advice. Please consult a Tax Advisor with any questions.
When you receive any type of income, including a scholarship, fellowship, or prize, you may be subject to taxes in the U.S. and you may have to file a Federal and/or State tax return. In the United States, there are different types of taxes: federal, state, and social security/Medicare (FICA) taxes.
Most international students and scholars will need to complete at least one tax form. Form 8843 “Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition” is an informational statement required by the U.S. government for certain Nonresident Aliens. All non-residents who are present in the U.S. for 5 years or less with F-1, F-2, J-1, or J-2, immigration status MUST file a Form 8843. If you received U.S. source income, including wages, stipends, or scholarship funds, you may also need to file a federal tax return (Form 1040-NR) and a state tax return.
Federal Income Tax
Federal income taxes are withheld from the employee’s paycheck based on an estimate. Some countries have tax treaties with the U.S. that can sometimes reduce or eliminate federal income taxes. You can refer to IRS U.S. Tax Treaties for more information.
When you file your tax forms, you are filing for the previous year, January to December. For example, if you are filing taxes in 2024, you are submitting tax information for January-December 2023.
The tax filing deadline for this year is April 15, 2024. If you miss the tax filing deadline, you may face late filing penalties.
State Income Tax
Each state in the U.S. has separate tax regulations. It is your responsibility to be familiar with these regulations. If you worked in multiple states during the previous tax year, you may need to file taxes for each state separately.
Individuals who worked in Massachusetts and earned less than the minimum filing requirement do not have to file a state tax return, However, if any state tax was withheld by the individual's employer, the individual may want to file a state tax return (Form 1-NR) to be refunded for the over withholding.
FICA Tax/Social Security/Medicare
All U.S. residents and international “residents for tax purposes” are required to pay FICA tax (Social Security and Medicare). “Nonresidents for tax purposes” are exempt from this tax. If your employer had Social Security or Medicare taxes withheld from your paycheck in error, you can file a FICA Tax refund request with the IRS.
The process of “filing a tax return” allows individuals to reconcile the amount of taxes withheld from their paychecks during the year with the actual amount of taxes owed to the U.S. government. Since withholding is only an estimate, employees are given this yearly opportunity to file a tax return with the IRS. In some cases, filing a tax return results in a refund from the IRS because the amount of money withheld was higher than necessary. However, sometimes filing a tax return results in a payment when there was not enough withheld and the individual must send a payment to the IRS with his/her tax return.
How the ISSO Can Assist YouU.S. tax regulations are complex and change annually. ISSO staff are not Tax Advisors and therefore cannot help you prepare your tax return or offer tax advice. Your primary resource is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.
Sprintax is an online nonresident tax tool that assists international students and scholars with federal and state tax preparation. Sprintax can guide you through determining your tax filing status and completing the appropriate forms.
- To determine your tax filing status, create a free Sprintax account.
- To file a federal tax return, you can purchase a Sprintax discount code from the ISSO for $4.25. The discount code allows you to file a federal tax return and complete Form 8843.
- To file a state tax return you will need to pay Sprintax an additional fee.
To purchase the discount code, go to the ISSO Portal. If you do not have access to the ISSO Portal or are unable to find the Sprintax Code Request in the ISSO Portal you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a code.Sprintax Demo Video
If You Did Not Receive U.S. Source Income
If you did not receive any U.S. source income, including wages, stipends, or scholarship funds, you may only need to complete Form 8843. This form can be completed on your own, or you can pay a fee to use the Sprintax software. Form 8843 cannot be submitted online. It must be submitted by mail following the instructions on page 3 of the form.
If You Received U.S. Source Income
If you received U.S. source income, including wages, stipends or scholarship funds, your employer or the University may take federal and state tax withholdings from your paycheck, stipend, or financial aid. The amount of taxes that are withheld is an estimate. Filing a tax return may allow you to receive a tax refund for overpaid tax withholdings.
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) has created a Tax FAQ that provides all graduate students with more specific information on fellowships, stipends, and tax treaties.
Protect yourself from IRS scam phone calls & emails!
Tax scams may take many different forms. The most common scams consist of phone calls and emails from thieves who pretend to be from the IRS. They use the IRS name, phone number, logo, and/or a fake website to try to steal your money or identity. They may ask for personal information such as your Social Security number. See the IRS list of Tax Fraud Alerts to help you avoid being a victim of these tax scams. You can also find more information on the ISSO website.
- Tax FAQs
- IRS Publication 519 — "U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens" contains the "Substantial Presence Test" which helps determine your residency for tax purposes.
- IRS Publication 901 — "U.S. Tax Treaties" describes tax treaties that may affect your filing.
About Form 8843 — Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Information for International Tax Payers — Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Instructions for Form W-8BEN (pdf)
- Supplemental Form W-4 Instructions for Nonresident Aliens (pdf)