International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) encourages all international students and scholars to file taxes in compliance with federal and state tax regulations. ISSS Advisors are unable to give individual tax advice. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions concerning the Alert below.
- Federal Taxes: April 18th, 2022
- Iowa State Taxes: Generally April 30
- Form 8843 only (no income earned): June 15, 2022
Please note that all non-residents (for tax purposes) who were present in the U.S. in F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1, or M-2 status during 2021 must file Form 8843, even if they received no income during 2021. If you made no income during 2021 and only need to file the 8843 please email email@example.com to request directions on how to complete the 8843.
Caution: Non-residents should not use standard commercial tax preparation software, such as Turbotax. Many of these programs are not meant to be used for non-resident tax purposes and will cause you to submit incorrect tax information to the U.S. and Iowa governments.
Resident or Non-Resident for Federal Tax Filing Purposes
Generally, most international students & scholars who are on F or J visas are considered non-residents for tax purposes. International students on F1 & J1 visas are automatically considered tax non-residents for their first 5 calendar years in the US in international student status. Scholars/Researchers on J visas, however, are generally considered tax non-residents for only the first two years of their time at Iowa. If you are an F-1 student planning to file your 2021 tax year returns during this Spring 2022 tax season, but you arrived for the first time in F-1 status prior to January 1st 2017, then you are most likely now a "resident for tax filing purposes". If you are a paid J-1 scholar who entered the US for the first time in that status prior to January 1st 2020, then you are most likely also a "resident for tax filing purposes” and similarly should seek out Resident filing resources. Non-Resident tax filers would complete form 1040NR as their main filing form. F-1 or J-1 Students or Scholars who are Residents for tax filing purposes would complete Form 1040 which is the same form used by US citizens and permanent residents. If you believe that you may have inadvertently filed as a Resident in a past tax season and received a Stimulus check for which you are not sure you are eligible, please see question 61 at the bottom of the IRS Link below since stimulus repayment checks will need to be sent to a separate IRS destination as soon as possible and this would be apart from any amended return application sent to the government. You will need to work with the VITA program through Tippie mentioned above or employ the services of a tax professional to remedy your tax situation if you have erroneously received stimulus funds.
If, from the Resident vs. Non-resident information above, you believe you are a Resident for tax purposes, or if you have a very complicated immigration or tax history that makes you unclear about your tax filing status, we recommend you take advantage of the free resources offered by the separate Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in Iowa City hosted through the Tippie College of Business. Also, if you earned income during 2021 and should have filed a return last tax season but did not file it at that time, then please also use the Tippie VITA program since they are equipped to help with filing 2020 and 2021 tax year returns together. Information about the Tippie VITA program is at https://www.biz.uiowa.edu/vita.
It should also be known that the private commercial tax program called Sprintax.com also permits filing of the 2020 tax year returns along with this tax season’s 2021 returns. By setting up a Sprintax.com account and completing only the first part of the online process can also assist students to determine for sure if they should be filing as a Resident (and therefore not need Sprintax.com) or a Non-Resident (in which case the student can decide if they would like to continue with Sprintax.com to help them file their tax return for a fee).
Things Needed as You Prepare to File a Non-Resident Tax Return
Information from the items below are generally needed for completing a non-resident filing or non-resident tax software so please arrange to have access to this information when using the tax filing resources mentioned above:
Passport and Visa
Your "Travel History" from the digital record from the I-94 Government Website. To complete the tax filing you must calculate the number of days you were present in the US during the past tax year and prior years. Dates from the I-94 site, as well as the ink entry stamps in your passport, can be used with any Online Date Calculator to help you establish the number of days you were present in the US during a tax year.
Form I-20 (if an F status individual) or Form DS-2019 (if a J status individual)
Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). If you have no SSN or ITIN yet visit our SSN page.
All Forms W-2 and/or 1042-S that were mailed to you or available on the UI Self Service site. The W-2 forms generally become available at the end of January every year while 1042-S form are produced in late February. Please email the UI Payroll Office at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any question about these forms.
Your bank routing number and checking account number for direct deposit of your refund. These numbers are located on your personal checks from your bank.
A copy of your 2021 (TY2020) federal income tax form (Form 1040NR or 1040NR) if you filed a federal income tax return last year. The most important information needed from these documents is the amount of the Adjusted Gross Income(AGI) from the past 1040NR. If you are not able to obtain any copies of your last year's 1040NR then you may have to request an AGI transcript directly from the government. The online option may not work for many students so they must request a paper AGI transcript to be sent to them using their prior year's mailing address (which is the only way to verify your identity, and is problematic if you have a new address).
Address Information (Current U.S. Address if you are still living in the U.S. and Permanent Foreign Address)
Academic Institution or Host Sponsor Information
Scholarship or fellowship grant letters (if you received one from your academic institution or host sponsor)
UI Human Resources Payroll Office collects and maintains data to determine nonresident alien vs. resident alien status for tax purposes. W-2 forms are made available in mid-to-late January through MyUI or through the UI Employee Self-Service website. Students can view their W-2 and other tax information by going to the “Student Records” tab in MyUI and in the “Finances and Billing” section click on the “HRIS Self Service and Earnings Statements” link. That link will bring you to the Employee Self Service site and under the “Payroll” section you can select “View Year End Tax Information” to get a PDF of your W-2.
International students or scholars may or may not have a 1042-S form depending on different circumstances. For details, please go to the Employee Self Service , and in the “Time and Pay” select the “Year End Tax Information” link in the "Taxes" section to find the then “1042-S Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding.” If you have any inquiry about your form W-2, 1042-S, tax treaties, payroll and withholding of taxes, please call or visit the UI Payroll Office or email email@example.com.
A Warning About Other Tax Services
If you are classified as a non-resident, you may NOT file a resident return. Residency, for tax purposes, is determined by the “Substantial Presence Test.” Again, F-1 and J-1 non-residents should not use standard commercial tax preparation software, such as Turbotax, unless they are sure that they qualify as residents for tax purposes (see above). Many of the most prominent tax filing software programs are not meant to be used for non-resident tax purposes and will cause you to submit incorrect tax information to the U.S. and Iowa governments.
Only those who are determined to have "resident" filing status may complete a resident return. Most students and scholars will be classified as non-residents for tax purposes. Also, some tax agencies have erroneously filed resident returns for non-residents promising larger refunds by this method. This could result in a charge of tax fraud against you, which may jeopardize your legal status. The fact that your preparer erred will not excuse you from liability. The UI Payroll Office is a resource for determining your residency and tax liability so please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. ISSS urges you to protect yourself in this matter or you may have to file an amended return and pay back any fraudulently refunded funds.
Warning about Tax Scams and Fraudulent Emails
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not discuss tax account information with taxpayers via e-mail or use e-mail to solicit sensitive financial and personal information from taxpayers. For more information, view the following webpages provided by the IRS.
Online Scams that Impersonate the IRS
Information about Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts
Resources relating to international student and scholar tax
“Ten Common Tax Return Errors and the Foreign Nationals Who Make Them”
United States Income Tax Treaties - A to Z
Nafsa Federal Income Tax Brochure This brochure is designed to offer general guidelines only for federal income tax obligations, including determining tax residency and which forms must be filed and when.
VITA for residents (sponsored by UI College of Business)
State of Iowa Department of Revenue
Tax Information for Employers of International Students
Employers may legally hire students in F-1 or J-1 status for academically-related employment when they receive Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), or Academic Training (AT) authorization.
Types of Employment Authorization
In some cases, internationals students in F-1 status pursuing degrees at the UI are eligible for internships or other types of work experience in their fields of study. This permission is granted by ISSS and submitted to SEVIS, the federal immigration informational database.
Following graduation or completion of coursework, most students in F-1 status are eligible to accept up to 12 months of employment for "optional practical training" experience. This authorization is granted by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. OPT is an extension of F-1 status that allows for a period of work following graduation.
J-1 students are eligible for academic training, either during the course of study or directly after graduation. The authorization is granted by ISSS and submitted to SEVIS.
Students who have been in the U.S. less than 5 years (and are therefore nonresidents for tax purposes) and who are on practical training off-campus are not subject to any FICA (social security) and Medicare withholdings. The mechanism for the exemptions are found under Internal Revenue Code 3121 (b)(19) and is available to persons in F-1, J-1, M-1 and Q immigration status. It is a blanket exemption with the only qualification being that the person be a nonresident for tax purposes and that the work is authorized (CPT, OPT, AT). IRS Publication 519 is a good resource.
Though F-1 and J-1 students working off campus are exempt from FICA, they are subject to the higher federal (and state) withholding for nonresident aliens.
Since it is cumbersome to request a refund of taxes withheld in error, ISSS would like to ask employers to make a determination of the student’s tax status prior to withholding. In most cases, the student will be a nonresident alien and therefore not subject to the taxes mentioned above.
Completing the I-9
The employer should mark in Section 1 that he/she is "an alien authorized to work until" (date of expiration of work authorization). The admissions number is the 11 digit number given on the I-94 entry document.
For students on Optional Practical Training, the employer can use the I-688B to complete List A on the I-9. The document title is "Employment Authorization Document", issuing authority is USCIS, document number and expiration can both be found on the front of the card.
For further information, see the U.S. Department of Justice Handbook for Employers, Publication M-274.
It is the responsibility of the student to insure that the job he/she takes on practical training is related to the degree he/she is seeking or has completed at The UI. The student is also responsible for maintaining contact with The UI, as the institution is still responsible for the student’s legal status in the U.S. Under federal immigration law, student’s have 10 days to report a change of name or address to the UI.
Disclaimer: International Student and Scholar Services provides this tax resource information to UI students and scholars for informational and educational purposes and not as a substitute for advice obtained from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or a qualified tax professional. Students and scholars who have questions about their income tax situation should consult a qualified tax professional. Each person is responsible for the accuracy of his/her income tax returns and any resulting penalties or interest.