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Year End Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I have to file a federal tax return? I'm not a U.S. citizen.

Nonresident alien students who are temporarily present in the United States on an F, J, M or Q visa are considered by law to be engaged in a trade or business in the United States. NRAs must file Form 1040NR EZ (or Form 1040NR) if they have income that is subject to tax, such as wages, tips, scholarship and fellowship grants, etc. 

There are particular instances when this is not required and these can be found at the IRS website. In general, if someone's ONLY US-sourced income is from personal services (employment wages) and the total amount earned in 2015 was less than $4,000.00, then the individual is not required to file a federal tax return. HOWEVER, if the individual was granted a tax treaty, then a tax return must be filed even if the personal service (employment wages) income was less than $4,000.00.  ALSO, if the individual had any other sort of income such as a taxable scholarship, prize, grant, etc., the individual must file a federal tax return even if the combined total income for 2015 is less than $4,000.00.  (For example, a person earned $1500 in employment wages and had a taxable scholarship of $1000, the individual must file a federal tax return even though the combined total income is $2500.)

Why do I have to file a Virginia state tax return? I'm not a U.S. citizen.
Usually, anyone who receives US-source income while living in the US must file a tax return for the state in which they reside for the tax year when the income was received. There are particular instances when this is not required and these can be found at the VA Tax website. In general, it is safe to say that if someone's total income for 2015 was less than $11,950.00, the individual does not need to file a VA tax return.
I'm a nonresident alien (NRA). I have no US income at all. Do I file a tax return or an 8843?

You do not file a tax return.  

HOWEVER, if you were in the US in 2015 in F, J, M or Q visa status and if you can be considered a non-resident alien (NRA) you must to file a Form 8843 with the IRS in order to be compliant with US laws. Not being in compliance with US laws can affect future US visas.  Form 8843 is an information statement that is filed with the IRS and demonstrates that you should not be taxed on your worldwide income (as US citizens and residents for tax purposes must be taxed.)  Filing Form 8843 is mandated by Treasury Regulation 301.7701(b)-8(a)(2) and (b)(2).

This is the only form you need to file if you did not earn income (wages and/or nonqualified scholarship and/or prizes and/or taxable reimbursement) or only earned bank interest. The directions for Form 8843 are attached to the form,  This form is due to the IRS by 15 June if you are not required to file a US income tax return.  (NOTE:  If you are required to file a US income tax return, Form 8843 must be submited with your federal return by the due date -- 18 April in 2016.)

I'm a new student for the spring semester but I arrived in the U.S. in December. Do I have to file Form 8843?

Yes. If you are a non-resident alien (NRA)  in F, J, M or Q visa status, and you were in the US for any part of 2015, even if it was for a few days, or a few hours of one day, you will need to file a Form 8843 with the IRS in order to be compliant with US laws. Not being in compliance with US laws can affect future US visas.  Form 8843 is an information statement that is filed with the IRS and demonstrates that you should not be taxed on your worldwide income (as US citizens and residents for tax purposes must be taxed.)  Filing Form 8843 is mandated by Treasury Regulation 301.7701(b)-8(a)(2) and (b)(2).

How do I know if I can complete the shorter 1040NR EZ or the longer 1040NR?
Your best bet is to consult the direction booklets for each form. However, most international students will complete the 1040NR EZ because they only have wages and/or nonqualified scholarship/fellowships or prize income; they do not have dependents; they are not being claimed as a dependent on another person's tax return; their taxable income was less than $100,000.00; and, the only itemized deductions they can claim are for state and local taxes.
I was a visiting scholar who was paid an honorarium. Do I have to file a tax return?
Yes, you must also file a U.S. tax return. The federal form is the 1040NR (not the 1040NR EZ). If you are at another U.S. institution on an F, J, M or Q visa, you may have to complete a Form 8843. You would file with the Virginia Department of Taxation, if required.
I'm stuck and I can't figure out what I'm supposed to fill out on my tax returns. Can you help me?
I'm sorry, but the Office of International Taxation, Payroll, and the International Education Office are neither qualified nor permitted to give individual tax advice. You can look over the Step-by-Step document for advice on how to complete the 1040NR EZ. Otherwise, your best bet is to contact either the IRS or the VA Department of Taxation to receive correct answers to your questions.  Always remember, it is better to submit a required tax return with a possible error rather than not submit a tax return at all.
My friend who is an international student got a W-2 and a 1042-S. I worked, too, but I only got a 1042-S. Why?
Depending on the type of income you had, you will receive different forms. A W-2 lists employment income (the IRS calls it compensation) that is not tax treaty exempt. A 1042-S lists employment income that is tax treaty exempt. So, if your employment income is tax treaty exempt and your friend's is taxable employment income, you will see that each of you will have the information reported in a different way.
What tax forms do I have to fill out?
There is more detailed information below on each tax form. However, NRA (nonresident alien) students usually fill out Form 1040NR EZ, attaching Form 8843. The two most often filed VA tax returns are Form 760 or Form 763.
You mentioned nonresident alien (NRA) tax returns above, but I'm a resident alien for tax purposes (RA). What tax form do I fill out?
A Resident Alien for Tax Purposes (RA) will complete the same tax forms as U.S. citizens -- Form 1040 EZ or Form 1040 (depending on types of income earned and the deductions taken.)
Do Resident Aliens for Tax Purposes complete the Form 8843?
No. This is a form only completed by non-resident aliens (NRAs) in F, J, M or Q visa status who are exempt from counting the days they are in the United States. If you have been classified as a resident for tax purposes (RA) in 2015, you do not file the 8843.  The determination of NRA vs RA is made using the Substantial Presence Test (SPT.)  The Office of International Taxation can clarify your tax status if you have questions.
I don't know if I am an NRA or an RA. Can you help?
NRA or RA status is determined by the Substantial Presence Test.  Contact the Office of International Taxation to receive the details of your SPT.
What is a tax year in the United States?
The fiscal tax year in the United States for individuals is 1 January - 31 December.
What are the due dates for filing my tax return?

For 2015 tax returns, the federal tax return (IRS) must be postmarked by 18 April and the Virginia tax return must be postmarked by 1 May. 

When will I receive my W-2 and/or 1042-S?
By law, the W-2 must be mailed by 31 January of the new year. For example, the W-2 listing 2015 income will be mailed by 31 January 2015. The 1042-S must be mailed by 15 March of the new year. 
I didn't receive my W-2 and/or 1042-S. How can I get a copy?
Payroll can print a new W-2 for you. The Office of International Taxation can print a new 1042-S for you. Please know that address changes in Banner are not reported to OIT, so if you have graduated or left UR, the address that will be used is your home country address unless you contact OIT directly to update your current mailing address.
What do I do with all the copies of my W-2 and or 1042-S that I received?
Staple one copy of each W-2 and/or each 1042-S to your federal tax return and one of each to your Virginia tax return. Retain the rest for your records.
I ran out of copies of my W-2 and/or 1042-S. Can I submit a photocopy?
Yes. As long as the copy is completely legible, you may submit a photocopy along with your tax return(s).
How can I find out if there is a tax treaty between my country and the United States?
You can consult IRS Publication 901 or review individual tax treaties A-Z on the IRS website.
I received a tax treaty. Do I have to file a federal tax return?
Yes. You must still file a tax return. This is because students in the United States on an "F,""J,""M," or "Q" visa are considered engaged in a trade or business in the United States. NRAs and RAs granted tax treaties must file a tax return if they have income that is subject to tax, such as wages, tips, scholarship and fellowship grants, even if a tax treaty reduces the withholding to 0%.
I received a tax treaty. Do I have to file a Virginia tax return?
Maybe. You only need to file a Virginia tax return if your total income was more than $11, 950.00.
I have to list my treaty article on my tax return. Where can I find out this information?
You can contact the Office of International Taxation, or you can look up the treaty article in IRS Publication 901
I've moved back to my home country and I am no longer living in the United States. Do I need to file tax returns since I'm no longer living in the United States?
Maybe. If you have U.S. income in a particular year and you have moved out of the country and do not plan to return to the United States in the near future, you may still need to file tax returns. See the answers to questions 1, 2, 20, and 21 for specifics.
I worked over the summer for a company in a different state than Virginia, what do I do?
You might need to file a tax return for each state that you worked in during that particular tax year. You will not be taxed by one state for the income earned in another state, however, you must report your full income earned everywhere in the US during the tax year.  Each state will give you credit on your tax return for taxes paid in the other state(s).
What happens if I do not file a federal tax return with the IRS?
UR's International Tax and Payroll departments report all types of income earned to the IRS annually. The IRS will be aware of who files and who does not. At the least, nonresident individuals who do not file appropriately are liable for penalties and fees (which accrue interest). If you do not file a tax return, you may not be able to obtain another U.S. visa at a later date. Also, if you plan at some time in the future to apply for permanent residency in the United States (i.e. a green card), it will count against you if you were not responsible in filing your tax returns. With all things being computerized now, and more so in the future, Customs and Immigration Services will be able to access IRS information to learn if a person filed tax returns appropriately.
What happens if I do not file a Virginia tax return?
Virginia receives a file from the IRS that tells them which Virginia residents had US income and/or filed federal tax returns.  If Virginia Department of Taxation determines that you owe taxes to the state, and if you have not filed properly, you will be fined penalties and interest as well as owing your tax.
I don't have an SSN (social security number) or an ITIN (individual tax payer identification number)? Do I still have to file?
Yes.  You still have to file a tax return if your income requries that you do so.  If you had employment income, you really should have gotten your SSN. You will still need to submit the tax forms, just without an SSN.
I've been working, and getting paid, but I didn't get my SSN before the end of the year. What do I do?

Even if you don't have an SSN, you must still file your tax return(s) as required. Not having an SSN does not exempt you from filing tax returns, but not having an SSN will make it more difficult to obtain a tax refund on taxes you paid throughout the year, if eligible to receive a tax refund. 
  
You really should have applied for an SSN as soon as you started working on campus. However, if you haven't gotten your number, do so as quickly as you can. In about May of each year, the IRS will send a letter to the Office of International Taxation asking why some of the previous year's income information was sent to the IRS without an SSN. The answer back to the IRS will be that the individual was asked on several occasions to obtain an SSN, but declined to do so. This information remains on file with the IRS and can count against you in future visa applications or the green card process. So, it is important to follow through on this step as quickly as possible.    

Note:  The IRS can fine the university for submitting tax information without SSNs.  If UR is fined, the fine will be passed along to you through your student bill.

I didn't file a tax return last year and should have done so, what do I do?
You can go to the IRS and Virginia tax websites and obtain tax forms for previous tax years. Complete the forms and mail them as instructed in the directions for each form. If you owe money, you may have to pay a penalty and/or fine. If you are owed a refund, it will be mailed to you. As stated above, you may affect your future ability to obtain visas or permanent residency in the United States if you do not file. As the saying goes, better late than never. And, penalties and fines never stop accruing interest. If you do not file for a number of years, you will find that if you owe money the penalties and interest may be quite high.
I did not work and I do not have a nonqualified scholarship. I didn't receive a W-2 or a1042-S. I guess I don't have to do anything. Is that correct?
If you are an NRA in F, J, M or Q visa status, you must still submit a Form 8843 to the address listed in the form's directions. If you are an RA, you do not need to submit any forms.
I didn't work, but I did receive a non-qualified scholarship. On the 1042-S, it shows that I paid federal tax (charged on my student account as ITAX). Do I have to file a Virginia tax return?
Maybe. See the answers to questions 2 and 21.
I earned money this year, but my W-2 does not show that I paid any or only very little in taxes (federal and state). Why is that?
Taxes are calculated on each individual paycheck. If each paycheck was a small amount, then no (or very little) taxes would have been withheld. However, when the total amount earned for the year is added up, taxes may be owed on the total.
I didn't make a copy of my tax return before I sent it to the IRS or the Virginia Department of Taxation. Can you get a copy for me?
No, I'm sorry, I can't do that. Your tax information is private. You may be able to get a copy from the IRS or VA Department of Taxation for a fee. The other option is to obtain copies of your W-2 and/or 1042-S and try to recreate what you submitted.  
 
Remember to make a copy of anything you submit, and keep it on file with your important documents. The IRS recommends that copies of tax returns be kept for at least three years. However, copies of tax returns should be kept indefinitely if you think you might be applying to switch to another visa status or for permanent residency.
Where do I mail my tax returns and my Form 8843?
  • If you are filing a 1040NR EZ with an 8843 and you do not owe the IRS any money, you need to mail your tax return and 8843 to Austin, TX.
  • If you are filing a 1040NR EZ with an 8843 and you do owe the IRS money, you need to mail the forms and payment to Charlotte, NC.
  • If you are filing a 1040NR and you do not owe the IRS any money, you need to mail your tax return to Austin, TX.
  • If you are filing a 1040NR and you do owe the IRS money, you need to mail the forms and payment to Charlotte, NC
  • If you are only required to file an 8843, you mail the form to Austin, TX.

Also, the direction booklets for each form will have the mailing address(es) that you need. 

What is the personal exemption amount?
For 2014, it was $3,950. For 2015, it is $4,000. (It is usually adjusted each year for inflation.) This is a specific deduction that is available to all taxpayers including nonresidents. This amount is not subject to income tax. The deduction is taken on one's tax return. Basically, it means that the first $4,000 earned (in 2015) is not taxable.
I received a statement from my US bank indicating that my checking or savings account had earned interest. Do I need to report this income on my tax return?

If an NRA received interest income from a U.S. bank's checking or savings account and has no other U.S. source income then the NRA need only file an 8843. This is because US bank interest received by NRAs is considered foreign source of income.

I have no income at all. Do I file a tax return?
If you are an NRA in F, J, M or Q status, you need to file a Form 8843 with the IRS. This is the only form you need to file if you earned no income (no wages and/or no nonqualified scholarship and/or no prizes and/or no taxable reimbursements) or only earned bank interest.
Can I file my 1040NR EZ or 1040NR electronically?
No.  Currently, these federal tax returns must be mailed to the IRS.  Electronic versions are not available.
How do I obtain IRS tax forms for prior tax years?
For IRS forms for prior tax years, visit the IRS website, under Prior Year Products.  Enter the form name in the "Find" box and select "Title".
How do I call the IRS from outside of the United States?
Beginning January 2011, taxpayers who reside outside of the United States will have a new telephone number to call for IRS assistance. This new number 267-941-1000 has replaced the old one. It is not a toll-free number. If they are in Guam, the Bahamas, U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico, they can call 800-829-1040.  Overseas taxpayers may also fax a tax question to 267-941-1055 or submit tax law questions to the IRS
If I am an NRA and I am filing a 1040NR EZ or 1040NR, can I use TurboTax or other commercially available software programs?
It is recommended that you do not use TurboTax or other programs because they are not configured to properly calculate NRA taxes.  You may end up submitting the wrong forms or owing back taxes, penalties and fines.
If I am an NRA and I am filing a 1040NR EZ or 1040NR, can I use the services of H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt or another tax preparation company?
It is recommended that you do not use H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt or other tax preparation companies because their staff are not usually familiar with NRA tax regulations and may not properly prepare your income tax return.  You may end up submitting the wrong forms or owing back taxes, penalties and fines.  If you feel you are in the need of the services of an accountant, you should look for an accountant who is familiar with filing tax returns for NRAs.
Is there a tax preparation company that works with NRAs?
Arctic International is a company that focuses on NRA tax issues and, as part of their services, offers an online tax return filing program for your federal income tax return.  You may purchase an individual use license for their Glacier Tax Prep software for various tax returns and forms such as the 1040NR EZ, 1040NR, and 8843.  The cost to prepare your federal income tax forms is currently listed as $34.00.

Contact Us

Devon Slough, International Taxation Officer
(804) 287-6007
Maryland Hall, Room G-15
Monday–Friday, 8:45 a.m.–2:45 p.m.