Requirements for Tax Return
What is a Tax Return?
This is the most misunderstood term. Tax “return” does not mean that you are filing papers to get your taxes returned, although this may be the result. Instead, what it refers to is the act of “returning” a report to the US Government (IRS) that states what you received during the previous tax year, what you were taxed on this income, and what you should have been taxed. When filing a report of this nature you may discover that you paid too much tax on your income and therefore are eligible for a refund. Alternatively, you may discover while filing this report that you did not pay enough taxes you will owe money to the IRS. You have until April 15 (June 15 if overseas, or earned no income) to file this “return”/report to the IRS for the preceding year. For example, let’s say you are going to file a return for 2010. The tax year you are reporting on starts January 1, 2010 and ends December 31, 2005. You have until April 15 of 2011 to send the IRS your “return”/report. UC International Services provides assistance with filing a tax return ever year – even if you have returned to your home country. Please be sure to read “The Advisor” every January and February for details about this help.
Who needs to file?
Every nonresident F, J, M, and Q visa holder in the U.S. must file an annual tax return and statement to substantiate nonresident status with the Internal Revenue Service. This includes F-2 and J-2 spouses and children, regardless of their age and amount of income.
What needs to be filed?
Nonresident F, J, and M visa holders who earned any US source income during the tax year must file tax returns on Form 1040NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return, or Form 1040NR-EZ, U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents. They must also file an 8843 Statement for Exempt Individuals or Individuals With a Medical Condition. F-2 and J-2 spouses and children who earned no U.S. source income during the tax year need only file a form 8843.
When must the return be filed?
If a nonresident alien earned wages subject to withholding during a tax year, they must mail their return on or before April 15 of the following year. If you are overseas, the deadline is June 15. If they received no U.S. wages, the due date is June 15.
Where must the return be filed?
All nonresident alien tax returns and statements must be mailed to:
Department of Treasury
Austin, TX 73301-0215
All resident alien tax returns and statements must be mailed to the IRS service center that has jurisdiction over the place the where you currently live. When looking up this information it is important that you also use the correct zip code (they differ between if you are expecting a refund or need to pay further taxes).
What are the penalties for non-compliance?
Penalties for noncompliance with the filing requirement can include: (1) future requests for change of status (especially to permanent resident) will be denied; (2) visa renewals at American Consulates/Embassies could be denied; (3) fines and interest will be assessed when money is owed to the IRS. If more than 16 months late in filing the form, no deductions can be claimed; and (4) if more than 3 years late in filing and a refund was due, no refund will be given.
What is needed to file?
For Non-Resident Aliens:
The 8843 is required of every F, J, M and Q status holder. The 1040NR or 1040NREZ will be required if they received payments. There are corresponding forms that will be sent to the nonresident alien detailing payments received. A discussion of each form follows.
For Resident Aliens:
If you earned income you should use form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. For Resident Aliens who have a tax treaty claim, you should also use Form 8833.
What visa documents are needed to complete the return?
Passport; Visa; I-94 Card; and Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019) if applicable are needed to file.
Forms and Documents
Here is a list of documents, statements and forms you may (or may not) need to file a Federal Income Tax Return that are referenced above.
A Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition. This two-page document must be completed and returned with the 1040NR and 1040NR-EZ. It verifies nonresident alien tax status. CINTAX will produce this form.
A U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. The longer version of the return completed by many nonresidents. This form is distinct from the 1040, 1040A , or 1040EZ filed by residents for tax purposes. It is not interchangeable with those forms. The DHS publishes an instruction booklet to accompany the form. CINTAX will produce this form.
A U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens with No Dependents. A simplified version of the 1040NR. Most F-1 and J-1 students may file the 1040NR-EZ. The DHS publishes an instruction booklet for this form. CINTAX will produce this form.
A Wage and Tax Statement. A form issued annually by employers (normally during the month of January). Copies of the W-2 must be filed with federal, state, and local tax returns for individuals who worked.
Foreign Persons U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding. A form used to report total scholarship/fellowship payments income tax withheld and other information relating to grant payments for individuals who received scholarships/fellowships/treaty benefits honored by an employer. Some summer fellowships are reported on these. Also recipients of tax treaty benefits will receive one of these.
A 1099R is a refund given to students who had income withheld as part of the Public Employment Retirement System (PERS). Such a withholding happens when students work and are not enrolled (typically over the Summer). Any refund of PERS will result in a 10% penalty on the income tax return on the amount of the refund received.
A student is given this by a bank for interest earned on checking/savings accounts. This is not reportable income for non resident aliens.
Interest earned on investments. This is reportable income.
State income tax return received from the previous tax year. It is reportable income if it was used to lower a federal income earned from the previous tax year.
Income earned from various other sources other than as an employee.
Other Important Documents/Publications
Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate. A form completed by employees at the time of hire to indicate how much tax is to be withheld from the paycheck.
Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding. A form used to certify an individual's foreign status for tax purposes. Typically used by universities for students who have received unqualified scholarships. An unqualified scholarship would be money given for things other than tuition, books and other customary educational expenses.
U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, an IRS publication. Essential for individuals from nations having tax treaties with the United States.
U.S. Tax Treaties, an IRS publication, contains complete listings of tax treaties between the U.S. and foreign countries.
Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Used to make corrections to previous years income tax returns.
Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement. Used to collect Social Security and Medicare taxes that were improperly withheld.
Additional Important Information
Individuals needing an ITIN Number should go to the UC International Services. UC International Services is an IRS approved acceptance agent and can apply for the ITIN on behalf of the visitor.
The IRS provides information through free publications and a telephone information line. The phone number for general tax information is 1-800-829-1040 (ask for the Technical Division). To order any of the federal publications or forms mentioned here contact the IRS Tax Forms and Publications division at 1-800-829-3676. The IRS has a World Wide Web site on the internet from which it is possible to obtain forms: http://www.irs.gov.