F-1 International Student Tax Return Guide for 2021

There are so many things that an international student should know about how things work for them in the US. And one of them is the obligation to file taxes. That’s right, students and scholars on an F-1 visa have to pay taxes in the US. You’ll find all the necessary information on the 1040NR form you have to file as an F-1 student, your obligations, and so much more. 

What is an F-1 visa?

The F-1 visas are one type of non-immigrant student visa. Usually international students apply for this type of visa to get an opportunity to attend an academic program in the US. 

Do international students have to pay taxes in the US?

International students are taxed the same way as non-resident aliens are. It means that they will only be taxed on US-sourced income. What does this mean? This means that you will not be taxed on income outside of the United States, but only on income from the United States.

If an international student during the previous year was in the United States and earned income then they’ll have to file a tax return. If the student on an F-1 visa did not work in the US or have other US-Sourced income, they will not have to file a tax return. 

Types of income an F-1 student have to pay taxes on

The requirements towards F-1 students are the same as to all non-resident aliens. They have to pay taxes in the US on the following types of income:

  • Wages and compensation
  • Salaries and tips
  • Interest and dividends
  • Scholarships grants
  • Awards

Do F-1 students pay taxes on OPT?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a program that allows F-1 students to work in the US after they graduate to gain experience. If you earn income working from OPT, you are required to file a tax return & pay US tax.  When you start working, you should provide your employer a completed W-4 tax form.

What forms do F-1 students need to file?

Form 1040-NR or 1040NR-EZ 

As a non-resident alien you’ll have to file Form 1040NR-EZ (U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents) or 1040-NR (U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return). These forms are U.S. non-resident alien individual tax returns. You should file tax returns only on US-sources income received during the calendar year.  Which form to file? It depends — you should rely on expert advice to ensure you are filing the correct forms properly.

Form 8843

Another form that you may need to complete is Form 8843. File Form 8843 to explain the basis of your claim that you can exclude days present in the United States for purposes of the substantial presence test because you:

  • Were an exempt individual
  • Were unable to leave the United States because of a medical condition or medical problem.

If you do not have any income as a non-resident alien you still need to file Form 8843. 

All F-1 visa students have to file Form 8843. 

The filing deadline for this form is June 15 unless you also plan to file a tax return. In this case you should file both of them by April 15. 

Why is it important to file US tax returns for an F-1 international student?

Not filing tax returns may lead to some unwanted penalties that you’ll have to deal with. Moreover, the way you handle the process of tax filing directly affects your visa applications and future Green Card. If you are serious about staying in the United States you should respect and follow the laws of the country you are residing in.

Remember that if you fail to file the return on time you can apply for an extension. 

I’m an F-1 student and I don’t know how to file a tax return

Don’t worry. That’s a common problem not only for F-1 students but for US residents as well. What is the solution to the problem? It’s pretty easy: you should rely on experts in the field and let them handle all the paperwork. Contact the TFX team of experts who are more than happy to help you prepare your tax return and deduct as much as possible. Only human accountants will work on your case because every case is unique and it needs to be reviewed accurately.