Ask An Advisor: Filing U.S. Taxes as an International Student

Question: What do I need to know about filing U.S. Taxes as an International Student? 

Answer:  One of the most common questions OISS Advisors are asked at this time of year is “As an international student, do I have to file US taxes?” If you were physically present in the US or received US income at any time during a tax filing year, then you must file a tax return for that year.

Here is some additional information that you should know about filing US taxes as an international student at WashU:

  • All international students are required to file a tax return, regardless of whether or not you received income. You may need to file both federal and state tax returns.
  • You must mail your tax return and documentation to the IRS and appropriate state tax offices by the tax due date set in April of each year.
  • Form 8843 is an informational statement required by the U.S. government for all nonresident aliens who entered the U.S. with visa types F, J, M, Q, including any dependents. This means that whether or not you received income, you must file Form 8843.
  • International students can be considered Nonresident Aliens for Tax Purposes OR Resident Aliens for Tax Purposes. There are a number of factors involved in determining your Alien Tax Status.
  • Your tax residency status is not the same as and does not change your immigration status. If it is determined that you are a resident alien for tax purposes, you are still considered an international student on an F or J visa, a non-immigrant status, and not a permanent resident of the U.S.
  • OISS has a partnership with Sprintax, which is an online tax preparation system for filing nonresident tax returns. WashU-sponsored internationals can log in to Sprintax with your WUSTL Key, create a user account, and access your discount code, which will cover the fee for your federal tax return. Sprintax will determine your tax residency status, and will then guide Nonresidents for tax purposes step-by-step asking you questions and prompting you to fill in your information. At the end, you can print out your completed tax return and instructions for where to mail your tax return and other documentation.
  • If Sprintax determines you are a Resident Alien for Tax Purposes, you should not prepare a 1040NR return in Sprintax. You will need to file a 1040 tax return instead. Sprintax has a partnership with TurboTax, an online tax preparation program, and you will be prompted to use TurboTax to prepare your 1040 tax return. There are also other options that you can use to prepare your return on your own:
    • VITA – The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to international students. You can find VITA sites near you on the IRS website at Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers or Metro-St. Louis Community Tax Coalition.
    • IRS Free File lets you prepare and file your federal tax return online for free. You can file at an IRS partner site with the IRS Free File Program or use Free File Fillable Forms. It is safe, easy, and free.
    • You can also hire a tax professional or pay to use an online tax preparation system to prepare your return. OISS recommends that students verify that any tax professional they hire has experience with international taxation, tax treaties, and working with international students.
  • If you are a WashU graduate who is currently on OPT or the STEM OPT extension, you can log in to Sprintax with your WUSTL Key.

You can find a lot more information on our website, including Frequently Asked Questions about Filing US Taxes.