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

picture of tax form, says "tax time"

Date: 03/26/2021

Written by: Jeanne Pizarro, International Student & Scholar Advisor, DSO/ARO (she/her)

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 any time between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020, then yes, you must file 2020 taxes.

Here is some additional information that you should know about filing 2020 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.
  • This year the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) have extended the tax filing deadline! You must mail your 2020 tax return and documentation to the IRS and appropriate state tax offices by May 17, 2021.
  • OISS offers the use of a program called GLACIER Tax Prep (GTP) at no charge to you. GTP is an online system designed specifically for international students to help you prepare your federal tax return. GTP goes 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.
  • GTP codes were emailed to international students on March 15 from support@glaciertax.com. We recommend adding them to your safe list to avoid it going to the spam folder.
  • 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. The good news is that after entering your information into GTP, the system will tell you your Alien Tax Status. If you are Nonresident Alien for Tax Purposes, you can continue to use GTP to prepare your tax return.
  • If GTP determines you are a Resident Alien for Tax Purposes, you cannot use GTP to prepare your return. There are many other options that you can use to prepare your return:
    • 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 Taxpayersor 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, you are eligible to request a GTP code from OISS.

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