The IRS uses Form 8843 to identify individuals visiting the United States to study, teach, or research. This form is not an income tax return. It is an informational statement required by the U.S. government.
You must file Form 8843 if you meet all of these qualifications:
- Present in the United States in the previous year, before January 1 of the current year
- A nonresident alien
- F-1 or J-1 student or F-2 or J-2 dependent
If these qualifications apply, you must file Form 8843 whether or not you have earned income in the United States and regardless of your age.
How to Complete Form 8843
Methods you can use:
- (SPRINTAX) Sprintax Software. This service is free; ask WSU Office of International Programs International Student and Scholar Services for an access code starting in mid-February
Completion time: About 20 minutes
- Download and print form 8843 from the IRS website. Follow the attached instructions to complete the form
Completion time: About 20 minutes
Complete a Form for Each Dependent
If you have F-2 or J-2 family members in the United States, you must complete a separate Form 8843 for each dependent.
If you use Sprintax, you will be prompted to enter information for each family member.
Documents Needed to Complete Form 8843
- I-20 or DS-2019
- Record of entry/entries to the United States for the most recent 3 years (if applicable)
Filing deadline: April 15, 2021
Salaries and wages that you earn as a non-citizen, as well as some scholarships and grants, are considered taxable income.
To assess your U.S. tax obligations, you will first need to determine if you are classified as a resident or nonresident for tax purposes.
Use the Substantial Presence Test to determine whether you are a resident or nonresident.
Residents and nonresidents are taxed under different systems.
|Tax system for residents||Tax system for nonresidents|
|Taxed on worldwide income||Taxed only on U.S.-sourced income|
|Receives forms 1099 and W-2||Receives forms 1042-S and W-2|
|Files Form 1040 tax return||Files Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ tax return|
|Eligible to itemize deductions||May not itemize deductions|
|May claim a standard deduction||May not claim a standard deduction|
|May claim unrestricted withholding allowances||Restricted withholding allowances|
Nonresident Federal Income Tax Guidelines
If you are a nonresident employed in the United States, you must file a federal income tax return (Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ) with the Internal Revenue Service if 1 or more of the following is true:
- You have earned U.S. income from any source during the previous calendar year
Bank interest is not considered taxable income. However, you must report other types of U.S.-based investment income. The IRS provides more information in References for Foreign Students and Scholars.
- You are eligible to claim a refund of over-withheld taxes
The IRS provides more information in References for Foreign Students and Scholars.
- You are an F-1 or J-1 student and received a scholarship or grant from U.S. sources during the previous calendar year
Scholarships that paid all or part of your tuition bill are not taxable, including amounts reported on Form 1098T, Tuition Statement. Examples include (but are not limited to) the International Transfer Award and the International Merit Award. If such scholarships are your only source of income, then you need to file Form 8843.
If 1 of those conditions applies, you must file a tax return whether or not tax has been withheld from your paycheck.
As a nonresident, you will be taxed only on income earned from U.S. sources. Examples include but are not limited to the following:
- Graduate research or teaching assistantships (The living expense stipend portion is considered wage income)
- Scholarship income exceeding tuition, mandatory fees, and books, such as a scholarship that pays room and board expenses (The tuition and fee portion of any scholarship is exempt from taxes and should not be entered into your nonresident tax forms)
- Campus student job
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) job
- Dividend income from investment
- Any job for which you were paid a wage or salary
You do not need to file the 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ (only the 8843) for the following:
- Tuition waivers or reductions
- Interest earned from a bank savings account
Earnings from J-1 employment are usually subject to federal, state, and local income taxes.
Filing Requirements for Dependents
If you have J-2 dependents who are employed in the United States, they are subject to federal income taxes and must file a federal income tax return.
Resident Federal Income Tax Guidelines
If you are considered a resident of the United States, you are generally required to pay income tax in the same manner as a U.S. citizen.
You must report all wages, interest, dividends, or other types of income on your U.S. tax return, regardless of whether their sources were within or outside the United States.
Preparing Your Federal Taxes
To file your income tax return, use forms intended for nonresident tax filers—unless you have resided in the United States long enough to use a resident form.
Be sure to get the correct form. If you use an incorrect form, you may have to file an amended form later or pay retroactive taxes.
Unsure? Use Sprintax (access code available through International Student and Scholar Services at no charge). It will determine the correct tax residency status for you within 5 minutes.
Forms for Nonresident Taxpayers
Forms for Residents
Where to Get Tax Forms and Instructions
Wage, Tax, and Income Statements
Employers and universities must report to the IRS your income from wages and scholarships, as well as tax money withheld from your paycheck. Your employer will also send you a statement with this information by January 31 each year.
The following are the most common types of statements for international students and academic staff.
W-2 Wage and Tax Statement
This statement identifies taxes, if any, that were withheld from your paycheck in the previous calendar year. You will receive 4 copies directly from the institution that employed you or awarded you scholarship money. W-2 forms from WSU arrive by mail during the month of January.
You can also find your W-2 online at myWSU under “HR, Payroll, and Benefits”
Include the copy marked “Federal” when filing your 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. Keep the copy marked “Employee” for your records.
1042S Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding
You may receive this income statement if you are receiving certain non-wage income (such as a room and board scholarship) or wages exempt from income tax due to a tax treaty. It will be sent to you directly from the institution that employed you or awarded you scholarship money. 1042S forms arrive in February.
1098T Tuition Statement
The University will send you Form 1098T if it has reimbursed or refunded to you any qualified tuition or related expenses. The form is a record of the amount you paid (or WSU paid on your behalf) for tuition and mandatory fees in the previous calendar year.
If you are a nonresident, you cannot use or claim items on the Form 1098T when calculating and filing your tax return. However, you should keep the form for your records.
Preparing Your Federal Tax Return
Although you may download and complete the forms yourself or hire a tax professional, we recommend that you use Sprintax (SPRINTAX). This internet-based tax preparation software is designed exclusively for international students and scholars.
Getting Started with Sprintax
Request an access code from International Student and Scholar Services and follow directions to create a user account. Then log in and begin the question-and-answer format.
When you complete the process, Sprintax will create a pdf file. You must download, print, and mail this document to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service. This information is given in the pdf with instructions.
- 10 minutes to gather documentation
- 40 minutes to operate software, download and print forms, and mail
File Your Return by Mail
If you are a nonresident, you cannot file your tax return electronically. Mail your tax forms to the Internal Revenue Service at the address provided in the instructions. International Programs will not mail your tax return for you.
Preparing Tax Forms as a Resident
You have several options to complete your tax return:
- Professional tax assistance
Hire a qualified professional tax preparer. Check the phone directory under the general heading Tax Return Preparation, Accountant, or similar. Charges apply. Fees can be based on an hourly rate or flat fee. You may ask for a fee estimate prior to entering into an agreement, but we advise that you do not attempt to bargain down the price.
- Tax preparation software
Purchase a commercial tax software program from an office supply retailer, at certain department stores, or over the internet.
- Prepare your own tax return
Claims on Your Tax Return
Claiming a Standard Deduction
You may claim a standard deduction only if your specific tax treaty allows this (e.g., India) or if you are considered a resident for tax purposes. Sprintax will use all applicable tax treaties in calculating your return.
Claiming Dependents as Exemptions
You must have a taxpayer identification number for each dependent family member whom you claim on your tax return. You may use any of the following:
- Social Security number
- Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)
- Form W-7 for each family member, which you attach to your form 1040NR
Claiming Benefits for Dependents
Few treaties allow tax benefits for dependent family members. If you are a nonresident and use Sprintax to calculate your taxes, all applicable tax treaties pertaining to dependent family members will be applied to your tax return.
Claiming the Child Tax Credit
You may claim this credit only if you meet the following conditions:
- You are eligible, due to a tax treaty, to claim a personal exemption for the child, and
- Your dependent child meets all of the following criteria:
- Born in the United States
- Lived with you in the United States for at least 6 months
- Was under age 17 on December 31 of the previous calendar year
- Possesses a Social Security number or ITIN
To determine how to claim the credit, follow the instructions for Form 1040NR or use Sprintax.
Claiming the Earned Income Credit
If you are considered a nonresident for tax purposes, you are not eligible for the Earned Income Credit.
Claiming the Tuition Tax Credit
If you are considered a nonresident for tax purposes, you are not eligible to claim a Tuition Tax Credit.
Claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit
If you are considered a nonresident for tax purposes, you are not eligible to claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
You can begin filing on February 12
Tax Payments and Refunds
If an insufficient amount of tax has been withheld from your paychecks, you will be required to pay the balance that you owe when you file your tax return. On the other hand, if too much tax has been withheld, you will receive a refund.
Income tax laws are extremely complex. If you have questions, ask the IRS or a reliable tax consultant.
Income Earned in Washington
The State of Washington does not have an income tax. If you earned your income in Washington, you do not need to pay state tax.
Income Earned in Another State
If you transferred to WSU from a school in a state that has state income taxes, you should receive a Form W-2 or 1042S from that institution.
International Student and Scholar Services cannot assist you with filing state income tax forms. However you can attempt any of the following:
- Ask officials at your former school if they can help
- Check the website for the tax-collection unit in the state where you earned your income. Many states provide free tax filing assistance
- Hire a qualified tax professional in the Pullman/Moscow area
Immigration Status and Tax Withholding
Your immigration status (F-1, J-1, H-1B, permanent resident, etc.) influences the amount of income tax and Social Security tax you owe.
Tell your employer your immigration status. If the proper amount of tax is not withheld from your paychecks, you will eventually be subject to a retroactive bill for back taxes. It could be a sizable amount.
If You Are Employed by WSU
It is your responsibility to inform Payroll Services of your immigration status when you begin employment.
If Your Employer Mistakenly Withheld Social Security Taxes
If you are an F-1 or J-1 student or J-1 scholar, you are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes as long as you are considered a nonresident for tax purposes.
If Social Security tax is mistakenly withheld, you may recover the money. First seek a refund from your employer. If the employer is unable or unwilling to supply the refund, complete IRS Form 843 and Form 8316. Submit them to the IRS according to the instructions. It could take a year or more to receive the refund from the IRS.
Sprintax can help with this for an additional fee.
J-2 employees are not eligible for a refund of Social Security and Medicare taxes.
I did not arrive in the United State until January 1, 2021, or after. Do I need to file tax forms for the year 2020?
No. The filing period in 2021 is for those who were present in the United States during the calendar year 2020.
I did not receive U.S. source income in 2020. Do I need to file a tax return?
You must file a form 8843 if you were physically present for any days (even 1) in 2020. A separate Form 8843 must also be filed for each dependent accompanying you. The 8843 is a form that notifies the taxing authority about your student or exchange visitor status.
Do I need to file a return if I received U.S. income in 2020?
Non-resident aliens who earned wages that are less than the amount of 1 personal exemption ($4,000 for 2020) are not required to file a tax return, but they must still file Form 8843 for themselves and any spouse and/or dependents in F-2 or J-2 status.
You must file Form 1040NR-EZ or 1040NR in addition to Form 8843 if you had U.S. earned income of $4,000 or more, had wages or scholarship income exempt by treaty, or wish to claim a refund of taxes (if eligible). Your bank interest is NOT considered taxable income.
Note: If you earned less than $4,000 in wages and were withheld income taxes you may be eligible for a refund of federal withholding tax. We recommend you use Sprintax (SPRINTAX) to assist you.
May I still file a tax return for 2020?
Yes. Go to the IRS website and download form and instructions for 1040NR-EZ.
Alternative: use a tax accountant in Pullman/Moscow. Or buy a 2020 license from Sprintax.
Where do I get a W-2 or a 1042S?
If you received U.S. income in 2020 you will receive a W-2 or 1042S directly from the institution that employed you, or awarded you the scholarship money. W-2 forms from WSU arrive by mail during the month of January. 1042S forms arrive in February. Scholarships that paid all or part of your tuition bill are not taxable. If that is your only source of income in 2020, then you need to file only form 8843, not a 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ.
What if I received employment income from WSU in 2020, but I did not receive a W-2 or 1042S form in the mail?
We suggest you log into your myWSU account under Payroll information, or on the Payroll Services “Online Earnings Statements” website to view your payroll and tax record. If a W-2 appears in your record you can simply print the W-2 form from the web site and submit it with your tax forms (1040-EZ or 1040NR).
Do I need an ITIN?
An ITIN is obtained by filing a W-7 together with your tax form (example: 1040NR-EZ). If you are using SPRINTAX the W-7 forms and instructions are included (highly recommended). If you do not intend to use SPRINTAX, see the IRS website for form W-7 and instructions.
Do I need to pay state “income” tax in Washington?
No, if your income was earned in Washington state.
What if I transferred from a different U.S. school that was located in a state that has state income taxes?
You should receive a W-2/1042S from that institution. The IP-International Student and Scholar Services tax assistance program will not provide help with filing state income tax forms. However you can attempt one of the following:
- Check with your former school to see if they will offer assistance
- Check with the official website for the state in which you earned your income. Many states provide free tax filing assistance
- Hire a local qualified tax professional in the Pullman/Moscow area
I received a 1098T from WSU. What should I do with it?
If you are filing as a tax “nonresident alien (NRAs),” you will not report any information from the 1098T into your 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ or into SPRINTAX. Use SPRINTAX to determine your eligibility for reducing your taxable income. Since it is a record of the amount you paid (or WSU paid on your behalf) for tuition and mandatory fees to WSU in 2020, we suggest keeping it for your records.
Is my WSU graduate teaching or research assistantship considered a scholarship?
Graduate assistantships are treated differently than other scholarships. The living expense stipend is considered “wage” income since you are providing a “service” in exchange for the income. The tuition and fee portion of any scholarship is exempt from taxes and should not be entered into your non-resident tax forms.
May I “free-file” electronically via the IRS website?
No, if you are tax “nonresident alien” student or scholar filer.
May I claim tax benefits for my dependents on my 1040NR form?
Only relatively few treaties allow tax benefits for dependent family members. All tax nonresidents who use SPRINTAX will have applicable tax treaties pertaining to dependent family members applied to their return.
IMPORTANT: To claim any dependent family member you must have a taxpayer identification number such as a SSN or ITIN, or file a form W-7 for each family member, attached to your form 1040NR. SPRINTAX will guide you through this process.
If my employer withheld Social Security taxes incorrectly, how can I get them refunded to me?
F-1 or J-1 students or J-1 scholars are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes as long as they are considered “nonresident” for tax purposes. If Social Security tax is mistakenly withheld, the money may be recovered. First seek a refund from your employer. If the employer is unable or unwilling to supply the refund, you must complete IRS forms 843 and 8316 and submit them to the IRS according to the instructions. It could take a year or more to receive the refund from the IRS. J-2 employees are NOT eligible for a refund of FICA and Medicare taxes.
Am I eligible to claim the child tax credit?
Yes, only if you meet the following conditions:
1. You are eligible, due to a tax treaty, to claim a personal exemption for the child, and
2. The dependent child was:
- born in the United States, and
- lived with you in the United States for at least 6 months, and
- was under age 17 on December 31, 2020, and
- possesses an SSN or ITIN
To claim the credit, if you are eligible, we recommend you use SPRINTAX.
Am I eligible for Earned Income Credit if I am a tax “nonresident”?
International students and scholars who are tax “nonresidents” are NOT eligible for Earned Income Credit.
You may want to contact the following tax authorities:
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
920 W. Riverside Avenue
Spokane, WA 99201-1010
WSU Payroll Services
For questions regarding income tax, FICA (Social Security and Medicare contributions), or the amount you were paid last year. Be sure to review the basic guidelines about taxation for non-U.S. citizens.