Tax Assistance for Foreign Students and Scholars

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at the University of Connecticut provides free personalized non-resident tax counseling and preparation for F-1 and J-1 visa holders.  We can help you with these and all of your income tax questions, but provide these resources here for your information and convenience.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if we can help!  Our program coordinator is Leanne Adams in the School of Business Accounting Department.

For general questions not addressed here, please email vita.business@uconn.edu.

Who needs to file an income tax return?

If you are visiting the U.S. from another country on an F, J, M or Q visa and are classified as a nonresident for U.S. tax purposes, you are required to file an income tax return each year that you have U.S.-source income. If you did not earn any income, you must file IRS Form 8843. Form 8843 must also be filed for every family member who is in the U.S. on an F-2 or J-2 visa.  The filing deadline for 2016 is Tuesday, April 18, 2017.  The IRS has a useful tool that can guide you to answering this question based on your personal circumstances.  See Tax Trails – Am I required to File a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return?

If I did not earn any U.S.-based income, do I need to file any tax forms?

Yes, even if you did not earn income in the U.S., you and all family members must file a Form 8843.  The filing deadline for Form 8843 is Jun 1, 2017.

What if I am being paid by a foreign employer?

If you are a non-resident for tax filing purposes, this income is not taxable. Nonresidents are taxed on their U.S.-source income only.  However, you still must file a Form 8843.  The filing deadline for Form 8843 is Jun 1, 2017.

Do I need to file an income tax return if I already had taxes withheld from my paycheck?

Yes. Taxes are withheld from your pay as you earn it. You are obligated to file federal (IRS), state, and city income tax forms after the end of the calendar year to reconcile the withholdings from your paycheck with your actual tax liability.

It has been shown that there is a massive overpayment of U.S. taxes by foreign nationals who do not file. Just because your employer has withheld tax from your wages does not mean that you have paid the proper amount. You could have a sizeable refund due!

My only income was some bank interest. Do I have to file a tax return?

If you are a nonresident alien, bank interest is excluded from your U.S. income under a special tax rule intended to encourage foreign investment in the United States. Even if you have a tax return filing requirement, you do not record your bank interest as income on your return even if the bank issued you a Form 1099-INT. (You can eliminate the reporting if you give the bank a Form W-8BEN as a certificate of foreign status.) However, if you file taxes as a Resident Alien, bank interest is taxable income.

Is my tuition scholarship considered taxable income?

A tuition scholarship to a degree seeking student is not considered taxable income and does not need to be reported on an annual income tax return.

Is there a minimum income threshold that requires filing a federal tax return?

If the total sum of your U.S. source income was less than the personal exemption ($4,050 for 2016) you are not required to file IRS Form 1040NR-EZ or Form 1040NR. However, if you had any taxes withheld, you should file IRS Form 1040NR-EZ or Form 1040NR to get a refund of these taxes and you must still file Form 8843.

I arrived in the U.S. in December and I didn’t work. Do I still have to file IRS Form 8843?

Yes. If you were in the U.S. only for one day of that particular year you must file IRS Form 8843. If any family members are here with you, they must also file Form 8843.  Please see our Form 8843 Filing Instructions webpage.

What happens if I fail to file an income tax return?

Studies have shown that most non-immigrant foreigners who are required to file, either do not file a return or file incorrectly.

  • If you owe taxes and don’t file an income tax return, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can charge you penalty and interest on any tax owed. Fines and penalties can often amount to more than the original tax debt.
  • If you are eligible for a tax refund and do not file an income tax return, you will not receive a refund.
  • There can also be immigration consequences for failing to file an income tax return. The terms of your visa require you to comply with all laws of the United States, including the requirement to file an income tax return. For example, applicants for permanent residency (“green card”) are frequently asked to provide proof of tax filing for previous years in the U.S. Don’t risk your visa status by failing to comply with this requirement.

What if I didn’t file income tax returns in a previous year…how do I file them now?

If you find out now that in a past tax year you were supposed to file an income tax return, but you failed to do so, you should file a late income tax return as soon as possible. You may not simply lump the amounts from a previous tax year onto this year’s tax return – each tax year must be separated and corrected.

Should I file Form 8843 if I missed the filing deadline for previous years?

If you were unaware of the fact that you were required to submit Form 8843 for previous tax years in which you resided in the U.S. in F or J student/scholar status, you may file retroactively for each year the form was not filed. Simply include a separate Form 8843 for each year that was missed. When filing forms retroactively, cross out the year in the upper right hand corner and write in the year for which you are filing.

Should I keep copies of my tax return and other tax forms?

Yes. Always keep copies of your tax return, W-2, 1042-S, 1099 bank interest statements and any other pertinent forms as proof that you have filed. The IRS can audit individual returns for up to 3 years following the filing deadline and your tax records are essential in proving your case. Generally taxpayers are encourages to keep individual returns and supporting documentation for seven years.

I am leaving the country before I can file my taxes. What should I do?

Make sure UConn Payroll Services has your foreign address so that your Form W-2 and/or Form 1042-S can be mailed to you. Download the appropriate forms and instructions (http://www.irs.gov/formspubs/index.html) and file your U.S. taxes from abroad. Save copies of all forms submitted for your records.

My employer withheld Social Security and Medicare taxes from my salary. Can I get this refunded?

Yes. F and J visa holders are not subject to Social Security or Medicare taxes as long as they are considered a non-resident alien for tax purposes. Refund of these taxes may be requested from your employer. If your employer is unable to refund these taxes, you may file IRS Form 843 and Form 8316 for a refund from the IRS.