Taxes for International Students at Coe 

The information below is to help you properly complete taxes. Before getting into the details, though, there are 5 very important notes:

  1. All international students must file U.S. taxes, even if they have not earned any income over the 2016 calendar year.
  2. Peter, the Director of International Affairs, is not a tax professional. The information here is not tax advice. This is basic guidance to help you understand taxes. It is your responsibility to complete taxes.
  3. Always keep copies of what you submit for taxes purposes.
  4. The deadline for completing taxes – for all people in the U.S. – is 15 April.
  5. Choose option 1, option 2, or option 3 below and follow the directions.

OPTION 1: If you were not employed and/or did not earn any income ($0):

Complete Form 8843

  • Documents you need:
    • Passport
    • I-20
    • Address information (current U.S. address and foreign address)
    • U.S. entry and exit dates for current and past visits to U.S.
    • Academic institution or host sponsor information (name, address, phone)
    • Scholarship/fellowship grant letter, if you have one
    • A copy of last year's federal income tax return, if filed

OPTION 2: If you were employed and/or did earn income:

  1. Contact the DIA, request Glacier Tax Prep (GTP) access code, and complete taxes online (Coe provides this tax service for you to use for free: https://www.glaciertax.com/).
    • Before you begin, watch the “Welcome to the U.S. Tax System” video
    • The documents you need:
      • Passport
      • I-20
      • Form W-2 – Wage and Tax Statement
      • Form 1042S or Form 1099 from employer and/or Coe College, if given
      • Social Security number or Individual Tax Identification number, if you have it
      • Address information (current U.S. address and foreign address)
      • U.S. entry and exit dates for current and past visits to U.S.
      • Academic institution or host sponsor information (name, address, phone)
      • Scholarship/fellowship grant letter, if you have one
      • A copy of last year's federal income tax return, if filed
  2. Complete Iowa state taxes, go to https://tax.iowa.gov/, if you earned $9,000 or more
    • The documents you need are the same as above

OPTION 3: If you have already left Coe and still need to complete taxes

It is better to complete taxes late than to never complete them, especially - and this is very important - if you are considering returning to the U.S. to live, pursue further education, and/or work.

In most cases, this option applies to exchange students who finished their program at Coe in the month of December; however, any student no longer at Coe can use this option.

If you were not employed and/or did not earn any income ($0), then you should complete Form 8843. Please note the documents above that you will need to complete this form.

If you were employed and/or did earn income, then you will need to contact the DIA, request Glacier Tax Prep (GTP) access code, and complete taxes online (Coe provides this tax service for you to use for free: https://www.glaciertax.com/). Please note the documents above that you will need to complete this form.

For basic questions about Form 8843 or about Coe College employment policies, please consult Peter Gerlach (pgerlach@coe.edu). If you have more complicated questions about the U.S. tax system and its requirements and are no longer in the U.S. and/or unable to seek professional tax counseling, then the following Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website is a good resource: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/foreign-students-and-scholars.

More Information about Taxes in the U.S.

Overview: Taxes and the IRS                                                                                             

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. government agency that collects taxes. As a nonresident F-1, you may need to file forms each year with the IRS, even if you earned no income. It is your individual responsibility to understand and meet your tax obligations. Generally, tax returns are due every April 15th based on earnings from the previous year, though there are exceptions to this deadline.

While employers do withhold money from your paycheck throughout the year and send it to the IRS, it may not equal the exact amount owed at the end of the year. If too much was withheld, you may be eligible for a refund. Or, perhaps not enough was withheld, and you will owe more. Salary from a job is not the only kind of earning taxed; many types of income are taxable. Even if you did not work and do not owe any taxes, you may need to submit an informational form to the IRS.

U.S. tax laws can be complex and confusing – we all get headaches during tax season – and the laws that apply to internationals are not the same as those that apply to U.S. citizens. These resources should help you to better understand your tax obligation, to learn what and where to research, and to successfully submit your tax forms. This page is meant to be a general introduction. The DIA is not a tax professional, so this cannot be considered legal tax advice. You are advised to review the information from the IRS specifically addressed to international students and scholars.

Important Concepts                                                                                                            

Resident or Nonresident for Tax Purposes                                                                                   

In legal terms, noncitizens of the U.S. are called “aliens.” There are three types of aliens for tax purposes: (1) nonresident; (2) dual-status; and (3) resident. These categories are for tax purposes only and are not related to your immigration status. You may be in F-1 or J-1 nonimmigrant status and be considered a resident for tax purposes.

Substantial Presence                                                                                                                       

Nonresident aliens generally meet the substantial presence test if they have spent more than 183 days in the U.S. within the last three years. Having substantial presence in the U.S. generally means you will be considered a resident alien for tax purposes.

Exempt Individual                                                                                                              

Any person who is temporarily exempt from the substantial presence test. Time spent in this category does not count toward the 183 days in the U.S. that normally will convert a nonresident alien into resident alien for tax purposes. F-1 students maintaining status are exempt from the substantial presence test for 5 years.

Even if you pass the substantial presence test, you might still be considered a nonresident for tax purposes if you qualify for the The Closer Connection Exception to the Substantial Presence Test for Foreign Students.

Tax Treaties

The U.S. has income tax treaties with many different countries. Residents of these countries may be taxed at a reduced rate or be exempt from U.S. income tax withholding on specific kinds of U.S.-source income. Treaties vary among countries. If the treaty does not cover a particular kind of income, or if there is no treaty between your country and the U.S., you must pay tax on the income in the same way and at the same rates shown in the instructions for Form 1040NR. Glacier Tax Prep (GTP) will tell you if you may claim tax treaty benefits.

Taxable Income

Some kinds of income are taxed while others are not. For students and scholars who are considered nonresidents for tax purposes, interest income is not taxed if it comes from a U.S. bank, a U.S. savings and loan institution, a U.S. credit union, or a U.S. insurance company. Generally, income from foreign sources is not taxed. Wages that appear on form W-2 are taxable. Scholarship or fellowship income that requires services (i.e. teaching assistant) will be treated as wages (like employment). Scholarships, fellowships, and grants may be partially taxed. For degree-seeking students, portions used for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and required equipment are not taxed; portions used for other expenses, like room, board, and travel, are taxable.

Social Security and Medicare

Nonresident students and scholars on F-1 and J-1 visas, who are also considered nonresidents for tax purposes, should not have Social Security or Medicare taxes withheld from pay. If these taxes have been withheld, contact your employer for reimbursement. If you cannot get a refund from your employer, use Form 843 Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement to request a refund from the IRS.

Resident for Tax Purposes

If you have determined, based on the substantial presence test or marriage to a U.S. citizen or resident alien, that you are considered a resident for tax purposes, then you will generally have the same federal income tax requirements as a U.S. citizen. Please note that in this context, the term “resident” applies only to your tax requirements and is not related to your immigration status. See Publication 17: Your Federal Income Tax Guide.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

If you are filing a tax return and are not eligible to apply for a Social Security number, you may obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). A Social Security number (SSN) or ITIN is necessary only if you are filing a tax return. If you earned no U.S.-source income and are only submitting form 8843, you do not need to apply for the SSN or ITIN.  

Identity Theft                                                                                                                                  

Please be careful of fraudulent scams and internet "phishing" that use the IRS name or other tax-related references to gain access to your personal information in order to commit identity theft.

Some Past Examples

  • Suspicious e-mails which claim to be from the IRS and offer a tax refund. The email requests your Social Security number and other personal information in order to process the refund.
  • Fake IRS correspondence and an altered Form W-8BEN, "Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding" are sent to nonresident aliens who have invested in U.S. property and have U.S.-source income. The false form asks for personal and financial information which is not normally collected on the W-8BEN.

These are just two examples of many possible types of scams. Do not respond to such emails or contacts. The IRS does not send unsolicited emails or request personal information by email. It also does not request PIN numbers, passwords, or similar secret access information to individuals' credit cards, banks or other financial accounts. You can learn more about scams on the IRS website and report phishing scams to the IRS.