ISSS does NOT have the expertise to advise on tax matters.

We offer this page only as general guidance and as a source of other resources available to you. If you have any questions about tax related issues that are not covered below, we recommend that you contact a tax professional.


Some important points to keep in mind:

  • The general tax filing deadline this year is April 18, 2016.
  • ISSS will send an email in late-February with information on filing taxes in the US, as well as information on tax software for those filing as nonresident aliens.  If you do not receive the tax information by the end of February, please email 

IF YOU HAVE NO INCOME:

All individuals  present in the U.S. in F-1, F-2, J-1, or J-2 nonimmigrant status, regardless of age, must file Form 8843, even if they received NO income during 2015.

Form 8843 must be filed if an individual is:

  • present in the US in 2015
  • a nonresident alien
  • in F-1, F-2, J-1, or J-2 status

These individuals are required to file Form 8843, even if otherwise not required to file a US income tax return. 


When and Where To File:  If you are filing only Form 8843, it should be sent to the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service Center, Austin, TX 73301-0215.  


The Form 8843 Filing Deadline is June 15, 2016

  • Windstar FNTR and Federal Taxes
    • Many major tax preparation software programs, such as TurboTax, H&RBlock, etc are not appropriate for non-resident aliens.  We urge you to instead use the software which will be provided by ISSS in February and is designed specifically for foreign nationals. 
    • Windstar Foreign National Tax Resource (FNTR) is available to all Penn international students and scholars, and includes an extensive, searchable content library which will allow you to easily prepare your Federal taxes, including Forms 1040NR, 1040NR-EZ and 8843.  FNTR also includes tax treaty analyses and explanations, and provides a tax resource page for each state.
    • ISSS will send an email message with FNTR instructions to all international students and scholars who were at Penn anytime during the past tax year.   
  • Social Security (FICA) Taxes Overview
    • F-1 & J-1 Students do not pay FICA for the first 5 years of presence in the US.
    • Scholars in J-1 status are exempt from FICA for the first 2 years of presence in the US. After that point, they become resident taxpayers and are subject to FICA withholdings.
    • Holders of H-1B status are subject to FICA withholdings, and are generally considered to be tax residents after their first 6 months of presence in the US.

    Recovering Wrongly Withheld FICA Taxes

    Occasionally Social Security tax is withheld in error. If your employer has already wrongly withheld Social Security taxes, you should ask the employer to refund the taxes to you. The employer can deduct the amount refunded to you from the company's next Social Security tax payment to the Internal Revenue Service and no further action is required from you.

    If your employer unable to stop withholding or refund you Social Security taxes, you may obtain a Social Security tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service (a process that can take more than six months) by preparing the following documents and mailing the application directly to the IRS at Internal Revenue Service Center, Austin, TX 73301 :

    • IRS Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement
    • IRS Form 8316, Information Regarding Request for Refund of Social Security Tax Erroneously Withheld on Wages Received by a Nonresident Alien on an F, J, or M Type Visa
    • Copy of your W-2 Form(s)
    • Copy of your most recent nonresident income tax return (if available)
    • Copy of your I-94 printout or US entry/admission card stamp in passport
    • Copy of your I-20 or DS-2019 Form
    • Copy of your permission to work in the US (EAD card, CPT authorization, etc.)
    • A written statement from your employer showing the amount of refund requested and the amount (if any) reimbursed by the employer. If you cannot obtain such a statement, you must verify that you have contacted your employer and that the employer was unable to assist you with the refund
    • DO NOT MAIL THIS APPLICATION WITH YOUR ANNUAL FEDERAL INCOME TAX RETURN
  • Pennsylvania State Taxes
    • The State of Pennsylvania treats US Citizens and Foreign Nationals exactly the same, for tax purposes
    • Your resident or non-resident tax status for Pennsylvania State Tax purposes is NOT THE SAME as your resident or non-resident tax status for federal income tax purposes.
    • Determining your resident or non-resident tax status will impact which of your income is taxable.
    • You are usually considered a non-resident for Pennsylvania state tax purposes if you were a full-time student for the past tax year.  If you are a nonresident for Pennsylvania state tax purposes, you must file a Pennsylvania state tax return on Form PA-40 if you earned more than the stated minimum in Pennsylvania taxable income for the year even if no tax is due.
    • You are usually considered a resident for Pennsylvania state tax purposes ONLY if you were in Pennsylvania more than 183 days in the calendar year (other than as a student) AND you’ve established a domicile in Pennsylvania
    • Federal tax treaty benefits do not apply to Pennsylvania taxes.
  • Philadelphia City Wage Taxes
    • Philadelphia City Tax is a wage tax, not an income tax; that is, it is only applied to your earned income, not to your interest, dividend, or capital gains earnings.
    • No matter where you live, if you work in Philadelphia, you pay a city wage tax.
    • There are no forms or reporting to complete.  If you worked in Philadelphia during the tax year, your employer automatically deducted your city taxes from your pay checks on behalf of the City.
  • Tax Determination for F-1 and J-1 Status
    • Tax determinations are complex and do not always follow the categories of immigration law. Dependent upon the particular circumstances, you could be considered a "nonresident alien for tax purposes" or "resident alien for tax purposes."
      • Most F-1 and J-1 students are considered to be nonresident aliens for tax purposes during their first 5 years of presence in the US.
      • J-1 scholars are considered to be nonresident aliens for tax purposes during their first 2 years of presence in the US. 
    • Individuals who are Resident Aliens for tax purposes are subject to the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.  Failure to meet these requirements may subject you to tax penalties.  For more info, please see: www.nafsa.org/aca
    • US Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes:
      • F-1 & J-1 Students do not pay FICA for the first 5 years of presence in the US.
      • Scholars in J-1 status are exempt from FICA for the first 2 years of presence in the US. After that point, they become resident taxpayers and are subject to FICA withholdings.
      • Holders of H-1B status are subject to FICA withholdings, and are generally considered to be tax residents after their first 6 months of presence in the US.
    • It is important to note that these are calendar years, so if you arrive at any point in a year, even on December 30, that will count as the first year of presence.
    • If you are considered a nonresident alien for tax purposes, please be aware that some popular tax software, including TurboTax, only works for resident alien taxes.
    • The University's Corporate Tax Office (located in 329 Franklin Building) may assist a student, scholar or department in determining the student's or scholar's tax status.  However, if you have more complex questions about tax related issues or tax treaties, we recommend that you contact a tax professional.
  • Scams
    • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will NEVER contact anyone via email, phone, or fax.
    • You should not provide your SSN/ITIN to anyone other unless for a legitimate purpose such as employment, banking, or background checks .
    • To learn about potential scams you may encounter, please see the IRS Tax Fraud Alert page

ITIN

If you are not eligible for a Social Security number, but have received other income, such as from scholarships or investments, etc., you may apply for an International Tax ID Number (ITIN).


ISSS can provide an ITIN support letter as part of the W-7 filing only to F-1 and J-1 status holders who are sponsored by UPenn and require an ITIN for University purposes, such as a scholarship, fellowship or grant; or claiming reduced withholding under an income tax treaty.


To apply, non-resident aliens should present their original passport, visa, I-20 or DS-2019 to establish identity and status, together with a completed form W-7, in person to an ISSS advisor. 


For more information, please see the IRS FAQs  and instructions.  


Form W-7 may be found here.  


Tips for completing Form W-7:

  • Make sure boxes F and H are checked.
  • Individuals with a Tax Treaty: check Box H and write “Exception 2(B): Scholarship/Fellowship income with Tax Treaty” and indicate the Treaty Country and Treaty Article number.
  • Or Individuals without a Tax Treaty:  check Box H and write Exception 2(C): Scholarship/Fellowship income.
  • For item 6c: Enter your F-1 or J-1 visa number.  Write “D/S” instead of the visa expiration date. Example: F-1, K1234567890, D/S
  • For item 6g: Enter “University of Pennsylvania” the duration of program should be taken from for I-20 or DS-2019

Note: The ITIN must be issued by the IRS before a tax return can be filed.


If you need an ITIN for investments only, contact the financial institution for guidance.