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.  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.
  • 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 recieved other income, such as from scholarships or investments, etc, you may apply for an International Tax ID Number (ITIN).

To apply for an ITIN, Non-resident aliens should present original documentation, establishing identity and status, together with a completed form W-7, in person to an ISSS advisor, who will certify the authenticity of the documentation. 


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

Form W-7 may be found here.