Tax Information and ITIN

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.

  • The general tax filing deadline this year is April 15, 2019.
     
  • ISSS will send an email the last week of February to individuals in F-1 and J-1 status with information on filing taxes in the US, as well as information about tax software for those filing as nonresident aliens.

If you were physically in the U.S. in F or J status anytime between January 1 - December 31, 2018 you're obligated to send one form, Form 8843, to the U.S. tax agency IRS (Internal Revenue Service), even if you had no income. For the 2018 tax season, if you earn $1 of US source income or greater, you may need to file a federal tax return with the IRS. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may also need to file a state tax return(s).

 

Generally, most international students & scholars who are on F, J, M or Q visas are considered non-residents for tax purposes. International undergraduate students on J1 & F1 visas are automatically considered non-resident for their first 5 calendar years in the US, whilst Scholars/Researchers on J visas are automatically considered non-residents for 2 out of the last 6 calendar years in the US. If you’ve been in the US for longer than the 5 or 2 year periods, the Substantial Presence Test will determine your tax residency.

We have teamed up with Sprintax  to provide you with easy-to-use tax preparation software designed for non-resident students and scholars in the U.S. We are not qualified or allowed to provide individual tax advice.

After you login to Sprintax following the instructions detailed in ISSS's mid February tax email, it will ask you a series of questions about the time you have spent in the United States and in which immigration status, looking back over a period of years. Sprintax will then determine your tax status. If it determines that you are a "nonresident alien" (NRA) for federal tax purposes, you can continue to use it to respond to a series of guided questions. Sprintax will complete and generate the forms you need to print, sign, and mail to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). If it determines you are a resident alien for federal tax purposes, you won't be able to continue using the software.

Step by Step Guide

  1. Gather the documents you may need for Sprintax
 

Document

Description

Passport

 

Visa/Immigration information, including form I-20 (F status) or form DS-2019 (J status)

 

Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (if you have one)

This is not needed if you had no income and the 8843 is the only form you have to file.

*

W-2

This form reports your wage earnings if you worked. If you had more than one employer you should get a W-2 from each employer. It is issued by the end of January for the previous year. Make sure all employers from last year have an up-to-date address for you.

*

1042-S

This form is used to report:

  1. stipend, scholarship, fellowship income and travel grants (not tuition reduction or exemption)
  2. income covered by a tax treaty
  3. payment for other types of services (e.g. by the semester as a note-taker)

If you received this type of income, the 1042-S will be mailed to you by March 15th by the payer.

Note: Only NonResident Aliens receive this form. If your tax status changes to a Resident Alien you will not get a 1042-S. Login to Sprintax to check your tax status if you're not sure.

U.S. entry and exit dates for current and past visits to the U.S.

In addition to passport stamps, you can review or print your U.S.travel history here

*

1099

This form reports miscellaneous income. Can be interest on bank accounts, stocks, bonds, dividends, earning through freelance employment

1098-T

This form is is NOT needed and can NOT be used for a nonresident tax return because NRAs are not eligible to claim education expense tax credits.

  1. Follow the Sprintax instructions

If you had No U.S. Income: Sprintax will generate a completed Form 8843 for you and each of your dependents (if you have any).

With U.S. Income: Sprintax will generate your "tax return documents", including either a 1040NR-EZ or a longer form 1040NR, depending on your circumstances.

  1. (With U.S. income only) If required, complete your state tax return

After you finish your federal return, Sprintax will inform you if you need to complete a state tax return. If so, they will give you the option to use Sprintax for an individual fee. However, it is your choice to use them or to do the state tax return on your own. For more information on state and city taxes, please see the relevant headers below.

  1. Mail your completed federal and/or state forms to IRS and/or state tax authorities

Remember to read the mailing instructions that Sprintax provides. If you have dependents, each one must mail their 8843 in a separate envelope.

  • 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 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.
  • 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

If you need help while using Sprintax, contact them:

24/7 Live Chat Help

Refer to their FAQs

email at hello@sprintax.com

Call 1-866-601-5695

You also have access to the Sprintax YouTube account where there are a number of educational videos on non-resident taxes to provide further clarity on the subject of using Sprintax and non-resident tax. There is also a Sprintax Blog which go through tax related topics and can be of use to you.

https://youtu.be/DgcLFMYgpHo

  • 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.

International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) and the school are NOT permitted to assist any student/scholar with any IRS tax form preparation or tax related questions. The information provided is intended for your benefit. Any questions or concerns should be directed to Sprintax, a certified tax preparer or a local IRS field office.

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.