Income Taxes and IRS Forms
What is Federal and State Income Tax?
- Federal and state taxes may be withheld from your paychecks from income or scholarships from sources within the U.S.
- There is a possibility to get a refund if you paid too much tax in payroll deductions
- The U.S. government (IRS) requires you to submit a federal tax return form if you earned any money or received a scholarship in the previous calendar year The IRS requires most international students and scholars to file a Form 8843 regardless of whether they are filing a tax return
- The State of California Franchise Tax Board has a separate filing process for tax returns
Tax Preparation Services
- Cal Poly VITA Program - Get free income tax assistance on campus on Saturdays. Check web site for dates and what to bring to bring with you.
- Sprintax Non-Resident Tax Filing is a low-cost online tax preparation service.
- Gary R. Engler & Company, Certified Public Accountants & Advisors tax preparation service for international students and scholars.
Forms you may receive:
Check with your tax preparer about what to do with these forms you will receive prior to submitting your tax return:
W-2 - If you worked in the U.S. in the previous year, you should be looking for a Form W-2 from your employer to arrive sometime in January or February. If you moved, contact the payroll office of your employer(s) or school(s) and give them your current mailing address right away.
1098-T - Cal Poly will send you this form that states how much scholarship money you received.
1042-S - Cal Poly will send you this form that states how much you paid in tuition for the year.
Forms you file with the IRS:
Form 8843 - Required for everyone who does not meet the Substantial Presence Test who was in the U.S. the previous year regardless of whether you earned money or received a scholarship
- Form 8843 provides proof that you should not be considered a resident for tax purposes for the past tax year. If you are not considered residents for tax purposes you are responsible to pay lower income tax. This is important if you plan to be here more than a couple of years over the next few years
- If you are filing a tax return, you will submit the 8843 along with your Federal Tax return (1040-NR or 1040-NR-EZ)
- If you don't have to submit a tax return and do NOT qualify as a resident for tax purposes, then just submit the 8843 to the address on page 3 of the instructions
- Form 8843 with instructions
Sample 8843 forms and tips for students:
Sample 8843 for scholars and non-enrolled graduate students:
Non-Resident Federal Income Tax Forms
- 1040NR-EZ - short form - if you made money or received a scholarship from an organization in the U.S.
- 1040NR-EZ Instructions – Read instructions to see if you qualify to use the 1040NR-EZ
- Form 1040-NR tax return long form - if you made money or received a scholarship from an organization in the U.S. Use if you do not qualify to use the Form 1040NR-EZ.
- California State income tax Short form - [if you made money but did not received a scholarship from USA organization]
- Short form instructions – Read this to determine if you are eligible to use the short form.
- California State income tax Long form - if you made money and received a scholarship and are not eligible to use the 540NR Short Form
- Long form instructions
If you earned wages or collected a scholarship funds while you lived in another U.S. state besides California last year, you need to submit a tax return to that state.
Filing Dates and Where to Mail Forms
- Check your form for the filing date. The date is usually on or around April 15th.
- Mail your tax return to the address on each form. Send your 8843 with your Federal tax form 1040NR or 1040NR EZ. If you are not filing a tax return, you submit the form 8843 to the address on the instructions sheet.
- Retain photocopies of all completed tax return forms and any documents submitted.
- Do NOT bring your forms to the International Center. We are not tax experts and we cannot submit your forms for you.
- VITA IRS Guide for Foreign Students/Scholars
- Ten Most Important Tax Facts for Internationals
- Three Reasons to File Tax Returns
- IRS Tax Guide for Nonresident Aliens: complete guide
- Substantial Presence Test: To determine if you are to be considered a resident or non-resident for tax purposes, which is completely different than for immigration purposes. If you meet the Substantial Presence Test, you do not file an 8843 and do not file the Non-Resident (NR) tax forms. You would file the regular 1040 tax form.
- The IRS provides information through free publications online.
- The IRS phone number for general tax information is 800-829-1040