Students Tax Return


Filing an F1 visa tax return surely isn’t the most fun part of international student life in the United States. However, the significance of being able to properly file your taxes cannot be emphasized enough. As a matter of fact, it’s in your best interest to handle your international student tax return as doing so can have a major impact on your Green Card and visa applications in the future.

That being said, this guide will help answer the tax-related questions of international students and scholars who are in the United States on an F-1 visa.

1. What is an F-1 visa?

The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for people who want to study in the US. It is one of the most sought-after visas for foreign students in America.

2. Do international students pay taxes?

The Internal Revenue Service or IRS will tax an international student in the same way that they would a nonresident alien for US federal income tax purposes. This means they would be taxed only on US source income. Every international student is mandated to file their F1 visa tax return if they were in the US during the previous calendar year and earned any semblance of an income. And even if you don’t earn income during your stay in America, you still have a tax filing requirement.

F-1 international students, like all nonresidents, must pay tax in the US on these kinds of income:

  • Wages and compensation
  • Salaries
  • Tips
  • Interest
  • Dividends
  • Some scholarships/fellowship grants
  • Prizes/awards

The amount of tax you are required to pay will depend on your circumstances.

3. When is the international student tax return deadline?

All international students inside the United States must file their tax returns every year. In 2021, this needs to be completed on or before May 17. Every international student, along with their dependents, will need to file Form 8843 separately. If you have received income in the last calendar year then you will need to file Form 8843 and most likely Form 1040-NR as well.

4. Why should you file a tax return?

Every international student and their dependents—which includes spouses and children—are obligated to file their tax return if they were in America during the previous calendar year. While filing your tax return can be a tedious tax, you stand to enjoy a few benefits like possibly getting a refund. Some international students may qualify for a refund because of tax treaties and a lack of serious income if they’ve earned income in the US. Filing your tax return may also protect taxation of your worldwide income and finally, you’ll be fulfilling your visa obligations as all international students must file at least Form 8843 to remain legal under F, J, M & Q visas, even if you didn’t earn any income in the US.

5. Do F-1 students pay taxes on OPT?

First of all, an OPT (Optional Practical Training) is a program that lets international students work in the US after they graduate from school, to gain some more on-the-job experience. Students with F-1 visas may apply for 12 months of OPT after each level of education is completed. If you earn an income during OPT, you will be mandated to pay tax. You also have to fill in a W-4 tax form with your new employer when you begin your job.

6. How about CPT students? Do they need to pay any type of tax on their income?

The answer is yes. Students that have an F-1 visa that is on Current Practical Training or CPT do not have an F1 visa tax exemption. F-1 students are considered nonresident aliens in the US and are obligated to file a US tax return for income (1040NR) from US sources.

7. How do I file a tax return on an F-1 visa?

If you have had a US-sourced income during the calendar year, then you have to file Form 8843 and Form 1040NR-EZ to complete your tax return. You will be tasked with putting in your name, current address and social security number or IRS individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). Other general personal information will be needed as well.

8. Do I still have to file a tax return even if I didn’t earn any income in the US?

Even if you did not earn an income when you were an F-1 student in the US, you still have a tax filing requirement. You must file a form 8843 with the IRS before the deadline

We realize that filing tax returns can be a tedious task. If you need a consultation about real estate taxes, deductions, and tax breaks, or you need help with your tax return, all you need to do is consult TFX — your tax professionals — so you can make sure that everything is done the right way.

Veronica Rhodes from TFX

TFX is a women-owned tax firm that offers all U.S. tax services — for both American citizens and non-citizens with U.S. tax filing requirements. From straightforward expat tax preparation to complex cases involving multiple factors — we’ve handled it all for over 25 years.