As a Foreign National student or scholar, you may need to file tax forms each year with the IRS, even if you earned no income. It is your individual responsibility to understand and meet your tax obligations.
U.S. tax laws can be complex and confusing and the laws that apply to foreign nationals are not the same as those that apply to U.S. citizens. These resources should help you to better understand your tax obligation, to learn what and where to research, and to successfully submit your tax forms.
This page is meant to be a general introduction. We at ISSS are not tax professionals, so this cannot be considered legal tax advice. You are advised to review the information from the IRS specifically addressed to foreign students and scholars, the IRS website or the Illinois Department of Revenue. The page about Taxation of Nonresident Aliens is another resource that may be helpful.
GLACIER Tax Prep access information will be sent to students and scholars by mid-February. If you do not receive this e-mail, please contact ISSS. Please also make sure that you check your spam filters to add our email address (students) email@example.com (scholars) firstname.lastname@example.org, to ensure that you receive all emails regarding GLACIER Tax Prep.
Fulbright sponsored J-1s should not use the GLACIER Tax Prep. All other non-UIUC sponsored J-1 should check with their program sponsors to determine if they will provide them with assistance first.
The last day to file your tax return is April 18th. Access to GLACIER Tax Prep will expire in June 2017.
Please note: Advisers in the International Student and Scholar Services office (ISSS) are not able to give tax advice about individual cases as we are not tax professionals.
IMPORTANT: Avoid Scams!
- File your tax return as early as possible.
- Mail your tax return directly from the post office.
- Know the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) won’t contact you by email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will contact you by mail.
Frequently Asked Questions
1: I am an international student or scholar. Do I have to file taxes?
A: All international students and scholars as well as their dependents are required to file at least one tax form for every year they are present in the US regardless of whether or not they earned any money. This does NOT NECESSARILY mean you have to pay taxes.
2: What tax returns do I need to file?
A: Federal (U.S. government) Tax and State Tax.
3: When is my tax return due?
A: Federal (U.S. government) tax returns are due on April 18, based on earning from the previous year. Illinois state tax returns are due on April 18.
Please note that the filing deadline to submit 2016 tax returns is Monday, April 18, 2017, rather than the traditional April 15 date. Please see here for further information.
4: What is GLACIER Tax Prep?
A: GLACIER Tax Prep© is a web-based tax return preparation system designed exclusively for foreign students, scholars, teachers, researchers, trainees, and their dependents to aid in preparing U.S. federal income tax forms (returns) 1040NR and 1040NR-EZ.
5: What do I need to access the GLACIER Tax Prep?
A: Access to GLACIER Tax Prep will be done via Sunapsis. ISSS will send you an email in February with the instructions on how to access the software.
6: How do I determine if I am a resident or non-resident alien for tax purposes?
A: F-1, J-1 students are considered non-residents for tax purposes for five years from the date they first enter the United States on a student visa. For J-1 scholars this period is 2 years. After this period the substantial presence test must be applied to determine residency for tax purposes. Your tax status (non-resident or resident) is separate from your immigration status. You may be a resident for tax purposes even though you are still a non-resident for immigration purposes. GLACIER Tax Prep will automatically determine your residency status for tax purposes. More information can be found here.
Foreign Nationals who are considered residents for tax purposes should not use GLACIER Tax Prep.
7: What documents do I need to file my taxes?
A: Before you begin the filing process, be sure you have all the necessary information with you:
- Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement
- Form 1042-S
- Form 1099 (if applicable): The 1099 form documents miscellaneous income. For example, if you had CPT authorization to work as an independent contractor, rather than as an employee of an organization, you might receive Form 1099 instead of Form W-2 to document your earnings.
- I-20 (F-1 status) or DS-2019 (J-1 or J-2 status)
- Social Security number or Individual Tax Identification number (generally not required if you will file only Form 8843)
- Address information (current U.S. address and foreign address)
- U.S. entry and exit dates for current and past visits to U.S.
- Academic institution or host sponsor information (name, address, phone)
- Scholarship/fellowship grant letter (if any)
- A copy of last year's federal income tax return, if filed
8: What is a W-2 or 1042-S?
A: Form W-2 is a summary of total wages earned in the U.S. and taxes withheld for the calendar year. Form 1042S summarizes taxable scholarships and fellowships.
9: How will I receive my W-2 or 1042-S?
A: The University of Illinois (or your employer for OPT or CPT) will mail paper W-2 and or paper 1042-S forms via the U.S. Postal Service. UIUC also offers employees the option to receive their W-2 and/or 1042-S form electronically. If you are employed by UIUC you may access your W-2 online via NESSIE.
Information about requesting duplicate tax forms, wages and withholdings information can be found here.
10: Which tax forms do I use?
A: Generally, non-resident international students and scholars use form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ for their Federal (U.S. government) taxes. "NR" means non-resident for tax purposes. Individuals who are residents for tax purposes use the same 1040 forms as U.S. citizens. GLACIER Tax Prep software will determine if you are a resident or a non-resident for tax purposes. All F and J international students and scholars (including dependents – F2 or J2) who had no US income must file Form 8843..
- Form 1040NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return (PDF) or,
- Form 1040NR-EZ, U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents (PDF) if qualified. Refer to the Instructions for Form 1040NR-EZ to determine if you qualify. Find more information see (here).
- Form 8843.
11: How do I prepare my state taxes?
A: Once you have completed your federal taxes with GTP, you will have the option of completing your state tax return forms through Sprintax, for a fee of $29. (Please use the link through GTP if you would like to use this option).
As an alternative, you may complete your state tax return on your own (not using Sprintax). Tax forms and regulations vary from state to state. In the State of Illinois you will fill Form IL-1040 to file your state tax return. Guidance on Illinois state tax return preparation can be found here. If you are a first time filer please have a look at the FAQ’s for state tax returns for students here.
12: Where do I file my tax return?
A: All forms 1040NR and 1040NR-EZ are mailed to:
Internal Revenue Service Center
Austin, TX 73301-0215
State tax forms should be mailed to the address indicated on the tax form instructions for the state(s) in which you worked during the year.
13: What is a tax treaty and how do I determine if I am eligible?
A: The U.S. has negotiated tax treaties with many countries of the world. If you are a resident of a country that has a tax treaty with the U.S., you may be eligible to reduce or eliminate U.S. tax on your income. If you are eligible for a tax treaty benefit, more tax treaty information can be found here.
The Office of Business and Financial Services can assist Foreign Nationals with tax treaty benefit analysis. Please visit the following website
14: I am on scholarship. What is my tax obligation?
A: If your scholarship is from sources inside the United States, the portion of your scholarship used for room and board as well as for other "non-educational expenses" is taxed at a flat rate. Individuals from countries with which the U.S. has negotiated tax treaties may be able to reduce the amount of tax on their scholarships. The portion of your U.S. scholarship granted and used to pay tuition and required fees is exempt from U.S. tax. You will receive Form 1042-S from your sponsor to report the taxable portion of your scholarship.
If your scholarship is provided by an entity outside the United States you will not pay taxes to the U.S. on your scholarship. Check with your sponsor to determine if you have any U.S. tax obligations on your scholarship.
15: My employer has deducted taxes from my paychecks. Do I still need to file a tax return?
A: Yes. The U.S. tax system is based on self-reporting of income. The law requires U.S. employers to withhold a standard percentage of tax from each employee and to pay that tax to the U.S. government. Individuals must file a tax return at the end of each year to determine whether they owe additional taxes or if their employer deducted too much tax and request a refund from the U.S. government.
16: I received Form 1042-S but no Form W-2. What should I do?
A: If you worked in the U.S. but have not received Form W-2 by February 1st, contact your employer to request a copy. If you did not work in the United States during the year or if all of your income was exempt under a tax treaty, you will not receive Form W-2.
17: I did not work in the United States this year and I did not receive any scholarships from any U.S. sources. What should I do?
A: If you were present in the U.S. in F or J immigration status during the year but had no U.S. source of income, you must file Form 8843.
18: I arrived in the U.S. last December, and I didn't work. Do I still have to file Form 8843?
A: Yes. If you were in the U.S. in F or J status for even 1 day during the tax year, you must file Form 8843 for that year.
19: What happens if I do not file a tax return?
A: If you have no tax liability, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not penalize you if you do not file (although you must still file Form 8843). However, the terms of your visa require that you stay in compliance with all laws of the United States, including income tax filing. If you want to apply for permanent residence in the U.S. at a later date you will be asked to prove that you have complied with all tax laws.
If you owe additional tax for the year, you must file a return and pay those taxes on time to avoid late fees. The IRS charges substantial interest and penalties on past due taxes.
20: I worked in another state for part of the year, what do I need to do?
A: In addition to your Federal tax return you must complete a tax return for each state in which you worked during the year. If you worked in Illinois and another state during the year, you'll need to file “part-year resident” forms for the other state(s) where you worked during the year. Multiple state tax returns can become complicated because you must report total income earned during the year to both states then calculate a prorated amount of tax applicable to the earnings from each state. If you need assistance please contact a tax professional.
21: My friend filed Form 1040 and received a larger refund. Can I do that too?
A: Not legally. If you are a non-resident alien you must file 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. Failure to file the correct form is fraud and can place your immigration status in jeopardy. The additional money you might receive is not worth the trouble.
22: I am a nonresident alien and my employer withheld FICA taxes from my paycheck. Can I get a refund?
A: F-1 and J-1 nonresident aliens are exempt from FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes on wages earned from legal employment in the United States. If your employer withheld FICA taxes in error, you can request a refund. The law requires that you first ask your employer for a refund of the FICA taxes. If your employer refuses, please file the appropriate tax forms with the IRS to request a refund from the government. Please contact the IRS or a tax professional for assistance.
Note that wages earned by those in J-2 status are not exempt from FICA taxes.
23: My American friend told me something different than what is written here. Which is correct?
A: Please contact a tax professional for assistance. The rules for non-residents are different from those for Americans.
24: Who should I contact if I have questions regarding tax issues?
A: If you have questions regarding tax issues, tax forms or anything in regards to federal taxes, please visit the website for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or contact them by phone Toll-free at 1-800-829- 1040. Hours of operation: Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
For State of Illinois tax inquiries, please visit the State Tax Commission website or contact them by phone Toll free, 1-800-732-8866. Hours of operation: Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The following web sites may also be of assistance: