Virtually ALL F or J international students and scholars and their dependents must file an income tax form every year in order to be in compliance with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations. This is true regardless of whether they earned income while in the United States. Income tax issues for foreigners are complex and confusing. The following is designed to give you a basic understanding of your responsibilities and tell you how to get more information. Do not construe the information presented here as individual tax advice!
A NOTE TO SCHOLARS:
Information about income taxes for visiting scholars can be obtained from the Boulder Campus International Tax Specialist in the PBS office at 303-860-4200. To make an appointment to see an International Tax Specialist visit their online scheduling page. That office generally is the repository of income tax information for international employees on the Boulder campus. There is additional information here about filing Income Taxes.
WithholdingsWhen you first begin employment in the U.S., you will have to fill out a W-4 Form. This helps your employer estimate how much of your income should be "withheld" (or deducted) from your wages for the purpose of paying taxes. Your employer pays those amounts directly to the U.S. Treasury on your behalf. In your annual tax return, you must reconcile your account with the government to verify that you paid the right amount over the course of the year. If you paid too much, you can claim a refund, which will be paid promptly unless the government disagrees with your calculations.
Different Kinds of Taxes, Collected at Different LevelsThere are 6 different types of taxes in the U.S. tax system (e.g. income tax, Social Security tax, sales tax, personal property tax) and three layers of taxation (local, state, and federal). You have obligations at several levels.
Social Security Tax: Students often have questions about payment of a U.S. tax called "Social Security tax" or "FICA." FICA is a taxation system that provides benefits to retired workers. Most F and J students are not subject to this tax, but H1 scholars and J-2 dependents with work permission are. You can get more information about this tax from your campus payroll office.
Sales tax is similar to the value-added tax collected in many countries, except that in the United States the amount of the tax is not included in the advertised prices of goods. Sales-tax rates vary from state to state.
Personal property tax : a tax on automobiles and other valuable property.
To learn about your state and local income-tax responsibilities, consult local tax authorities after you have arrived in the United States. Check the blue or white pages of the local telephone book for the appropriate government listings. Alternatively, ISSS or the University Payroll Office can provide you with information.
You are generally only taxed on your income based on U.S. sources. Sources of U.S. income include: on-campus employment, scholarships, fellowships, graduate assistantships, practical or academic training, and any compensation received for labor. Note that "income" is not limited to wages paid to you in cash, but also includes that portion of your scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship that is applied to your housing and meal expenses. The portion applied to your tuition fees, books, and supplies is not counted as income. The payroll office on your campus will help you make these distinctions. Be sure to inquire about the applicability of any tax treaty that might exist between your country and the United States.
BANK INTEREST: International students do not have to pay taxes on interest paid to them by U.S. banks.
Reporting Requirements for Dependents:F-2 and J-2 dependents, regardless of age, are expected to file the tax form 8843 annually in the United States, even if they have no income from a U.S. source. In the case of F-2s (who cannot work in the United States), the completion of a tax form is simple. A J-2 dependent, who may get permission to work in the United States, is taxed on his or her earnings.
Important Dates:April 15: The last day on which residents and nonresidents who have earned wages from U.S. sources may file their U.S. federal income-tax returns for the previous year.
June 15: The last day on which nonresident students and their dependents who have no wage income from U.S. sources in the previous year may file their Form 8843 and/or 1040NR-EZ or 1040NR returns.
International Student and Scholar Services has two publications which you may use to guide yourself through your tax forms:
Some Related Websites:
Helpful telephone numbers:
U.S. tax laws are difficult to understand, so some students may want to ignore this obligation. Be aware, however, that the amount of information shared by the IRS and USCIS is increasing each year. It is in your interest to meet your tax obligations.
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