Virtually all F-1 and J-1 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!

U.S. Tax Season Assistance For CU Boulder International Students and Scholars

As the new year begins, CU faculty, staff and students will begin receiving critical documents needed to file their annual income tax returns. For certain international employees and students, this means receiving Forms W-2 and/or 1042-S from CU over the next month.

  • Form W-2 is issued to any employee who receives taxable wages from CU.
  • Form 1042-S is issued to resident and nonresident alien employees and students to report their tax treaty exempt wages. Nonresident alien scholarship and stipend recipients with taxable or tax treaty exempt income of this type will also receive form 1042-S. Employees and students with more than one type of 1042-S reportable income should expect to receive more than one 1042-S.

Recipients should use these form(s) when preparing their personal income tax return forms.

This year, CU is partnering with Sprintax to support nonresident alien employees and students in their personal tax filing obligation. The International Tax Office will offer a limited number of free software licenses to Sprintax’s online tax preparation tool for federal tax filing to eligible nonresident alien employees and students in F or J status.  Sprintax can also help with state tax filing, however, if you elect to file a state tax return using Sprintax, you’ll need to pay an additional fee.

This software is a user-friendly resource to help international employees:

  • Determine resident or nonresident U.S. tax residency status and filing requirements.
  • Prepare necessary tax return documents including forms 1040-NR and 8843 which can then be printed, signed and mailed for filing. (Some users may be able to file electronically, instead.)
  • Ensure all applicable tax treaties are applied.
  • Find assistance and information with an available FAQ, blog, YouTube channel and email access to Sprintax tax professionals.

To take advantage of this resource, watch for emails from the International Tax Office in February and March announcing that free licenses are available or check the International Tax Office website where we will post an update as soon as licenses are  available. Request yours as soon as you’re able — they will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you aren’t able to secure one of the free licenses, you can still use Sprintax to complete your returns for a fee.  Visit the International Tax website to learn more about your filing obligations and Sprintax features. 

Finally, Sprintax will be hosting regular open tax webinars throughout the spring where you can learn more about your U.S. tax filing obligations and how Sprintax can help you meet them.

Sprintax Open Webinar Dates, Times and Registration Links

  • Friday, April 15 at 10 a.m. MST (Registration link has been removed)

ISSS advisors are not tax experts. ISSS cannot give you any tax advice or help you with any tax issue. You can consult a commercial tax preparer or use one of the few tax software programs available, such as:

If you want to seek advice from professional tax preparer, see handout Tax Preparation Specialists.

Payroll & Benefits Tax Specialist

Information about income taxes for international students and visiting scholars can be obtained from an international tax specialist at Payroll and Benefit Services. You will need to schedule an appointment to see an international tax specialist through their scheduling application on their website.

Caution

Please note that the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) use the terms "resident" and "nonresident" to mean different things. While an F-1 student and J-1 exchange visitor hold nonimmigrant/nonresident status in terms of immigration, they can in some instances be considered a resident for tax filing purposes.

Withholdings

When you first begin employment in the United States, 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.

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.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to individuals who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, a Social Security number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

To request an ITIN, complete the IRS Form W-7.

  • The free software, Glacier Tax Prep (GTP), that is made available to eligible nonresident students and scholars from CU's International Tax Office can help complete the W-7 application and provide additional instruction. It is not required to use GTP to complete the Form W-7.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Resources