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Tax Information for International Students and Employees

  • GLACIER Tax Prep :
    Vanderbilt provides a free tax preparation service Glacier Tax Prep that assists all nonresident aliens for tax purposes prepare their US tax returns.  Glacier Tax Prep provides several online tax sessions in addition to self-guided videos.  If you should need assistance with your Glacier Tax Prep record, you will need to contact
  • You may download forms from the  IRS Website  and file by mail.
  • Tax professionals and certified tax accountants, who charge for their services, can assist you with your taxes.
  • For student account tax questions, please contact ITO at

The IRS is the U.S. taxing authority that requires we collect tax from all US-sourced payments for International student and employee payments.  As a nonresident alien, you are required to file a U.S. tax return each year.  F-1 and J-1 students with no income will file an 8843 form- an informational return instead of a tax return.  All tax forms for nonresident aliens for tax purposes are provided free of charge on our tax preparation service website. Tax returns are due generally by April 15th each year and Informational returns are due by June 15th.

U.S. tax laws can be complex and confusing and the laws that apply to internationals are not the same as those that apply to U.S. citizens and Resident aliens for tax purposes. This page is meant to be a general introduction. We are not tax professionals, so this cannot be considered legal tax advice.  You are advised to read over the information in this IRS link for more specific guidance.  

Before you begin the filing process, be sure you have all the necessary information with you.

  • Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement: W-2 forms are mailed to current and former employees. This form shows how much you earned last year and how much was taken out for taxes. If you were employed, you will receive this form.  The only exception is if you elected a tax treaty exemption on your wage income.  Please refer to the International Tax FAQ section under "Which tax forms will I receive at the end of the year.
  • 1042-S: IRS form showing international person's US source income and tax withholding.  Issued no later than March 15th of every year (for the previous calendar year). All international persons with non-wage payments and taxes or wages that were exempt from tax withholding due to a tax treaty will receive this form.  If you expect to receive a 1042-S form, wait until you receive this form before filing your tax return.
  • Passport
  • I-20 (F-1 status), DS-2019 (J-1 or J-2 status), I-797
  • 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

In legal terms, non-citizens of the U.S. are called "aliens." There are three types of aliens for tax purposes: (1) Nonresident Alien; (2) Dual-Status; and (3) Resident Alien. These categories are for tax purposes only and are not related to your immigration status. You may be in a F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant status and considered a resident for tax purposes.

Substantial Presence

Nonresident aliens generally meet the substantial presence test if they have spent more than 183 days in the U.S. within the last three years. Having substantial presence in the U.S. generally means you will be considered a Resident Alien for tax purposes.

Exempt Individual

An exempt individual is any person who is temporarily exempt from the substantial presence test. Time spent in this category does not count toward the 183 days in the U.S. that normally will convert a nonresident alien into resident alien for tax purposes. F-1 and J-1 students maintaining status are exempt from the substantial presence test for 5 years. J-1 scholars are exempt from the substantial presence test only if they have been in the U.S. no more than 2 out of the last 6 years.

Even if you pass the substantial presence test, you might still be considered a nonresident for tax purposes if you qualify for the The Closer Connection Exception to the Substantial Presence Test for Foreign Students.

Tax Treaties

The U.S. has income tax treaties with many different countries. Residents of these countries may be taxed at a reduced rate or be exempt from U.S. income tax withholding on specific kinds of U.S.-source income. Treaties vary among countries. If the treaty does not cover a particular kind of income, or if there is no treaty between your country and the U.S., you must pay tax on the income. Glacier will determine if you qualify for tax treaty exemption.

Taxable Income

Some kinds of income are taxed while others are not. For students and scholars who are considered nonresidents for tax purposes, interest income is not taxed if it comes from a U.S. bank, a U.S. savings and loan institution, a U.S. credit union, or a U.S. insurance company. Generally income from foreign sources is not taxed. Wages that appear on form W-2 are taxable. Scholarship or fellowship income that requires services (i.e. teaching assistant) will be treated as wages (like employment). Scholarships, fellowships, and grants may be partially taxed. For degree-seeking students, portions used for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and required equipment are not taxed; portions used for other expenses, like room, board, and travel, are taxable.

Social Security and Medicare

Nonresident students and scholars on F-1 and J-1 visas, who are also considered nonresidents for tax purposes, should not have Social Security or Medicare taxes withheld from pay. If these taxes have been withheld, contact ITO for reimbursement.

Resident for Tax Purposes

If you have determined, based on the substantial presence test or marriage to a U.S. citizen or resident alien, that you are considered a Resident Alien for tax purposes, then you will generally have the same federal income tax requirements as a U.S. citizen. Please note that in this context, the term “resident” applies only to your tax requirements and is not related to your immigration status. See Publication 17: Your Federal Income Tax Guide.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

If you are filing a tax return and are not eligible to apply for a Social Security number, you may obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). A Social Security Number or ITIN is necessary only if you are filing a tax return. If you earned no U.S.-source income and are only submitting form 8843, you do not need to apply for the Social Security Number or ITIN. 

  • Keep copies of all of your tax return documents for your records.
  • Be sure to file correctly.  Nonresident aliens for tax purposes will file on a 1040NR.  This is provided by Glacier Tax Prep when using this tax prep service.  Resident aliens for tax purposes will file like a U.S. person on a 1040 form and can use any online tax prep service to file their tax returns.
  • For nonresident alien filers using Glacier Tax Prep, please be sure to sign all the forms that require your signature before mailing.  Use a mailing service that will allow tracking for your tax return mailing to the IRS.

Identity Theft

Please be careful of fraudulent scams and internet "phishing" that use the IRS name or other tax-related references to gain access to your personal information in order to commit identity theft.


  • Suspicious e-mails which claim to be from the IRS and offer a tax refund. The email requests your Social Security number and other personal information in order to process the refund.
  • Fake IRS correspondence and an altered Form W-8BEN, "Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding" are sent to nonresident aliens who have invested in U.S. property and have U.S.-source income. The false form asks for personal and financial information which is not normally collected on the W-8BEN.

These are just two examples of many possible types of scams. Do not respond to such emails or contacts. The IRS does not send unsolicited emails or request personal information by email. It also does not request PIN numbers, passwords, or similar secret access information to individuals' credit cards, banks or other financial accounts. You can learn more about scams on the IRS website and report phishing scams to the IRS.