Annual Tax Return Information

Annual Tax Return Information


Introduction: Tax Return Filing Obligations for International Students

The following information is to assist F-1 and J-1 students, and their dependents, in understanding and meeting their U.S. tax return obligations for the previous tax year.  If you are an F-1 or J-1 student and you were present in the U.S. at any time during 2021, you (and your F-2 / J-2 dependents, if any) are required to file a "tax return" or other tax documents, even if you earned no U.S.-source income.  

The deadline to submit 2021 tax returns is April 18, 2022.


Why Am I Required to Comply with U.S. Tax Laws?

International students and their dependents are expected to comply with U.S. laws and regulations - including any applicable tax laws - while studying and residing in the U.S.  It is important to comply with tax regulations in order to avoid the possibility of violation or future penalty under U.S. tax law and U.S. immigration law. Because of the importance of complying with U.S. tax regulations, we recommend that you read through the following information carefully.

Furthermore, it may be to your benefit to file a tax return, even if you owe no tax. If you were employed or received U.S.-source income in 2021 that had taxes withheld, you may be eligible for a refund of some or all of the withheld amount.  In order to claim a refund of withheld taxes, however, you must follow the procedures outlined below for filing a tax return.  Therefore, it may be to your advantage to file a tax return in order to receive a refund of part or all of the taxes that were withheld from your earnings.


Non-Resident versus Resident Taxation: Does This Information Apply to Me?

Generally, most international students & scholars who are on F, J, M or Q visas are considered nonresidents for tax purposes. International students on J-1 & F-1 visas are automatically considered nonresident for their first five calendar years in the US, whilst Scholars/Researchers on J visas are automatically considered nonresidents for two out of the last six calendar years in the US.

The following information focuses specifically on non-resident taxation. You are a non-resident if:

  • if you you were physically present in the U.S. at any time during 2021 in F or J status (including F-2 or J-2 status)
  • if you have been in the U.S. in F or J status (including F-1, F-2, J-1, or J-2) for five (5) tax years or less.  Note that a tax year counts if you were in the U.S. in F or J status at any time during that year, even if for only one day. For example, if you arrived in the U.S. as an F-1 student on December 31, 2021 then 2021 counts as one tax year.

Most F and J students and their dependents are considered 'non-residents' for tax purposes. However, if you have been in the U.S. in F or J status for more than 5 years, you will most likely be considered a resident for tax purposes and must file your tax return similarly to U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents. If you’ve been in the U.S. for longer than the five or two year periods, the Substantial Presence Test will determine your tax residency.

Additional information about resident taxation is available at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) web site at http://www.irs.gov. The IRS also has information about free on-line tax preparation services for residents at http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=118986,00.html. Tax residents may also use commercial tax preparation services, such as H&R Block, to help filing their tax return.


Special Note for J-1 Sponsored Students

Students in J-1 status who are sponsored by an external agency such as the Institute of International Education (IIE) should be able to obtain tax advice and assistance from their sponsor.  If you are a J-1 student not sponsored by Teachers College, please contact your sponsor for information about your 2021 U.S. tax filing obligations.


Refund Of Social Security And Medicare (FICA) Taxes

In general, any income earned by an F-1 or J-1 student considered a non-resident for tax purposes should not be subject to Social Security and Medicare (FICA) tax withholding.  This applies to income earned through on-campus employment, F-1 curricular or optional practical training, J-1 academic training, or severe economic hardship employment.  If you earned income in 2021 and had FICA taxes withheld, you must first speak to your employer to request a refund.  Refer them to the Social Security / FICA provisions in IRS Publication 519 for more information.  If your employer is unable or unwilling to refund your FICA taxes, you must file IRS Form 843 and IRS Form 8316 with your federal income tax return. More information on Refund for Taxes Withheld in Error can be found on the IRS website here

Please note this must be completed and submit this form to HR every January.

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