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International Student Taxes

Tax Obligations for F-1 and J-1 Students

All international students have an obligation to file an annual tax report or return. All students are required to file Form 8843 for themselves and any dependents for each of their first five calendar years in the United States, even if the student has no income. If income is earned, whether through employment or scholarships which exceed tuition, students must file a tax return to report those earnings.

In most cases, the requirements of filing taxes as a non-resident apply only for the first five calendar years that you are in the US as an F-1 or J-1 student or the first two calendar years that you are in the US as a J-1 professor or scholar. Even if you were in the US in F-1 or J-1 status for only one day in any calendar year, you must count that day as that whole calendar year. If you have been in the US for longer than five calendar years, you will likely file as a resident alien for tax purposes. Talk with your international student advisor if you are unsure.

Tax Resources

Federal Taxes
Filing Taxes as a Non-Resident Alien

Taxes are very complex, but the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) can serve as a resource to help international students complete the necessary requirements. 

The best resource that the CGE has to offer is Sprintax, a software that helps prepare the forms and returns that each student needs to complete. Your international student advisor will provide international students with a link and a code each year so that students may prepare their Form 8843 and/or federal tax return at no cost to the student. Students who have been employed may also pay an additional fee to use Sprintax to prepare their state tax return. It is possible to complete your state taxes on a paper form for students who do not want to pay for Sprintax to complete the state tax return. Contact your international student advisor for assistance.

Filing Taxes as a Resident Alien

In general, if you have been in the US as an F-1 or J-1 student for more than five calendar years, you will file as a resident alien for tax purposes. If you are unsure, talk with your international student advisor. There are both advantages and disadvantages to filing as a "resident alien for tax purposes" compared to filing as a non-resident.

The bad news

  • your bank interest is considered taxable income (not taxable for non-residents)
  • you must declare your worldwide income (non-residents declare only US income)
  • Social Security and Medicare taxes are withheld from your wages
  • you cannot use Sprintax

The good news

  • you can file electronically
  • you may not need to file any forms if your gross income was below a certain threshold
  • you may be able to claim the following credits, exemptions or deductions
    • Child Tax Credit
    • Childcare Credit
    • Education Credits (See IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education)
    • Earned Income Credit
    • Personal Exemption for qualified spouse and dependent children (must have Social Security Number or ITIN)
    • Standard deduction or itemized deductions

Georgia State Taxes

If you file a federal tax return (1040NR or 1040NR-EZ), you must file a Georgia state tax return.

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