All international students MUST file taxes – even if you have never worked in the United States.
Filing an income tax return is required by law and is not voluntary. If you fail to file taxes, the Internal Revenue Service can assess penalties and interest, and can seize U.S. bank assets for payment. Fines and penalties often amount to more than the original tax debt.
There can also be immigration consequences for failing to file taxes. Applicants for permanent residency are frequently asked to provide proof of tax filing.
Doing your own taxes can often be quite complicated. Therefore, the Office of International Programs has compiled the following information to assist you. However, Whittier College and the Office of International Programs staff are not tax professionals and cannot provide individualized tax advising and/or filing assistance.
When do I need to file the tax forms?
Tax statements will be sent to you after January 1. These will come from your employer(s), bank(s), Whittier College, etc. The deadline for submitting your tax forms is April 15.
What tax forms do I need to file?
If you did not earn any income during the previous year, you must submit the following:
If you did earn income during the previous year, you will need to submit the following:
- Form 8843
- If you earned above a certain amount of money, you may also be required to submit California State tax returns using Form 540NR Long Form or Form540NR Short Form. To see if you need to file California State taxes, visit the Franchise Tax Board’s website, scroll to the bottom of the page, click “Continue”, then answer each question to determine if you are required to file California State taxes or not.
What information do I need to file my taxes?
You will need a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to complete the Federal 1040 NR, Federal 1040NR-EZ, and California State 540NR. If you do not have a SSN or ITIN at the time you file taxes, you may apply for an ITIN in conjunction with filing your tax return. You do not need a SSN or ITIN to file the Form 8843.
You will also need any tax statements supplied by your employer(s), Whittier College (or other colleges you have attended), bank(s), etc. The most common forms students and scholars receive are:
- Form W-2 (showing any wages or earnings)
- Form 1042-S (for tax exempt payments due to a tax treaty)
- Form 1099 (showing any interest earned from bank accounts)
- Form 1098-T (for tuition payments)
Note: You may receive additional and/or different forms depending on your own personal circumstances, such as if you own a home, earned income through investments, etc.
How do I file my taxes?
- You may file your taxes yourself. You can get forms and information from the Internal Revenue Service and California Franchise Tax Board.
- You can consult a local tax preparer. Keep in mind, many people who make a business out of preparing taxes are NOT qualified to help you. You MUST find a tax preparer that is comfortable working with non-resident taxes. You will be charged a fee for this service.
- If you want help in filing your taxes, Sprintax is a good resource. The tax software is specifically designed for international students and scholars. You will need to fill in your information and answer some questions and the software will complete the required forms, help you apply for an ITIN (if necessary), and will file your forms electronically. There is a fee associated with this service, which will vary depending on the complexity of your returns.