Federal, State and City Tax info for International Students in the US

International students are legally perceived as alien in the US. However, if you have a US source of income, you are required to file your tax. The taxes that you need to file are: Federal Tax, State Tax, and City Tax. Since you are not eligible for any benefits from US Government, including social security benefit and Medicare, you are not required to pay tax for social security and Medicare.

Filing taxes in a foreign country might be a new experience for you. Therefore, in this section we are trying to provide some information on filling tax for international students.
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  Student Taxes

When Should I File My Taxes?

Normally the due date to file your taxes for a particular year is on April 15 of the next year. However, sometime the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) adjusts it to accommodate holidays or any other issues that may come up. IRS is a US government agency that is in charge of taxes.


Do I Pay My Tax Once a Year When I File It?

You file your tax with the IRS once a year. However, normally you do not pay your tax in a lump sum once a year. Every time you get your paycheck (usually bi-weekly), your income will be deducted for Federal tax, State tax, and City tax. The amount that is deducted for tax purposes is withheld by your employer and being paid directly to the IRS.

When you file your tax, you can see whether you paid too much or too little for your tax. If you paid too much you will get a tax return. On the other hand, if you paid too little, you will have to pay the remaining unpaid tax.


How Do I Find Out the Total Tax that Has Been Withheld from My Paycheck?

Sometime in January or February you will be getting a W-2 form from your employee. In the W-2 form, you can see how much money you have paid for tax purposes. If you work for more than one place in a particular year, you should be getting a W-2 form from each of those employees. The total tax that you have paid is the sum of all taxes shown in all W-2 forms.


Could You Provide Me a Step-by-Step Guidance on Filing My Taxes?

Federal Tax

The link below provides a step-by-step guidance on filling your federal tax.

Filling Federal Tax for International Student (Source: utexas.edu, 2007)

Every year the IRS provides an updated and downloadable Federal Tax Forms and Instruction. Below documents are tax forms and instructions related to alien for 2005 tax that is filed in 2006.


Forms and Instructions


Departing Alien Income Tax Return

1040-ES (NR)

U.S. Estimated Tax for Nonresident Alien Individuals


U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return


U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents


U.S. Departing Alien Income Tax Return


Exemption From Withholding on Compensation for Independent Personal Services of a
Nonresident Alien Individual


Information Regarding Request for Refund of Social Security Tax Erroneously Withheld on
Wages Received by a Nonresident Alien on an F, J, or M Type Visa


Closer Connection Exception Statement for Aliens




U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens (PDF)


U.S. Tax Treaties (PDF)


Tax Benefits for Education (PDF)

(Source: irs.gov, 2007)


State Tax

State tax and City tax are relatively more simple and easier to file compared to Federal tax. Once you file your Federal tax, you will get an idea on how to file your state tax and city tax.

If you want to find the forms and instructions for your state tax and where to file your tax, you can visit taxsites.com. In the website, click on the state where you’ve worked for the past year. You should be able to find forms and other general information related to state tax.


 Can I File My Tax Online?

Yes, you can file your tax either online or by sending the paperwork to the IRS. The advantage of filing your tax online is that you can get your tax return faster. However, for certain service provider, you will have to pay a service fee. Many on-line companies provide on-line tax service. Two most common websites used by international students are:

  • CINTAX (login instruction PDF)
    In order to use CINTAX you will have to check with your college or university if it has purchased a
    license agreement to use CINTAX. If so, you can use CINTAX free of charge. The first time you
    attempt to login, you will be asked your institution password. Most likely, you will get if from your International Student Office.
  • Istaxes.com
    In order to use this website, your college / university does not have to purchase any license
    agreement to use istaxes.com. However, you will have to pay a certain amount of service fee.


What If I Do Not Have a Social Security Number?

Normally if you have an employment or at least have a job offer letter, you can easily get a social security number. However, if by any reason you do not have a social security number and you need to pay tax. You can request an ITIN (Individual Tax Payer Identification) number. The form to request an ITIN number is the W-7 Form. If you file your tax on-line, some service provider will fill-out the W-7 Form automatically for you.

In short, you only need to request an ITIN number if:

  • You are not eligible for a Social Security Number

  • Your country has a tax treaty that allows you to include your spouse and/or dependents on your tax
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