U.S. Taxes

Updated 4/30/2021

Most international students and scholars are liable for taxation on any income earned in the United States (U.S.) from the beginning of their arrival in the U.S. Income can include: salary, scholarships, fellowships, money earned from U.S. mutual funds or U.S. bank accounts.



Federal and State Taxes

Taxes for the calendar year (January 2020 – December 2020) are reported in spring of the following year. 2020 Federal and State of California taxes must be postmarked by: May 17, 2021. Tax forms are filed with both the U.S. government (federal) through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. state(s) where income was earned. For example, if a student earned income in California (CA) and New York (NY), that student would file a federal tax form as well as separate state forms for both CA and NY. Refer to How to File U.S. Taxes for more information.


Determining Status as a Non-Resident Alien (NRA) or Resident for Tax Purposes

Being a non-resident (i.e. F or J visa holder) for immigration purposes does not automatically make a student or scholar a Non-Resident Alien (NRA) for tax purposes.

  • F-1 and J-1 students and their dependents are usually considered NRAs for tax purposes for their first five years in the U.S.
  • J-1 scholars are usually considered NRAs for their first two years in the U.S.

To determine status as a Non-Resident Alien (NRA) or Resident for tax purposes, refer to IRS Publications 515 and 519. For further questions, visit the IRS web site, or call 1-800-829-1040.

F and J visa holders employed by USC should review answers to frequently asked questions provided by USC Payroll Services for additional guidance.

COVID-19 Related Economic Impact Payments

Did you receive a stimulus check from the U.S. government? The U.S. government provided three rounds of Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks) to all resident aliens and U.S. citizens in 2020 and 2021. If you received the stimulus check, you either appropriately qualified as a resident alien or you filed your taxes incorrectly and should have filed as a nonresident alien. Read more


Tax Exemptions

Some students and scholars may be exempt from certain taxes, depending on their country’s tax treaties with the U.S. Please review this section for details on such exemptions.


Tax Related Forms

Students and scholars who have earned income in the U.S. should expect certain forms from their employer. These forms contain information needed to complete federal and state tax returns. Please keep all tax related forms in a safe place.


How to File U.S. Taxes

There are a several ways to file U.S. taxes. Please review the different options and select one method.


Sprintax TDS

Pre Employment Tax Documents Software from Sprintax

If you are about to begin your CPT or OPT employment, your employer will likely need you to fill out pre-employment tax documents such as a W-4 and other tax related forms. These tax forms can be difficult to understand and equally difficult to fill out but are important to make sure you are taxed correctly on your pay. Sprintax have released a service that can assist to generate your pre-employment tax documents and more ahead of your new job.