Who Needs to File a Return?
If you are a nonresident alien doing business or working in the United States you are required to file an income tax return if your U.S. source income is greater than your personal exemption ($4,000 in 2015). You are considered to be engaged in a business even if you are an employee working for wages. If you are a student or scholar visiting the United States on an F, J, M or Q visa, and are classified as a nonresident for U.S. tax purposes, you are required to file a Federal income tax return each year if you have any income subject to U.S. income tax.
Additionally, if you are an exempt individual (explained under “Residency Status”), you are required to file Form 8843 regardless of your income. Here is a description of the forms you are required to file:
- Form 1040NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return, or if you qualify, Form 1040NR-EZ, U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents, and
- For exempt individuals, Form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition.
Form 8843 is required if you are an “exempt individual.” This does not mean you are exempt from paying U.S. taxes, but that you are exempt from the substantial presence test for determining residency status. See “Residency Status.” You must file Form 8843 even if you are not required to file an income tax return.
These forms and instructions can be downloaded from the IRS Web site at Forms & Publications.
What Happens If You Don’t File?
Even if your employer has withheld tax from your wages, that does not mean that you have paid the correct proper amount of taxes. You could be due a refund! What happens if you don’t have any tax liability? Do you still have to file a return? The answer is yes. In addition, your visa require you to comply with all laws of the United States, including the requirement to file an income tax return. You may be required to show proof that you filed if:
- You wish to change your visa status
- Obtain permanent residency, or
- Regain entry into the United States
Don’t risk your visa status by failing to comply with the necessary filing requirement. If you have multiple unfiled returns, and you were required to file, no worries, we can help you. Visit the Contact Page and call or send us an email.
When and Where to File
If you receive wages subject to U.S. tax withholding, the due date for filing your tax return is April 15 of the subsequent year. Your Form 1040NR for Form 1040NR-EZ (including Form 8843) must be sent to the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Austin TX 73301. See IRS Publication 519 for more information.
Other Useful Information
You must determine whether you are a resident, a nonresident, or a dual status alien for tax purposes not immigration status. Even though you are a citizen of another country, you might still be considered a U.S. resident for U.S. tax purposes. This is an important first step because it determines whether you must file, what form to file, and whether you are eligible for treaty benefits. IRS Publication 519 explains how to determine your residency status.
If you determine that you are a nonresident or dual status alien, all the information you will probably need to complete your nonresident or dual status return is contained in two Internal Revenue Service booklets and the instructions to Form 1040-NR. The IRS booklets are Publication 519 (U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens) and Publication 901 (U.S. Tax Treaties).
If you are a resident of Canada, you will also find IRS Publication 597 (Information on the United States-Canada Income Tax Treaty) helpful. All of this material can be obtained from the IRS Web site at Forms and Publications.
Here is a list of all the forms and publications you should need:
- Form 1040NR and Instructions or Form 1040NR-EZ and Instructions.
- Form 8843
- Form 843 (for improperly withheld social security tax)
- Publication 519
- Publication 901
- Publication 597 (if you are from Canada)