Tax Information for International Students & Scholars

TAX DEADLINE: April 15, 2021

If you were in the United States for any duration of time in 2020 you may have a federal tax obligation. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code contains special provisions that apply to non-immigrants in F and J status.  For foreign students and scholars, certain income may be exempt from tax payment. Factors affecting your tax obligation include the following:

  • US. residency or non-residency. This refers to your tax status, not your immigration status.
  • California state residency (for tax purposes). Even if you are exempt from federal taxes, you may be required to pay state taxes.
  • Tax treaties between the U.S. and your home government.
  • Worldwide income compared to income earned in the U.S. and in California.
  • Spouse employment.
  • Scholarships. In general, scholarships that cover costs beyond tuition and books as taxable.

The U.S. tax season is from January 1 to April 15 every year. The Office of International Students & Scholars works in conjunction with USD Payroll Department to provide an online tax preparation service through Sprintax for the use of our international students and scholars which will walk you through the necessary steps to complete your tax obligation. We host a series of workshops where students can attend to complete their tax obligations with OISS and Payroll staff present, through Sprintax (dates below). We highly recommend attending a workshop and utilizing the Sprintax software.

Please Note: OISS and the Payroll Department cannot give students specific tax advice since our advisors are not licensed tax professionals. It is your responsibility to file the appropriate tax documents by the deadline. You should only use tax professionals who have training in international student/non-resident regulations to help file your taxes correctly.

Determine your tax category:

You must first determine which of the following tax categories you fall under:
  1. Resident Alien (RA) or
  2. Non-Resident Alien (NRA)

To make this determination you have two options:

  1. Take the Substantial Presence Test (SPT) on the IRS website. 
    • The SPT is a test based on the number of days present in the U.S. which determines if you are considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes.
  2. Use the Sprintax software which will walk you through the SPT process to determine if you are an RA or NRA.

Individuals on an F, J, M or Q visa are often exempt from taking the SPT (and therefore considering a Non-Resident Alien for tax purposes). Use this helpful decision tree to determine if you are exempt.

Once you know your tax category, either Resident Alien or Non-Resident Alien, proceed using the information below:

  • I am a Non Resident Alien for tax purposes - what do I need to file?
  • I am a Resident Alien for tax purposes - what do I need to file?
  • Sprintax Tax Preparation Software:
  • Frequently Asked Questions:
  • Additional Resources:
  • Beware of Scams