U.S. tax law divides people into resident and non-residents for tax purposes, which can be different than how immigration law defines your status. There are different rules for tax filing based on whether you are a resident or nonresident alien.
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Determining Resident Status for Tax Purposes
In general, if you have been in F or J student visa status for 5 years or less, you are considered a nonresident alien and are required to file nonresident alien tax forms. If you have been a research scholar in J visa status for 2 years or less, you also file as a nonresident alien.
International students who have been in F or J visa status for more than 5 years and research scholars who have been in J status for more than 2 years, generally file as resident aliens.
If you are unsure whether you are considered a non-resident or resident for tax purposes, please use the Substantial Presence Test (SPT) to calculate the length of time you have been in the United States. For the SPT, see the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Resident aliens for tax purposes follow the same guidelines and use the same forms as Americans. Information on filing can be found at IRS Publication 17.
ALL STUDENTS WITH OR WITHOUT INCOME: If you are in F or J status, a non-resident for tax purposes, and you were in the U.S. in 2016 (even one day!), you are required to complete and mail IRS Form 8843 ("Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition"). This is true, even if you did not work in 2016.
STUDENTS WITH INCOME: Additional to the Form 8843, if you had U.S. income in 2016 (like employment or a taxable scholarship), you are required to file IRS Form 1040NR (stands for Non-Resident) or 1040NR-EZ. You are not required to file the Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ if your only income was from bank interest. If you are unsure whether to file the 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ, our tax preparation software will determine this for you. (See below for instructions.)
The OISS makes the filing process easier for nonresident alien students! We have purchased a tax software system called GTP for you to use. It is specifically for international students and scholars and is user-friendly. Please note that Glacier Tax Prep will only assist in filing your FEDERAL tax forms, not your STATE tax forms. See the bottom of this webpage for additional information on filing STATE tax forms.
Filing tax forms is the personal responsibility of each person. You are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of your tax documents and any resulting penalties or interest.
WE SUGGEST THAT NON-RESIDENTS USE THE GTP software (INSTRUCTIONS BELOW) TO FILE YOUR TAX DOCUMENTS. OTHER TAX SOFTWARE PROGRAMS ARE NOT DESIGNED FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS AND CAN PRODUCE INACCURATE TAX DOCUMENTS. NOTE THAT NON-RESIDENTS CANNOT ELECTRONICALLY FILE TAX DOCUMENTS. ALL DOCUMENTS MUST BE MAILED.
Please use the following assistance if you have questions about taxes:
When finished with the federal tax return, if based on the information entered into GTP, it appears that you are required to file a state tax return, you will have the opportunity to continue to a state tax software preparation service called Sprintax. There is a separate fee for this service.
Michigan Taxes: http://michigan.gov/taxes
US Tax Guide for Aliens, Publication 519
US Tax Treaties Publication 901