Taxes in the U.S.

Center for International and Cultural Education

Tax Workshops. The Center for International and Cultural Education provides tax workshops each year for students to complete non-resident tax returns. It is recommended that you attend one of those tax workshops, or use a professional tax preparer or service who have expertise with non-resident tax returns.

Tax Return requirement. If you were an F-1 or J-1 student in the U.S. during any part of the year, and a non-resident for tax purposes, you are required to file a federal tax return for that year. You may be required to also file a Minnesota State tax return, depending on your circumstances.

Non-residents (for tax purposes). You should complete a non-resident tax return if you are an F-1 student and have been in the U.S. for 5 years or less, or are a J-1 student and have been in the U.S. for 2 years or less. The non-resident tax returns are Form 8843 and Form 1040-NR-EZ (short version) or Form 1040-NR (long version), and can be found on the IRS website.

Residents (for tax purposes). If you have been in the U.S. for any part of more than 5 calendar years in F-1 status or any part of more than 2 calendar years in J-1 status, then you are considered a "resident" for tax purposes if you meet the the Substantial Presence Test. If you have been in the U.S. enough days, under the substantial presence test, you would be considered a resident for tax purposes, and would complete Form 1040, which is the same tax return that U.S. citizens and permanent residents complete, and can be found on the IRS website.

State Tax Return. If you only worked in Minnesota, get information and forms from the Minnesota Department of Revenue. If you worked in another state, you should find the tax forms from the department of revenue or tax department of that state.

Form W-2. If you worked at Gustavus or off-campus, you will have a Form W-2 from each employer, showing the amount that you earned (box 1) and the amount of federal taxes withheld (box 2) and the amount of state taxes withheld (box 17). You will need a Form W-2s from each employer to complete your tax return. Your Gustavus Form W-2 can be found on Webadvisor. 

Tax filing deadline. The IRS requires that your tax return be mailed by April 15. If you only need to file Form 8843, you must mail it by June 15.

Consequences of not filing a tax return. If you owe taxes and do not file, the IRS can assess a penalty and interest and seize U.S. bank assets for repayment. There can also be immigration consequences for failing to file taxes. Applicants for permanent residency “green cards” are frequently asked to show proof of tax filing for previous years in the U.S. 

Refunds. Refunds for federal and state taxes are electronically deposited only in U.S. bank accounts. If your refund is not electronically deposited, a check will be sent by mail, to the address that you used on your tax return. You may check on the status of your federal tax refund on the IRS website and your Minnesota tax refund on the Minnesota Department of Revenue website

Tax return resources: 

  • Gustavus non-resident tax workshops are free and normally the best option for current students.
  • If you are in graduate school, your school may have tax software or services to help you complete your return.
  • A professional tax preparer who has expertise with non-resident tax returns.
  • The Nonresident Tax Help Group may be an option if you live in or near Minneapolis or Saint Paul.
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) may be an option if your site does non-resident tax returns.
  • Glacier Tax Prep and Sprintax do non-resident tax returns, for a fee.

Online tax services. BE VERY CAREFUL! There are other online tax services, such as TurboTax, H&R Block, or TaxSlayer, who may not do non-resident tax returns, but they may accept your payment and incorrectly advise you to complete the resident tax return, which would be a serious problem if you are supposed to complete the non-resident form. Completing the wrong tax return (resident instead on non-resident) can result in penalties or charges of tax fraud. If you use an online tax service, first make sure that they have expertise with non-resident tax returns.

Scam Warning. International students can be targets for email and phone scams related to taxes. The IRS or Minnesota Department of Revenue and other government agencies will NEVER contact you by phone or email to demand an immediate payment or to warn you of a fine or tax obligation.