Filing Requirements

Q. Who Needs to File a Return?

A. Non-resident aliens doing business in the United States are required to file a tax return regardless of income. You are considered to be engaged in business even if you are an employee working for wages.

Students or scholars visiting the United States on an F, J, M or Q visa, and classified as nonresidents for U.S. tax purposes are required to file a tax return each year they are here if they have any income subject to U.S. income tax.

Exempt individuals (explained under “Residency Status”), are required to file Form 8843 regardless of income.

Below are links to 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
  • For exempt individuals, Form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition

It doesn’t matter that your employer withheld adequate tax from your paychecks or that you have a small amount of income and owe no tax you are still supposed to file.

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 the “Residency Status” section of this site for more information. You must file Form 8843 even if you are not required to file an income tax return.

Q. What Happens If You Don’t File?

A. Just because your employer has withheld tax from your wages does not mean that you have paid the proper amount. In fact, studies show that there is massive overpayment, not underpayment, of U.S. taxes by nonresidents who do not file. You may have a sizeable refund coming your way!

Did you know you risk your visa status by failing to file a tax return?  The IRS will not impose penalties if no tax is due, but the terms of your visa require you to comply with all laws of the United States, including the requirement to file an income tax return. You might be required to show proof that you filed if you wish to change your visa status, or obtain permanent residency, or regain entry into the United States once you leave.

Q. When to File

A. If you received wages subject to U.S. tax withholding, the due date for filing your tax return is April 15 of the following year. If you did not receive taxable wages during the year, the due date for filing your tax return is June 15 of the following year.

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