This page is meant to guide you to information provided by federal and state tax agencies about taxes and filing. It is not meant to be tax advice, as the ISS Office is not legally authorized to do so. If you have questions about your taxes, it would be best to consult a licensed tax advisor, or contact the IRS Tax Assistance Center for general questions. If you have specific problems with the IRS regarding your tax filing, you might contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service in Honolulu. Please be aware that this service is for specific problems with the IRS that need to be addressed, and not for general help with tax filing.
Every F-1 and J-1 student who is a nonresident alien (NRA) for tax purposes should file a form 8843 (Statement for Exempt Individuals, parts I and III), whether they had U.S.-source income or not. This also applies to dependents in F-2 or J-2 status. The form 8843 does not require a tax ID for filing. DEADLINE: June 15 if submitting 8843 only. If you are a resident alien (RA) for tax purposes, then you do not have to file the form 8843. However, as an RA, you are responsible for reporting all source income, not just U.S.-source.
For an NRA with U.S.-source income, you normally file a federal income tax return with a form 1040NR. If filing the 1040NR, submit the 8843 with this form. DEADLINE: April 15 (changed to May 17 for year 2020)
You should read the instructions about "who should file?" on the instructions for form 1040NR (nonresident alien), or the form 1040 (resident alien). This should help you determine if you have to file.
State income tax returns are separate from federal returns, and taxation, if any, may be different. You should read the equivalent form instructions.
The following information refers to F-1 and J-1 students who may be filing a Federal Tax Return. It is applicable to the year for which you filing a tax return.
If you think you will be filing a U.S. income tax return, you must determine for yourself if you are a "resident for tax purposes" or a "nonresident for tax purposes." You do this by applying the Substantial Presence Test (SPT). If you are currently or were at any time in the past a student on an F, J, M, or Q visa, you are exempt from counting those days of presence in the U.S. for this test up to 5 calendar years. These years need not be consecutive.
You will be considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes if you meet the substantial presence test for the calendar year (the year you are filing taxes for, not the year in which you submit the tax return; for example, in 2021, you may submit a tax return for 2020). To meet this test, you must be physically present in the U.S. on at least:
- 31 days during the current year (the year you are filing for), and
- 183 days during the 3-year period that includes the current year and the 2 years immediately before that, counting:
- All the days you were present in the current year, and
- 1/3 of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, and
- 1/6 of the days you were present in the second year before the current year.
Based on this test, if you determine you are a resident for tax purposes, then you must file using tax forms for U.S. residents (example: form 1040). If you are a nonresident for tax purposes, you must file using tax forms for Nonresidents (example: form 1040NR).
NOTE: For state tax returns like the Hawaii State Tax Return, the SPT does not apply. The Hawaii State Tax Return definitions of residency for tax purposes are different from the federal, and has separate instructions for determining state residency. In general, F-1 and J-1 students will always be considered nonresidents on the state tax return. If you are filing a tax return for another state, read that state's instructions carefully, as they may differ state to state.
- W-2 form: Employees send this form out by the end of January each year. The form reports the total income you received from an employer during the preceding calendar year and also totals the amount of withheld funds, (for taxes, social security, health insurance premiums, etc.). Expect to receive a W-2 by the end of January. If you did not receive this form from any employer you worked for in the past year, contact them immediately to get a copy. You should receive multiple copies: one for you to keep, one to attach to and send with your federal tax form, and one to attach to and send with your state tax form.
- 1042-S form: You may receive a 1042-S form if you received non-wage-based U.S. source income such as scholarships or fellowships subject to tax withholding. UH mails out the 1042-S mid-March. Attach a copy of the 1042-S to your federal tax form.
- 1099 Forms: You will receive a 1099 form if you received dividends or interest income. These forms are generally mailed to you from banks and other financial institutions. You may also receive a 1099 form if you were paid as a consultant (not employee) by a U.S. organization.
- Have You Checked for Tax Treaty Benefits? The United States may have a tax treaty with your country of citizenship, and this treaty may limit your taxes or provide special tax benefits. See IRS Publication 901 for details.
Form 1040 NR is the correct tax form for nonresident aliens who had U.S. source income during the past year. If you are resident alien for tax purposes, then do not use the 1040NR. Use the form 1040 instead. DEADLINE: April 15
If you qualify as a "resident for tax purposes," you may use form 1040. This does not mean that you qualify for resident status for tuition purposes.
- Publication 519 U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens
- IRS Tax information for foreign students and scholars
- The NAFSA Federal Income Tax Brochure provides information to help you understand US taxation and to prepare you to complete your tax forms.
- IRS Publication 4011 Foreign Student and Scholar Volunteer Resource Guide for use in preparing tax returns.
- IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (Honolulu Office)
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Assist: 1-800-829-1040 (toll-free)
- IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service
There are many commercial tax preparation services in Honolulu. Students may wish to use one of these services. ISS recommends that students who hire a tax preparer verify that the preparer is familiar and has experience with non-resident tax forms.
- State Taxpayer Services (by County) Contact Information
- State Taxpayer Advocate - for tax problems, not for general tax filing questions
- Local Tax Preparation Assistance through Hawaii Tax Help and Goodwill Industries