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International Revenue Service

As a foreign student, do I have to pay any U.S. taxes?

The U.S. tax system can be a source of confusion for international students. You are taxed on any earnings made while you are in the country. If you perform any paid work, you are required to report it on your tax return, but the tax you actually pay requires expert advice.

Filing a tax return is a condition of your student visa, and you could face a severe tax penalty for filing a false return.  As an international student, you are entitled to benefits and exemptions and maybe a refund if you have paid too much tax. You will be officially considered as a non-resident alien while attending college. This status may exempt you from taxes, but it largely depends on your visa status and whether you have undertaken any work.

You will not be taxed on any earnings outside the U.S. providing your status remains non-resident alien. You can file this yourself or use a tax preparation service, but there are fees attached. The IRS considers income as wages from part-time jobs such as teaching assistant or interest earned from savings or a loan placed in a U.S. bank.

Scholarships are subject to taxation, if the amount you receive is in excess of tuition. The college may withhold up to 14% of the amount of your scholarship over the amount of your tuition. The actual amount withheld will depend on your tax status and whether the U.S. has a tax treaty with your home country.

Eligibility for tax treaty benefits are determined by your status as a non-resident, receipt of U.S. source income, your visa type, and your country of origin. When you submit a tax return, you need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The International Tax Office on your campus advises students about tax returns.

Student financial services can also revise your financial aid to reflect your taxes. They can increase the scholarship portion of your freshman financial aid package to offset any withholding taxes.

Tax returns must be filed by April 15 to receive any tax refund due from withholding during the previous year. Assistance for this process is available from the college Office of International Student and Scholars. Taxation issues for international students can be confusing. However, campus student services can offer advice and guidance.

“Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them,” Margaret Mitchell.