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Should all F1 students file taxes? When ? Information on International students (F1 Visa) tax filing?

Taxes F1 Students International students I still remember those days of my first time student days in US when I was on F1 visa and trying to file taxes during the last minute. There was a lot of confusion, finding information asking seniors and  school officials. I will try to put in some of my key experiences, questions and answers and try to point to right places so that you get right idea. I am not a tax expert and not writing anything here. These are just experiences and resources links.

Is tax filing Free for F1 Visa International students? Whom to ask ?

Depending on the school, Universities enroll in some kind of tax programs that let international Students on F1 visa to file taxes for free. For instance, American University at Washington DC has purchased license of Free ONLINE CINTAX ( CINTAX – Complete International Tax Preparation Software for International Students.)  You should ask your particular School’s international students office to get full information about the Tax filing information and if the School is enrolled in any of that kind of program. You can also ask the Financial Aid or Cashier’s office for some direction on whom to contact. Bottom-line, don’t just keep searching online, it is worth to call and ask quickly and get information. In fact, some schools bring in certified tax professionals to help international students with tax filing.

What if your school or University is not enrolled in any free tax program?

The school I studied in did not enroll in any kind of tax program. So, we had to look for other choices. In fact there are many volunteer organizations that have certified tax assistants to help out students, seniors and low income holders. Best place to check for these kinds of opportunities are local PUBLIC libraries. Public libraries of county  or city will have certified volunteer sessions to help students. For instance,  Volunteer org AARP provide free tax prep services . You should check the Public libraries Calendar to see any events. For instance, Harris county libraries free tax sessions 2010

General last date to file taxes of year 2009 in 2010 ?

April 15th, 2010.

Should I file taxes as a student even if I did not work?

Yes and NO. If you did not work and did not get paid, you do not need to file taxes. But, you still NEED to file form 8843. Check IRS Site for form 8843

Taxes are very sensitive issues and IRS will not tolerate if you miss to pay something to them or if you fail to inform them. I do not want to write much as I am not a tax expert. You SHOULD read the below articles from few Universities Websites which are written by professionals to help International students on F1 Visa to get full Information :

Do NOT mess with taxes, they are very important for your future in USA either Green Card or Working on H1B visa.

Image Credits : http://www.flickr.com/photos/ovlov/3445751512/


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  1. Hey guys I’m F1 on my OPT as well. My roommate told me that he has found some kind of self-preparation software and I’m intending to try it. It was something like spentax or spritax not sure anyway. What do you think about this kind of tax preparation? I’m afraid i will do mistakes on my tax return like the last year and this could cost me money i don’t know what to do. I have considered the idea for hiring tax expert but this sounds kind of expensive.. Thanks

  2. Hi Saurabh!

    Excellent Blog.
    I am on my OPT too. Been in the US since Aug ’10 and graduated in Aug ’11. Working with a company in NJ since Dec ’09. I had a couple of questions for you, on which your advice will be appreciated.

    I had no idea about the Form 8843 during the year 2010 period, and hence didn’t file it.
    – Do I need to do something about it? Like inform the IRS or send in a 2010 form 8843 now……?
    – In 2011, Part year student, and part year on OPT and working – do I need to file the form 8843 along with my taxes….?

    From another topic, on my Status: Am I a Non-Resident Alien(NRA) or an Resident Alien(RA)?
    Its a question on the tax forms, I have a lot of mixed feedback on that.
    Basically, RA qualifies me for a EIC and NRA doesn’t.
    Could you put some light on that too…..

    • Apologies, correction to the ” Working with a company in NJ since Dec ’09. ”

      That’s actually “since Dec ’11”


      • Hi Gautam,

        If you did not have any income during the tax year you must still file form 8843. If you missed filing form 8843 during previous years that you were on F1 visa simply get an older version of form 8843 from the IRS website and fill it out and send it over to IRS. This should fix previous year issue.

        If you are part year full time student and part year on CPT/OPT; you are still considered non-resident alien (if your student stay has been less then 5 years) since both of which fall under F1 visa. File form 1040NR in that case.

  3. Hello,
    I am in 1st OPT.Working in small company in Florida.
    They don’t know anything about OPT taxes.Everyone are GC holders.
    For 15 days my GrossPayment is 1269.23
    in my check it showing Federa 189.42
    FICA – O 53.31
    FICA – M 18.40

    When i was browsing i realized
    the Form 843 that i need to file to claim a refund for the Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld. ( IRS Pub 519 )
    That means do i need to file Form 843 now ? or do i need to file end of the year for tax returns.
    how much i need to pay for federal tax with my OPT.
    Any information is helpful.
    Thank you so much for helping us to solve our problems.

    • Yes, it needs to be filed along w/ the tax return. Your federal tax rate doesn’t change w/ OPT. The only money you save is on Social Security which is currently 4.2% of your paycheck.


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