Frequently Asked Questions - 2016 Tax Year Information

Frequently Asked Questions List

  1. What is a "tax return"? Why do I need to complete one by April 18th, 2017?
  2. How do I determine my status for tax purposes?
  3. For tax purposes I am a Nonresident Alien (NRA). Who, what, where, and when do I need to file my 2016 U.S. Federal Tax Return?
  4. For tax purposes I am a Nonresident Alien (NRA). Who, what, where, and when do I need to file my 2016 State of California (CA) Tax Return?
  5. What if I am a Nonresident Alien (NRA) and did not earn or get any U.S. source income in 2016?
  6. If I receive income in the United States do I have to pay taxes in my home country?
  7. If I claim a tax treaty exemption, do I need to file a U.S. Federal tax return?
  8. Where can I obtain Tax Return Filing Assistance?
  9. Where can I get more assistance related to specific tax questions I have about my situation?

What is a "tax return"? Why do I need to complete one by April 18th, 2017?

The phrase "tax return" does not mean that you are filing documents to get your tax withholding money returned, although that could happen. Filing a tax return is the act of "returning" a report form to the U.S. Government (IRS) that notes the amount of U.S. source income you received during the previous 2016 calendar year (from 01/01/2016 to 12/31/2016), what taxes were withheld on this income, and what amount you should had tax withholding deductions on.

  • When completing and filing the tax return(s) you may find out that you paid too much tax on your 2016 income. In general, for tax purposes this is called a "tax refund" and may be refunded to you by either the IRS or FTB.
  • When completing and filing the tax return(s) you may find out that you did not pay enough taxes on your 2016 income. In general, for tax purposes this is called a "tax liability" and you will owe money to the IRS and/or FTB. You will interest on any tax not paid by April 15, 2017.

NOTE: Per the IRS, Nonresident Alien (NRA) international students and scholars CANNOT electronically file (E-FILE) their tax return online using any online service, including the IRS Free File service. Nonresident returns cannot be faxed in. They must instead complete and mail paper Forms 1040-NR, 1040-NR-EZ and 8843 to the IRS. Also, per U.S. tax laws, IRS Forms 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ CANNOT be filed by NRAs. Failure to file a tax return, or filing it incorrectly, can and may result in severe penalties, fines, and interest on unpaid taxes, along with jeopardize future permanent residency application approvals.

No special mailing is needed. Just put the tax return in an appropriate size envelope and add the required first-class postage. Federal and state tax returns must be postmark by the due dates or failure to file penalties may be assessed.

NOTE: Generally, the due date to file tax returns is April 15th. However, some calendar years the due date is on a Monday because of the Emancipation Holiday in the District of Columbia – even if you do not live in the District of Columbia (aka Washington D.C.).


How do I determine my status for tax purposes?

Per U.S. tax laws, if you are not a U.S. citizen, you are considered a Nonresident Alien (NRA)PDF File Opens in new window for tax purposes unless you meet one of two tests, either the green card testPDF File Opens in new window or the substantial presence test (SPT)PDF File Opens in new window for the calendar year (January 1st to December 31st). You are a Resident Alien (RA)PDF File Opens in new window for tax purposes for the calendar year 2016 if you meet both of those tests. You may also be a Resident Alien (RA) for tax purposes in the U.S. for more than five years as a student.

Individuals can be a both a Nonresident Alien (NRA) and a Resident Alien (RA) for tax purposes during the same tax year, called a Dual Status AlienOpens in new window for tax purposes. This usually occurs in the year you arrive or depart from the United States. Further clarification on determining one's tax status can be found in IRS Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for AliensOpens in new window .


For tax purposes I am a Nonresident Alien (NRA). Who, what, where, and when do I need to file my 2016 U.S. Federal Tax Return?

The total amount of U.S. source income earned in 2016 (From 1/1/2016 to 12/31/2016) U.S. Federal Tax Return Form(s) that Need to be Completed & Filed IRS Tax Return Filing Deadlines
You had more than $4,050 of U.S. source income (total wages from a U.S. based job, U.S. scholarships, etc.) IRS Form 1040-NR-EZ or 1040-NR AND IRS Form 8843 April 18th, 2017
You claimed a tax treaty benefit any time during the year 2017 for ANY U.S. source income (i.e. signed a Form 8233) IRS Form 1040-NR-EZ or 1040-NR AND IRS Form 8843 April 18th, 2017

You had the following:

  1. No U.S. source income, or
  2. Your U.S. source income was $4,050 or less, or
  3. Your only U.S. source income was bank or credit union interest

Note: If there has been withholding deductions (Box 2 on W-2 Form) on wages (for whatever reason) totaling less than $4,050, then the individual should file a return to possibly claim the refund.

IRS Form 8843 June 15th, 2017

Your only U.S. source income was a taxable U.S. source scholarship/fellowship (you were not required to work to receive this money).

IRS Form 1040-NR-EZ or 1040-NR AND IRS Form 8843

April 18th, 2017

For tax purposes I am a Nonresident Alien (NRA). Who, what, where, and when do I need to file my 2016 State of California (CA) Tax Return?

All international students and scholars will need to complete a State of California income tax return if they had:

  • Earned $13,278 or more (including scholarship income) of gross income as a single taxpayer.
  • Income less than $13,278 of gross income and had California state taxes withheld.

For further assistance and additional information about proper state tax return forms, please visit the forms section of the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) website at https://www.ftb.ca.gov/Opens in new window . The deadline for filing the 2016 State of California tax return forms is April 18th, 2017.* (* Due to the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16, 2017, tax returns filed and payments mailed or submitted on April 18, 2017, will be considered timely to only CA Franchise Tax Board)


What if I am a Nonresident Alien (NRA) and did not earn or get any U.S. source income in 2016?

All nonresident alien (NRA) international students and scholars under F, J, M and Q Visa types in the United States in the 2016 calendar year still must complete a 2016 IRS Form 8843 even if they had no U.S. income.

Generally, the requirement to file a Form 1040NR-EZ federal tax return has been eliminated for nonresident aliens who earn wages effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business that are less than the amount of one personal exemption, $4,050 for 2016.


If I receive income in the United States do I have to pay taxes in my home country?

A nonresident alien who earns or receives U.S. source income must pay tax and report that income in both their home country and the United States of America. A non-U.S. citizen may be required to report and/or pay taxes in their home country on any U.S. source income. International student and scholar are individually responsible to contact their home country‘s tax agency or government office regarding additional tax reporting and payment requirements.


If I claim a tax treaty exemption, do I need to file a U.S. Federal tax return?

Yes, a non-U.S. citizen who claims a tax treaty exemption still must file a U.S. Federal tax return and a State of California tax return. The tax treaty exemption does not exempt you from filing a tax return. A paper tax return must be mailed in.


Where can I obtain Tax Return Filing Assistance?

Filing federal income tax forms is the personal responsibility of each international student and scholar.

Our campus’s IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program does offer on-campus assistance to most domestic and international individuals who qualify. Click here for dates, times and additional information.

In addition, visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and California Franchise Tax Board websites for further assistance. Links can be found in tax forms portion above.


Where can I get more assistance related to specific tax questions I have about my situation?

  • IRS Telephone Advice : 1-800-829-1040 or 1-800-829-3676
  • State of California (FTB) Income Tax Telephone Advice: 1-800-338-0505

For questions related to U.S. Federal international tax matters, call the IRS International Office at (215) 516-2000.

For questions related to State of California tax matters, call the CA Franchise Tax Board at 1-800-852-5711..