Note: Because U.S. tax laws are very complicated and legal issues are involved, we recommend you obtain professional help when completing your income tax returns. The staff of The International Center does not have the specialized training needed to assist you when completing your tax forms.

Paying taxes in the U.S.

In the U.S., as in most countries, a tax is placed on income earned. If you earn income in the U.S., income tax will be withheld from your paycheck, this includes:

  • Federal Income Tax.
  • State Income Tax.
  • FICA (Federal Social Security Tax).

In addition, you are required to file an income tax return for income earned during the calendar year. You file an income tax return to determine whether you have a) paid too much tax and are eligible for a tax refund or b) you have not paid enough income and and are required to pay additional taxes.

Taxpayers must file separate tax returns to the Federal Government and the State of Utah.

Income tax is paid yearly and is based on income earned during the previous year. For example, income earned during the 2009 calendar year must be reported by April 15, 2010. (The calendar year is from January 1 to December 31.)

Nonresident Aliens may be exempt from paying the FICA tax. Generally, authorized J-1 employment, including practical and academic training, is exempt from the social security tax provided you are a non resident for tax purposes.

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Who Must File

Non resident Aliens (NRA) must pay federal income tax unless such income is exempt under a tax treaty.

In some instances, your income may have been so low that you will not be required to complete the Income Tax return form. Make sure you fall into this category before you decide not to file a tax return. Note: The IRS recommends you file a tax return even if you did not make enough money to file. “Even if you do not have to file a return, you should file one to get a refund of any Federal Income Tax withheld.”

Keep in mind that you will have to complete Form 8843. Also, if you plan to change your visa status, the USCIS office will want to see your income tax returns for the past three years.

ITIN – Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

The ITIN is issued by the Internal Revenue Service to individuals who do not have or are not eligible for a Social Security Number, but must complete a Federal Income Tax Return. The ITIN has no other purpose and cannot be used outside the federal tax reporting system. For further information, check ITIN on the IRS's website.

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Resident or Non Resident for Tax Purposes

Federal Income Tax

  • J-1 Researchers and Faculty are generally considered non residents for two calendar years.
  • The amount of taxable income and the percentage of taxes withheld depends in part on whether you are classified a resident or nonresident for tax purposes.
  • Please note: Residence or non-residence for tax purposes is not the same as residence (immigrant status) or non-residence (non immigrant status) for immigrant purposes.
  • IRS publication 519 explains the rules to determine tax residency for those who are not U.S. citizens.

Utah State Tax

Utah’s income tax is based on your federal adjusted gross income. If you have a federal tax treaty which exempts all of your income from tax, generally you will not have to pay Utah State taxes.

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Tax Treaty

The U.S. currently has tax treaty with more than 50 countries. These treaties are designed to decrease the likelihood that the non-resident alien (NRA) will be taxed on the same income both in the U.S. and the country of tax residency. For a list of U.S. Income Tax Treaties, visit the IRS's United States Tax Treaties web page.

In order for The University to honor your tax treaty and reduce your tax withholding you will need to complete the appropriate forms. Please check with the University’s Tax Services and Payroll Office.

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Form 8843 – Statement for Exempt Individuals

Everyone with a J-1 exchange visitor visa and their J-2 dependents must submit Form 8843 (PDF) each year to the International Revenue Service (IRS) even if they earned no income in the U.S. Form 8843 is not a tax return, but a tax information form that must be submitted to the U.S. Government. Completing Form 8843 is part of the visa requirements for the categories listed.

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  • In the U.S. paying income tax is taken very seriously by both the Federal and State Government. Do not fail to complete the proper forms, as there are severe penalties for not filing your income tax return. Also, filing an income tax return is part of your agreement to abide by the visa regulations governing your stay in the U.S.
  • We recommend you seek professional help in completing tax forms; please check “Where to find help” in the next section to locate available sources that can help you with your tax returns.
  • We strongly recommend you complete your tax returns early. Waiting until the last minute, as many Americans do, can be time consuming and frustrating. You may complete your tax return as soon as you receive your W-2 form(s), however, you do not need to mail or file electronically the tax return until April 15.
  • Make sure you keep copies for your records of documents from both your Federal tax return and your State tax return.
  • Make sure you mail or file electronically your Federal and State returns no later than April 15.

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Where to Find Help

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers assistance on line, by phone and in person.

The State of Utah also offers help online, by phone and in person. Visit their Utah Income Tax - TaxExpress web page for online filing.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is offered to international visitors yearly by The Epsilon Psi charter of the Beta Alpha Psi fraternity. The VITA Program offers free tax help to low to moderate income people who cannot prepare their own tax return. Assistance with non-residents returns (1040NR) generally began February 22 and runs through April 15.

There are many private firms and individuals who offer tax assistance. Make sure you are dealing with a reputable firm or individual, and make sure you know how much the fee will be before you agree to have the work done for you.

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Explanation of Terms

Term Explanation
NRA Nonresident Alien
W-2 Withholding tax You will receive this form from your employer(s). It will show how much you have earned during the calendar year and the amount of money withheld from your earnings for both Federal and State tax. You must have this form to complete your Federal and Utah State Tax returns.
Form 1040NR U.S. Non Resident Alien Tax Return (Instructions)
Form 1040NR-EZ U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Non Resident Aliens with no Dependents (Instructions - Short Form)
FICA Federal Social Security Tax
IRS Internal Revenue Service – the branch of the U.S. Government that collects taxes.

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Government Forms

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