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Who must file US Tax Forms/Returns?

In general, nonresident aliens must file tax returns if they engage in any trade or business in the US (Studying, teaching and performing research are all considered to be activities in which the taxpayer is engaged in a trade or business.)

Student and Scholar Exception:

Nonresident aliens who are students, teachers, or trainees and are temporarily present in the US under a F or J visa, must file a return if they have income that is subject to withholding, even if no tax is withheld. However, a form 8843 must be filed regardless if income was earned or not.

What is the difference between a non-resident alien and a resident alien for tax purposes?

Resident aliens for tax purposes are taxed like US Citizens. Generally, students are nonresident aliens for tax purposes for five years and after five years, become resident aliens for tax purposes. Since resident aliens and nonresident aliens are taxed differently, it is important for you to determine your status. You are considered a nonresident alien for any period that you are neither a US citizen nor a US resident alien, unless you make a first-year choice to be treated as a resident alien. You are considered a resident alien if you meet one of two tests for the calendar year. For specific information, refer to Tax Topic 851, Resident and Nonresident Aliens.

Can nonresident aliens file joint tax returns?

Nonresident aliens cannot file joint Federal or state tax returns.

I do not have any US earned income; why should I file a tax form?

If you did not have any US earned income, or did not receive a scholarship or fellowship grant, then you do not have to file taxes. However, you still need to file Form 8843. If you are filing Form 8843 only, the due date is June 15.

If you do not have tax liability, the IRS will not penalize students and scholars for not filing (although they must still file Form 8843). However, students and scholars need to stay in compliance with all laws in the US, including income tax filing. If you want to apply for residency at a later date, you may be asked to show proof of tax compliance.

For instructions on how to file the Form 8843, you may use one of the online services listed above such as CINTAX or you can go to

I am only here for one semester. How can I file US taxes outside the US?

If you will not be in the US when taxes are due, then you can file outside the US. Make sure that your employer knows your new address so that they can send you a W-2 form.

How can I get help with filling Federal and State Tax forms?

The CINTAX Software listed above provides step-by-step assistance with filing your taxes and should address most of the questions you may have regarding filing your US taxes. For additional assistance with tax or tax-filing questions you may want to contact a tax preparation service such a H&R Block which is also listed above.

What is a W-2 form?

The W-2 form is a statement from your employer that indicates how much money you were paid in the year and how much money was withheld from you in federal, state, and local taxes.

What is form 1098 T and what should I do with it?

You should keep it with your tax records, but you do not need to send it with your return or mention it on the return. The purpose of the form is to let you know that you were a student of the college or university that issued it. It usually contains information on how much tuition and fees you paid.

What forms do I need to use to complete my Federal and Michigan State tax returns?

1040NR or 1040NR-EZ:

These are Federal Tax forms. Tax filers can also download the forms from the IRS website.

For Michigan taxes, you may go directly to the website to download forms and instructions.

For those who need to file other state(s)’s tax returns, please download the tax forms from the respective state government website.

Can I claim any dependents on my Federal and State Tax Forms/Returns?

Most nonresident students and scholars cannot claim family members as dependents, even if the dependents are US citizens. Any family member who can be claimed as a dependent must have a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).

Exceptions apply to persons from Canada, Mexico, South Korea, and India, as follows:

Canada and Mexico:
Dependents can be claimed if they meet the five general tests for dependency listed in Publication 678, VITA Assistor’s Guide, and Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax Guide.

South Korea:
Dependents must live with the nonresident in the US at least part of the year. The dependency exemption will need to be prorated if the nonresident has both US and foreign source income.

Dependents can be claimed if they were not admitted to the US on a F-2, J-2, or M-2 visa. They must also meet the five tests for dependency listed in Publication 678, VITA Assistor’s Guide, and Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax Guide.

My dependents do not have SSN or ITIN, what do I do?

F-2s are not eligible for SSN numbers. Those dependents not eligible for SSN must file Form W-7 to apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). You can obtain form W-7 by visiting or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). The W-7 form needs to be attached with the taxpayer’s tax return.

Can I claim any exemptions on my Federal and State Tax Forms/Returns?

Generally, no. Nonresidents from Canada, Mexico, Korea, or India may be able to claim an exemption for their spouse. (This is not the same as claiming their spouse as a dependent. The term “dependent” is reserved for family members other than the spouse). The following rules apply:

Canada and Mexico:
Residents of Canada or Mexico can claim a personal exemption for a spouse if the spouse had no gross income for US tax purposes and was not a dependent on another US return.

South Korea:
Residents of South Korea may be able to claim a personal exemption for a spouse. The spouse must live with the taxpayer. If the student or scholar also has income from outside the US, the exemption will have to be prorated. See IRS Publication 519 for more information.

Some nonresidents from India are eligible to claim a personal exemption for a spouse. The deduction applies only to students and business apprentices. A student can claim an exemption for a spouse if the spouse had no gross income during the year and cannot be claimed on someone else’s US return. When completing the form, the spouse’s information goes on line 7c of Form 1040NR.

Is my country eligible for tax treaty benefits?

Not all treaties include benefits for all types of income. Please refer to Publication 901 on the IRS website. For a current list of countries that have tax treaties with the US see the IBFD website.

What if I worked in another state other than Michigan?

Then you should file taxes for the state that you worked in. Chances are that you can find these NON-Resident Individual tax forms on the State Government websites. If you worked in Michigan as well, then you can claim a credit on Schedule E for certain states that you paid taxes to.

What if I forgot to file in previous years?

Many students and scholars who are required to file returns either don’t file, or file incorrectly. Many of them would be eligible for a refund if they filed the required forms.

If you had no tax liability, the IRS will not penalize you for not filing (although you must still file form 8843). However, the terms of students’ and scholars’ visas require that they stay in compliance with all laws of the US, including income tax filing. If you forgot to file in the past, you can still file from previous years using old forms found at the IRS website.

What should I put for the address and phone number of the academic institution question on CINTAX?

College for Creative Studies
201 East Kirby
Detroit, MI 48202
Phone: (313) 664-7428