All international students present in the U.S.A. must file an income tax form each year regardless of whether you were employed in the U.S. or not. You will need to obtain the appropriate tax return forms online or at the campus or local libraries. ISSS advisors are not tax experts and are legally unable to provide tax advice for international students. However, we have prepared the following list of information, sites, and resources that you may find helpful:
Tax Filing Deadlines
- April 15th of each year
Basic Tax Vocabulary
Adapted from the IRS Understanding Taxes Glossary:
- IRS: Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. federal agency responsible for tax collection
- Alien: Any person who is not a U.S. citizen
- Non-Resident Alien for Tax Purposes: Generally, aliens that do not meet the "substantial presence test"
- Resident Alien for Tax Purposes: Generally, aliens who meet one of the two criteria in the "substantial presence test"
- Subsantial Presence Test: Defined in detail here by the IRS.
- Compensation/Earnings: Wages, salaries, tips, etc.
- Income: Wages, salaries, tips, commissions, interest, dividends, some scholarship/fellowship grants
Exemptions: Amount taxpayers can claim for themselves, their spouses, and eligible dependents. There are two types of exemptions-personal and dependency. Each exemption reduces the income subject to tax.
- Refund: Money owed to taxpayers when their total tax payments are greater than the total tax. Refunds are received from the government.
- Income Tax Return: Statement filed (submitted) by an individual taxpayer to IRS
- U.S. Federal Income Tax: Income tax imposed by U.S. federal government
- California Income Tax: Income tax imposed by California state government
- Social Security & Medicare Taxes: Social Security (FICA) and Medicare are U.S. government programs that provide benefits to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, generally for retirement. The programs are financed through paychecks of working individuals. Students that are classified as Non-Resident for tax purposes are not required to pay into Social Security or Medicare. Those in J-2 status may be required to pay into Social Security, as are students who have become classified as Resident for tax purposes.
Helpful Tax Sites & Resources
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS):
- Foreign Student & Scholar Information
- International Tax Payers
- Understanding Taxes
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), which is a program some students may be eligible to take advantage of. Please note that NOT all IRS-certified volunteers in the VITA program are trained on "non-immigrant" tax concerns.
- How to Contact the IRS
- California State Franchise Tax Board:
- UC Santa Cruz:
- Tax Preparation Software:
- GLACIER is a company that assists international students with federal tax filing. UCSC has a license with GLACIER. Students that need access should contact their department or UCSC Financial Affairs at FinPolicy@ucsc.edu.
- Sprintax is a company that assists international students with both federal and state tax filing. If you wish to use Sprintax, you will need to order it for individual use; UCSC does not have an agreement with Sprintax