General Tax Information

The purpose of this web page is to provide general information about the tax responsibilities of non-U.S. citizens.  The student or scholar may also be subject to the regulations of other jurisdictions, including other states and other nations. SISS cannot provide formal tax advice. No information on this site may be considered formal tax advice. Consult a qualified tax professional if needed.


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires all international students and scholars to file taxes.

According to the requirements of the IRS (a federal government agency), all international students and scholars should plan to declare their income (or lack of income) to the federal government every year by filing a tax return.

At the beginning of each year, you might receive documents by mail or by electronic means that are used to calculate any tax responsibility you may have for earnings during the previous calendar year. You will need to determine and file any taxes during a specific calendar year (January-December).

According to the IRS, filing a tax report (usually referred to as filing a 'tax return') is required

How to File a Tax Return

Your Options

The IRS gives you many choices in how to file your federal tax return. The Franchise Tax Board of California (FTB) also gives you many choices in how to file your state tax return, if you earned income in California.

All of the following are acceptable ways to prepare your taxes.

  1. You can download forms directly from the IRS (and from the FTB, if you earned income in California), which can be used to prepare your tax return yourself.

  2. You can hire a tax accountant to prepare the tax return for you.

  3. You can hire a company to prepare your tax return for you (internet search "tax preparation" for options).

  4. You can use tax filing software to help you prepare your tax return (internet search "tax preparation" for options).

    1. Please note: Eligible students and scholars are welcome to use the GTP software program that SISS makes available each year around March, which assists international students and scholars in "non-resident" status to file Federal taxes for free. If you have earnings, it is also your responsibility to file State taxes.

Before You Begin

There are two classifications when reporting Federal tax for foreign individuals in the United States. You need to determine which status you have to begin filing:

  • Non-Resident for tax purposes.
  • Resident for tax purposes.

Determine your tax residency here.

No income or earnings? File Form 8843

If you are a non-resident for tax purposes and did not work or receive income in the US, you are still legally obligated to file a Federal tax document to declare no earnings.

Please complete and mail Form 8843 to the IRS if you believe this the correct form for you. It is your responsibility to file the correct form. 

SISS cannot provide answers to questions regarding taxes. Please see our Tax Filing Resources page to find yourself professional advice.

Documents You Need
  • Form W-2 (if you have earnings): W-2 forms are provided by your employer no later than February 1 each year. The W-2 form summarizes the total amount of wages earned during the year and the amount of money withheld for any taxes (federal, state and local)..You will only receive this form if you have been employed. Please contact your employer for your W-2. If you were employed by UC Davis, please contact your department (not SISS) for assistance to receive your W-2, or log into your At Your Service account.
  • 1042-S: International students receiving taxable/reportable scholarship income should receive a Form 1042-S from the UC Davis Tax Accounting Office around March 15th of each year. If you received a scholarship or fellowship, you should expect to get a Form 1042-S. If you expect to receive a 1042-S form, wait until it is issued before filing your tax return.
  • Form 1099 (if applicable): These documents usually begin with "1099" and are issued for other types of taxable income.
  • Passport
  • Last year's federal income tax return (if filed)
  • I-20 (F-1 status)
  • DS-2019 (J-1 or J-2 status)
  • Social Security Number or Individual Tax Identification Number: Usually not applicable if you file Form 8843
  • Your U.S. entry and exit dates
  • Scholarship or fellowship grant letter (if any)
Deadlines & Responsibilities

Before preparing your taxes each year, make sure you have all W-2 or 1042-S forms from institutions where you worked or were awarded honorarium, stipends, or fellowships.  Current international employees who transferred from another university or institution inside the US. will need tax documents from that institution as well as UC Davis.  In addition, if you received income as a student or scholar in another state during the previous tax year, you will need to file state tax documents in every state in which you worked during the previous calendar year, unless that state does not require state income tax.

According to the IRS, you must file your tax return for the previous calendar year to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by April 17th, 2018*.

*The regular tax return filing deadline is April 15 each year. However, due to April 15 being a Sunday and Washington D.C. Emancipation day being observed on April 16, Tax Day is on the following Tuesday this year.

All non-immigrant international students and scholars who were present in the U.S. during any part of the previous calendar year would need to file a tax return to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by April 15th of the current calendar year. The good news is that if you earned income in the U.S., you might be eligible for a tax refund if you overpaid, or a complete reimbursement based on tax treaties.

There are also State tax agencies and in California, taxes are paid to the State of California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) if you have earned income in California. According to the FTB, if you have earned income, you must file your tax return for the previous calendar year to FTB by April 15th each year. All non-immigrant international students and scholars who earned income in California during any part of the previous calendar year would need to file a tax return to the State of California Franchise Tax Board by April 15th of the current calendar year.

There are many resources available to help you understand your tax responsibility,  including how taxes work in the United States. We also recommend that you read the IRS Publication 519 entitled, The U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens. This will help you to become familiar with some of the terminology and concepts related to your tax responsibility.

Need additional help?

SISS cannot provide formal tax advice. If you are seeking tax expertise, please ask a qualified tax professional.

Beware of Tax Scams

Note that the IRS does not:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver's license, business license, or immigration status.
  • Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

More information on tax scams and what to watch out for at