Non-residents for Tax: Filing Federal and State Income Taxes in the U.S.

What you Need to File and When

If you are a nonresident for tax purposes who received income in the U.S. during the last calendar year, you must file a tax return with the U.S. government. In addition to filing a federal tax return, you will likley need to file a return on the state level, as well:

Federal Tax Return

Federal taxes are those paid to the U.S. central government Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  OIA pays for software licenses for our international population to use a special non-resident tax filing software.  This will allow you to file your federal tax return for free as long as your CNET ID and password is still valid/active. More information can be found below. 

State Tax Return

In addition to a federal tax return, many will also have to file a State of Illinois income tax return.  If you resided and/or worked in more than one U.S. state during the past calendar year, you may have to file tax returns in all the states in which you resided or worked. You should check the state revenue website of the other state(s) where you lived and worked to figure out your tax filing obligations.

The tax software we provide can also help you file the State return.  However, OIA only pays for the federal filing.  If you want to use the software to file any necessary state returns, you must do so at your own expense.

If you do not want to pay to use the software for your state return, you can file  Form IL 1040 (Instructions) on your own if you resided in Illinois in the previous calendar year. Once you complete your federal return, it will be fairly straightforward to calculate your state taxes by hand using that tax form. The 1040 is for Illinois only.  If you resided in a different state for all or part of last calendar year, you will likley need to file paperwork for that state, as well.

Deadlines and Timelines:

  • You must file your 2016 tax return by: April 18, 2017
  • This is the case for both federal and state tax returns.

Need More Time? About Tax Filing Extensions

You may find that you need additional time to file your taxes.  This might be because you are waiting for an ITIN approval or missing some of your necessary documents.  If you need additional time to file your federal return, you can file for an Automatic Extension of Time to File Your U.S. Tax Return.  You should submit the extension form before the deadline listed above.  More information can be found on the IRS link above.

The information above is for the federal return only.  If you are required to make any state filing, you may need to apply for a separate extension.  Information about Illinois State tax extensions can be found on the Illinois revenue website. If you received income from other states, you will need to review the regulations for those specific states.

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Filing as a Non-Resident for Tax Purposes

To support our international population, OIA pays for software licenses that allow most individuals in F-1 and J-1 status to file federal taxes through third-party vendor for free or a reduced cost. The software will become available in mid-march.

All non-residents for tax purposes can pay to use the software for federal and state taxes. However, if you are a current UChicago student or scholar in F-1 or J-1 status, OIA will subsidize the cost of your federal return with the software, if you meet the following criteria:

  1. You are a 'non-resident for tax purposes' as described on the page above
  2. Your F-1/J-1 status is sponsored by the University
  3. You are a current or recent UChicago student or scholar with a valid CNET ID. You will not be able to receive the discount without a valid CNET ID. If you have already graduated and your CNET ID is no longer valid, you can certainly still use the software at your own expense.

IMPORTANT: OIA pays for the federal return only. If you would like to pay to file your state return through the software, you will be able to do so at your own expense.

We recommend that first time filers attend a Tax Workshop before accessing the tax software. We will announce the upcoming tax workshops in late February.

When will the tax filing software be available?

More information about accessing the software will be sent out in mid March. You will receive an email with additional information through the OIA mailing list. Updates on software availability and access will also be posted on this page.

Do I have to use this software?

You are not required to use the tax filing software OIA provides.  In addition to using the software we provide, you could also use a different tax filing software for non-residents (such as Glacier)  or go to an accountant or tax expert who specializes in foreign national tax (most don't). You could also file by hand on your own, but that is not recommend unless you are experienced with taxes and very knowledgeable about U.S. tax laws. As a non-resident for tax purposes, you will not be able to use tax software that is for residents (e.g. TurboTax)

If you don’t use the software, you will need to complete Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ and IRS Form 8843 on your own, or hire a tax attorney experienced in international tax matters.

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Tax Filing Assistance

Important note: These FAQs were created for our international population by an outside expert in foreign-national tax filing. OIA does not have tax experts and therefore cannot, by law, answer specific tax questions or help you prepare your tax forms. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to meet your tax obligations and do so accurately.

FAQs: Filing Tax Returns As a Non-Resident:

Q. I received taxable income. Do I Need an ITIN or SSN to file a Tax Return?

A. Yes.  If you are a non-resident for tax purposes and received taxable income last year,  you will require a tax ID number (SSN or ITIN) to file a tax return.  This is the case whether you are filing with the software or filing a different way. 

Q. My ITIN application is pending. What if I don't get the ITIN in time?

A. If you received taxable income last year, you will need a tax ID to file your tax return.  If you've since received an SSN, you will use the SSN on the tax return instead of your ITIN.   If you do not have an SSN and will not have your ITIN before the filing deadline, you can apply for a filing extension through the IRS.

Q. I am a nonresident for tax purposes; can I file a federal tax electronically?

A. Yes. For the 2016 filing year, the IRS has indicated that non-residents will be able to file electronically.  However, no additional information with details about the process has been provided by the IRS.

Q. What is the deadline for tax filing?

A. For 2016 tax returns, the deadline is April 18, 2017. This means the forms must be post-marked by this date. The IRS does not have to receive the documents by this date.

Q. Will I get a notification that my tax returns was received or processed?

A. No. You will only be contacted via US mail (not by email) if something is missing or incorrect.

Q. How long will it take to get my refund?

A. The sooner the tax return is filed, the quicker the return. For instance, if you file in February or early March, the processing time is approximately 6-8 weeks. If you file in early April, the processing time is 8-12 weeks.

Q. Can I file my Illinois state tax return electronically?

Yes. Nonresident status in the US does not require you file via paper for Illinois state tax returns.

Q. I am a Nonresident for Tax; do I file a Non-Resident tax return for Illinois State?

A. Not necessarily. Illinois State defines a ‘Non-Resident’ as someone who lives outside of the state of Illinois. If you lived and worked only in Illinois while in the US, you should file as a resident.  You can be a nonresident for tax to the US, but a resident of Illinois.

Q. My spouse also has income, can we file together?

A. If your spouse is a resident for tax, you and a spouse can file a joint tax return. If you both a nonresidents for tax, you cannot file together.

Q. Am I eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)?

A. To qualify for EITC you must have earned income from employment, self-employment or another source and meet certain rules. Also, you must either meet the additional rules for workers without a qualifying child or have a child that meets all the qualifying child rules for you.  Visit the IRS website for further details: http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96406,00.html

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Getting Help

Important note: OIA does not have tax experts and therefore cannot, by law, answer specific tax questions or help you prepare your tax forms. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to meet your tax obligations and do so accurately.

We highly recommend you use the tax software OIA provides to file your taxes. It will be available in mid-March (after the University disburses tax documents).  The tax software will walk you through the filing process and is very easy to use. Even if you don't qualify for the free federal filing with OIA, you can still pay for filing with the software at your own expense.

In addition to the tax filing software, you can find assistance in the following places:

Types of Tax Preparers:

  1. Certified public accountants. Not all CPAs specialize in doing individual income tax returns. To find a CPA, go to www.aicpa.org or  Illinois CPA Society: http://www.icpas.org/
  2. Enrolled agents. Focus solely on taxes.  Trained or worked directly for the IRS. Enrolled agents might work for themselves or in a CPA firm. To locate one, go to http://www.naea.org/
  3. National tax-prep chains. (H&R Block, Jackson-Hewitt) work best for simple, straightforward returns.

If you are going to use a tax preparer, make sure to review the following tips and ask the right questions for your personal tax return:

  • Make sure they are familiar with NONRESIDENT or foreign tax returns.
  • What are their credentials? Make sure that your prospective preparer has passed recent state or federal tests or has many years of experience. S/he should also have dealt with various different tax situations and filed NONRESDENT tax returns in the past.
  • Get a price quote up front. Some will not give you an exact price quote, but the preparer should be able to give an estimated amount. Be sure you are aware of all fees.  Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund.
  • Make sure they stand by their work. They should be able to provide audit assistance or advice, should an audit occur. 

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Helpful Publications and Websites

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