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Social Security and Tax Information for International Students and Scholars

Understanding U.S. social security and taxes can be difficult for international students. The resources below were developed to help answer your questions.

What are taxes? 

“Americans and others residing within this country must pay taxes to the state and federal government, and the process is completed through an agency called the Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS. Usually when someone earns money a portion of it is automatically deducted and sent directly to the government. Organizations that pay individuals send a summary of how much money they paid you every January or so, as well as how much of that was sent to the government. The purpose of filing your taxes is to report all your sources of income to the government, what you already paid, and what you still owe. It is also an opportunity to claim deductions or exemptions you may qualify for. At the end of the process, you calculate how much in total you should have paid. If you paid more than what you owe during the year, you get a refund. On the other hand, if you didn't pay enough, you have to pay the difference.”
Source: http://www.internationalstudent.com/tax/

What are interantional students required to do?

1.File Form 8843 “Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition.” This form is for individuals who have no income. Check with the VITA volunteer for further details, but generally this means that you did not work in the U.S. or have a scholarship that pays tuition ONLY. You do not need a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Payer Identification Number (ITIN) to submit Form 8843.

2. File federal and state income taxes. Most students who have had employment in the U.S. or who have other taxable income need to file federal and state income taxes. This includes students who receive a CCU scholarship for purposes other than tuition such as housing, food, and textbooks. You must have an ITIN or SSN in order to file your taxes.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) vs. Social Security Number (SSN)

An ITIN is a number given to you by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) used to identify you for tax related purposes. A SSN is required of students who work in the U.S. on-campus or for CPT or OPT. You can only apply for an SSN if you have an offer of employment. Once you receive your ITIN, please take a copy of your ITIN letter to the payroll office. SSN’s should be reported to the Office of the Registrar. Reporting you ITIN and SSN to CCU ensures your CCU tax documents are prepared properly.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program IRS certified volunteers offer FREE tax assistance.

For more information on VITA: http://www.coastal.edu/business/vitataxservice/

Documents to Bring to the VITA session:

 I-20 or DS-2019

  1. Unexpired Passport
  2. Most recent F-1 or J-1 Visa (even if expired)
  3. Any tax forms you receive (W-2, 1042-S, etc.)
  4. Information about scholarships 
  5. Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  6. Your U.S. bank account number and routing number, a blank check, or a direct deposit form from your bank. You can have the IRS mail a refund check to you, but it will take longer to receive a refund.

 Be sure you know the following information:

  1. Your employer’s contact information
  2. All U.S. travel history
  3. Get your travel history with your I-94 at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov. Click on the “Get Travel History” button.
  4. Your local physical AND mailing address (if different)

Do you need help with taxes outside of the VITA operating hours?

After the VITA program ends or if you are outside of the U.S., online tax services available for a fee. In most instances, you will not be able to use the same tax software (e.g. Free File, Turbo Tax, Tax Act, etc.) as U.S. citizens. 

  • Federal Taxes Only: Glacier Tax Prep:  https://www.glaciertax.com/ (Federal taxes only)
  • Federal and State Taxes (extra fee): Sprintax Non-Resident Tax Preparation: https://www.sprintax.com/
  • Consider doing the state taxes yourself after you’ve paid for assistance with federal taxes. Usually these forms are easier to complete once you have your federal forms completed.

References and For More Information:

Federal Tax Information for Foreign Students and Scholars: https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/References-for-Foreign-Students-and-Scholars

This document is to provide basic tax information only. The staff of the Office of International Programs and Services are not qualified to provide tax assistance or advice. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, please refer to the Internal Revenue Service website at https://www.irs.gov or the South Carolina Department of Revenue at https://dor.sc.gov/tax/individual-income.
 
ONLY the VITA volunteers or tax professionals can answer tax questions.
The Office of International Programs and Services CANNOT answer tax questions.