Filing Taxes as an International Student | NorthWest Arkansas Community College

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Filing Taxes

The Internal Revenue Services (IRS) of the United States manages and process income taxes at the federal level for all employees within the United States whether they are U.S. citizens or foreign nationals. As an international college student, there is no minimum amount to be required to file taxes. In other words, once you make more than $1 from inside the United States then you will be required to file taxes with the IRS and the local state government.

The deadline to submit your federal (IRS) and Arkansas state taxes usually falls on April 15th. If you mail your taxes or submit online, they must be postmarked or submitted online with the date of April 15th to avoid late fees.

In order to better understand who should file taxes and who shouldn’t one must look at the Internal Revenue Services website IRS – Foreign Students and Scholars.

International Students in the United States are subject to special rules with respect to the taxation of their income.  There is no minimum dollar amount of income that triggers a filing requirement for a student.

Filing WILL BE required by students and scholars who have:

  1. A taxable scholarship or fellowship grant, as described in Chapter 1 of Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education;
  2. Income partially or totally exempt from tax under the terms of a tax treaty; and/or
  3. Any other income that is taxable under the Internal Revenue Code.

Filing IS NOT required by students and scholars who have income ONLY from:

  1. Foreign sources;
  2. Interest Income from a:
  3. S. bank
  4. S. savings & loan institution
  5. S. credit union
  6. S. insurance company
  7. An investment that generates Portfolio Interest (Described in Chapter 3 "Exclusions From Gross Income" - "Interest Income" – "Portfolio interest" of Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens);
  8. A scholarship or fellowship grant that is entirely a Tax Free Scholarship or Fellowship Grant as described in Chapter 1 of Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education; and/or
  9. Any other income that is nontaxable under the Internal Revenue Code. However, income that is not taxable because of an income tax treaty must be reported on a U.S. income tax return even though no income tax is due on the U.S. income tax return.

The steps below provide the basic instructions for meeting your tax obligations.  Click on the links throughout the steps for more information and detail.  Please note that the International Programs Center cannot recommend a tax consultant and students must seek assistance independently.

STEP 1: Determine If You Received Taxable Income

You will need to know whether or not you received taxable income in the prior year before filing your tax paperwork.  The most common types of taxable income for our international population include wages or payment received from a job or taxable scholarships and awards from the college. The International Programs Center cannot help you determine if you've received taxable income or not.

Please review the IRS – Foreign Students and Scholars for help determining what income is reportable/taxable, and if you should receive a subsequent document. 

STEP 2: Collect Relevant Tax Documents

Before you complete your tax paperwork, you will need the following documents:

  • Valid Passport 
  • Most recent immigration status documents (e.g. I-20 or DS-2019)
  • All relevanttax documentation from employers, stipend providers, or other relevant entities who distributed taxable money (e.g. W-2, 1042-S and/or 1099).
    • If you received reportable income, you must wait to receive all relevant documents before completing your tax return. You will not able to alter or edit your tax documents after you submit them to the IRS. 
    • If you received money from NorthWest Arkansas Community College for employment or scholarships then you will need to obtain the proper documents (e.g. W-2 and 1098t)
  • All US entry and exit dates
    • You can look up your travel history on the I-94 websitefor reference.  
  • Social Security Number(SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), if you have one
  • We highly recommend you consult a tax professional before filing tax documents. 


​STEP 3: Complete and Send Tax Paperwork to the IRS and the State of Arkansas

Once you have any/all relevant forms, you can start filing your tax paperwork. The specific tax forms you must file depend on your tax residency status and whether or not you received any taxable money.

No income?   You may file the IRS Form 8843

Taxable Income?   Federal:       You may file the IRS Form 1040NR
                               State:           You may file the
Arkansas AR1000NR

Important note: The International Programs Center staff are not trained in taxation, and therefore cannot answer specific tax questions or help you prepare your tax forms. It is the responsibility of the student to meet tax obligations and do so accurately.

Filing tax documents each year is an important part of maintaining your immigration status and is a federal requirement for international visitors and their dependents.  Not filing your required taxes could lead to penalties, such as fines, or even negatively impact your immigration status.

If you apply for future immigration benefits, such as H-1B, Permanent Residency, or other statuses, you will likely be asked to provide copies of tax filings for all previous years you were in the U.S. If you forgot or didn't file in previous years when you should have, the IRS recommends that you file now for previous years. You can find the relevant forms from past years on the IRS website.

The IRS expects you to file your taxes each year. Penalties for late filing may include fines, interest on taxes owed, or other consequences. Visit the IRS website for information on Filing Past Due Tax Returns. You can follow up with the IRS or a foreign tax expert if you have questions.