Tax Filing Info for Foreign Students-Office of International Education - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tax Filing Info for Foreign Students

February 11, 2009

All foreign students and their dependents are required to file at least one tax form for every year they are in the US.  Tax forms for 2008 are due April 15, 2009. 

The following topics are covered herein:

A) Federal tax forms; who must file?
B) Forms from CMU, your employer, your bank, etc. 
C) Federal tax obligation
D) State tax information
E) Local (Pittsburgh) tax information
F) Resources:

  • Tax preparation software / CINTAX software
  • CMU information session
  • Tax volunteer assistance at CMU

G) Other important Information

  • Tax treaties
  • W-2 forms from employers and 1042-S forms from CMU
  • Social security and FICA withholding
  • Where to file
  • Visa Number for Federal Form 8843
  • Hiring a Tax Preparer/Accountant

H) Help for international persons who are "residents for tax purposes"

A) Federal tax forms; who must file?

All foreign students and their dependents are required to file at least one tax form for every year they are present in the US regardless of whether or not they earned any money.    This does NOT NECESSARILY mean you have to pay taxes.  However, you DO need to complete and submit the forms.  NON-RESIDENT tax forms and instruction downloaded from the federal, state and local websites; tax forms and booklets for 2008 should be available in the Office of International Education on the 3rd floor of Warner Hall by early March 2009.   (See Sections C, D, and E for info on specific forms.)

For federal tax form preparation, use the software mentioned below – CINTAX – in Section F of this communication. 

B) Tax forms that you receive from CMU, your employer, your bank, etc.

In January 2009, you received important tax forms in the mail from your employer, your bank, etc.   You will use these forms when you complete your tax forms.
Common forms are:

  • W-2 from your employer (if any) which summarizes your earnings in 2008 and taxes which were withheld from your pay. 
  • 1099-INT form from your bank outlines earned interest (if any.)  
  • 1099-DIV outlines dividend interest on investments (if any.) 
  • 1042-S shows stipends or earnings that were excluded under a tax treaty benefit.

C) Federal taxes.  Resident or non-resident for tax purposes?

1.   The following federal tax forms can be downloaded from

  • Form 8843
  • Form 1040NR-EZ - U.S. Income Tax Return for Nonresidents with no Dependents
  • Instructions for form 1040NR-EZ
  • Form 1040NR - U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return
  • Instructions for Form 1040NR
  • Publication 901 - U.S. Tax Treaties
  • Publication 519 - U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens

Or, visit OIE, Warner Hall, 3rd floor, for the forms, as available.  (Expected in March 2009.) 

2. To know which federal tax forms to use, you must first determine whether you are a resident or non-resident for tax purposes.  The information below can guide you, but also read the 1040NR instruction booklets.  (The tax definitions of "resident" and "non-resident" are not the same as the immigration definition of this term.)

- If 2008 was the 6th calendar year (or 7th, 8th…) that you were present in the US (i.e., you are a student and you entered the US before 12/31/2003), you are probably a "resident for tax purposes" and will need to complete a 1040 or 1040EZ RESIDENT tax form.  (The information in this email will *not* help you, in this case.)

- If you have been present in the US for fewer than 5 calendar years (i.e., you entered the US on or after1/1/2004) you are probably a "NON-RESIDENT" FOR TAX PURPOSES in which case you MUST FILE AT LEAST THE 8843 FORM.

If you are a RESIDENT for tax purposes, you may be eligible for using the Hope or Lifetime Learning Credit.  To request your 1098–T Tuition Statement for calendar year 2008 to determine your educational Hope or Lifetime Learning Credit, please e–mail 1098– In this request, please include your name as it appears on your Student Account Invoice and your Andrew ID. You will be notified when you can pick up your form in The HUB, Lower Level, Warner Hall. Please be prepared to show a photo id.  Students who are Non-Residents for tax purposes are NOT eligible for these credits and should not request a 1098-T.


  • 8843 (Everybody fills this form including dependants.)
  • 1040NR-EZ or 1040NR (for non-resident students with US income)

D) State Tax Information

PA State tax forms may be downloaded

  • Click on “Individual Taxpayers”, then “Hot Forms” then “2008.”
  • PA-40 (2008) and PA-40 Instructions (2008)

NOTE:  You may be able to e-file (file electronically) if you filed PA tax forms last year. 

There is only one Pennsylvania State tax form.  Read the instructions to determine if you need to file.  Those with less than $35 of US income generally do not need to file this form.   If state tax was withheld from your pay, you file these forms.  If you have earned income, you will probably need to file state and city tax forms. 

For PA state tax information, you may call (888) 728-2937 to order a form or listen to automated responses to common questions, or visit the website at:

For more information, read PA publications

  • REV-629 "How Non-residents are taxed"
  • REV-614 "Scholarships, Fellowships and Stipends"
If you worked in another state in 2008, you will file a tax return for that state also.  

E) Local (Pittsburgh) Tax Information

Obtain the local tax form, 2008 PGH-40 Individual Earned Income Tax . 

From the city website,, click “Information and Links” in the middle of the page then choose “PGH 40 Individual Tax Form (Current year)” and “Pgh 40 Instructions (current year)” which are 2 separate PDF forms. 

Read the instructions to determine if you need to file.  Those with no US income generally do not need to file this form.  If city (local) tax was withheld from your pay, you will file this form.  If you have earned income (other than a stipend), you will probably need to file state and city tax forms. 

If you worked in another city in 2008, you will file a tax return for that city as well.

F) Where to get help for Tax Non-residents:  CMU and other resources

Tax filing in the US is complicated.   You should obtain the correct tax forms (see Sections C, D, and E), read them, and use tax support services suggested by OIE.  Staff members of OIE are not able to provide you with any specific advice about your individual tax situation.

1.  Use to prepare your federal tax forms

For federal tax forms, use this free web-based tax preparation service.  This is the easiestway to do these forms.  (Remember, “non-resident” as defined by the IRS is different than the immigration definition of non-resident.)  To use this service, visit the web site below and use a CMU-specific password.  

To learn the password, read the OIE email sent to all students and scholars in February, or email OIE at

This service is for current CMU students and scholars only and the password and access information absolutely may not be shared with others.   There are a limited number of uses available, and OIE has provided CINTAX with a list of eligible students and scholars.   Direct questions to: (not OIE!)

Expect to spend at least 30 minutes, and have your info ready when you begin to use the software:

  • current and prior US visit dates
  • entry and exit dates
  • I-20 forms (for F1 students) or DS-2019 forms (for J1 students)
  • I-94 form
  • Passport
  • All pay documents (1042-S, W-2, 1099, etc.)

Click on:  CINTAX (at the top of the page)

On the CINTAX login screen, select on the right side "No, This is my first time to login this year. I need to create my User Account".

Access Code: xxxxxx (refer to the email from OIE for the Access Code)
UserID: you will select your own UserID; write it down for future use.     
Password: you will select your own Password; write it down for future use.         

2.  Federal Tax Info Session for Tax Non-residents by the US Internal Revenue Services
The IRS will give general information on federal tax requirements for non-residents, present examples, and answer questions at the end of the talk.  

Carnegie Mellon, University Center, McConomy Hall
Wednesday, March 4, 2009, 5 - 7 PM

3.  Visit the Non-resident Tax Volunteers at Carnegie Mellon
University Center, Class of 87 Room (2nd floor)
Trained tax volunteers will answer your federal tax questions and check forms.

  • Tuesday through Friday, March 17 through 20, 4:00 to 8:00 PM
  • Saturday, March 21, 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM

NOTE: . The volunteers will be available at Carnegie Mellon ONLY on these dates.  To use this service, you must complete the appropriate tax forms before seeking help from the volunteers. 

4. Contact the IRS Taxpayer assistance number with specific questions at (215) 516-2000  or (800) 829-1040.  Let the representative know that you are a "non-resident for tax purposes.”  Or visit their website at or,,id=96431,00.html.

5. Visit the University of Texas at Austin website

This website has extensive, updated, detailed information for international students and scholars who are non-residents for tax purposes.  

G) Other important Information

1.  Tax Treaties.  There are tax treaties between the US and some foreign countries.  This may mean that you can earn a certain amount of money without having to pay tax if your country has a treaty with the US.   For more information about these treaties, read IRS Publication 901 ( or contact Payroll Services at 412-268-2097.  When you look at Publication 901, be SURE to go to the relevant section for “Students and apprentices.”   You need to complete an 8233 form at Payroll in order to benefit from these treaties in advance (i.e., keep the money from being withheld from your pay), and you must complete a new form each year in order to continue to benefit.

 2.  W-2 forms from employer(s) and 1042-S from CMU.  If you earned money in the US each employer must send you a W-2 form (or in the case of scholarships or treaty-exempted income a 1042-S.)  When you complete your tax returns/forms, you must attach the correct section of these original documents to your tax forms (for both federal and state tax returns).   Maintain a copy for your records.   DO NOT SEND IN YOUR TAX RETURNS WITHOUT ATTACHING THESE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS!!

3. Social Security and FICA Withholding.    If you are a foreign student in F-1 or J-1 status and you are a non-resident for tax purposes, you are exempt from social security taxes (including Medicare tax.)  If your employer has withheld social security taxes from you (check on your pay stub and the W-2 form), you should ask the employer to refund the taxes to you.  If the employer can not, you can apply for a refund from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS.)  This process, which is separate from the annual tax filing requirement, can take up to 6 months through the IRS.  OIE has a handout on this topic.

4. Where to File?   You will mail your federal, state and local tax returns to different US addresses.   All tax forms (completed returns, W-2s and one or more 1042-S forms) are to be mailed together to the addresses listed in the instruction booklets.  The correct address for each filing is listed under the section entitled "Where to File" in the instruction booklets.

5.  Visa Number Requested on Form 8843.  The US visa number requested in #1 of Form 8843 is found in your passport on the page with the US entry visa stamp from the US Consulate abroad.

6.  Hiring a Tax Preparer/Accountant.    If you want to hire a tax accountant, you can contact one of the commercial tax accounting firms listed in the phone book, or look on line.

H)  Help for international persons who are "residents for tax purposes" 

1.     Call the IRS Taxpayer assistance number with specific questions
1-800-829-1040 or 215-516-2000 or visit their website at
2. VITA volunteers.  Help is also available from RESIDENT tax volunteers
BY APPOINTMENT ONLY at local libraries; contact your local library for dates and times. 


Updated 2/11/2009