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Division of Business and Financial Affairs

Audit & Tax


Frequently Asked Questions

Nonresident Alien Tax — General Questions

  1. I’m a foreign student/exchange visitor and have questions about taxes. Where can I find the answers?
  2. Am I a nonresident alien or resident alien for tax purposes, and why is the tax residency important?

Tax Statement Questions

  1. I received Form 1098-T. What is this form, and do I need it?
  2. What is Form 1042-S, and why do I need it?
  3. When should I receive my W-2, Form 1042-S and other tax statements?
  4. I’ve lost or never received my W-2 and/or Form 1042-S. Who should I contact?
  5. Should I keep copies of tax returns and related documents? How long should I keep them?

Tax Filing Questions

  1. I am a nonresident alien for tax purposes but did not have any income in the United States. Do I still have to file a tax return?
  2. Can I e-file my tax return?
  3. Is there a service available on campus where I can get help with my tax return?
  4. How about state tax return?
  5. I’m leaving the U.S. permanently before I can file my tax return. What should I do?
  6. I can’t file my tax return by the deadline. What should I do?
  7. I filed my tax return but haven’t received my refund. Is there a way to check the status of my refund?
  8. What happens if I am required to file a tax return but I do not file it?


Nonresident Alien Tax — General Questions

Q: I’m a foreign student/exchange visitor and have questions about taxes. Where can I find the answers?

A: Check our FAQs and Audit & Tax Web pages. If you didn’t see what you’re looking for, contact Audit & Tax staff or call 619-594-5147. Please note that Audit & Tax staff can only provide general information about taxes and cannot provide any tax advice. For questions about your paycheck, contact Payroll Services at 619-594-5251.

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Q: Am I a nonresident alien or resident alien for tax purposes, and why is the tax residency important?

A: If you are not a U.S. citizen, you are considered a nonresident alien unless you meet either (1) the green card test or (2) the substantial presence test. The tax residency is important because nonresident aliens and resident aliens are taxed differently. See IRS Publication 519 [PDF] for more information.

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Tax Statement Questions

Q: I received Form 1098-T. What is this form, and do I need it?

A: Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, is used by U.S. citizens and resident aliens to calculate the educational credits. Since nonresident aliens cannot claim the educational credits, simply keep Form 1098-T for your records if you are a nonresident alien. For questions about your Form 1098-T, contact Student Account Services at 619-594-5253.

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Q: What is Form 1042-S, and why do I need it?

A: Form 1042-S, Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding, is a tax statement issued to a nonresident alien who received (1) tax exempt wages under a U.S. tax treaty, (2) taxable scholarships/fellowships, and/or (3) compensation for independent services (e.g. honorarium). You need this form to complete your tax return if you received any of the income listed above during the calendar year.

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Q: When should I receive my W-2, Form 1042-S and other tax statements?

A: You should receive most of your tax statements by January 31, but not necessarily at the same time. So, it is very important that you wait to file a tax return until you receive all your tax statements.

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Q: I’ve lost or never received my W-2 and/or Form 1042-S. Who should I contact?

A: For W-2, contact Payroll Services at 619-594-5251 (SDSU campus) or 619-594-6971 (SDSU Research Foundation). For Form 1042-S, contact Audit & Tax staff at 619-594-5147.

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Q: Should I keep copies of tax returns and related documents? How long should I keep them?

A: Keep copies of your signed tax returns and related tax documents for at least three years after the year you filed them. For example, you should keep copies of your 2011 tax return you filed in April 2012 and related documents at least until April 2015.

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Tax Filing Questions

Q: I am a nonresident alien for tax purposes but did not have any income in the United States. Do I still have to file a tax return?

A: No, but you must send Form 8843 to the IRS. Form 8843 is an information return, NOT a tax return, and is a required form if you are a nonresident alien for tax purposes in F, J, M or Q status. If you have a non-working spouse and/or children in the U.S. under an F, J, M or Q status, they also need to file Form 8843 separately. See Form 8843 [PDF] for more details and the instructions.

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Q: Can I e-file my tax return?

A: No, if you are a nonresident alien for tax purposes. Currently, e-filing is not available for nonresident alien forms (Form 1040NR-EZ and Form 1040NR), so you still need to print, sign and mail the completed forms to the IRS even if you use commercial tax preparation software. If you are a nonresident alien for tax purposes but e-filed your tax return, you probably filed a wrong form and need to file an amended return.

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Q: Is there a service available on campus where I can get help with my tax return?

A: Yes! During February-April, the College of Business conducts International VITA, a free tax preparation service available exclusively for nonresident aliens. Please note that International VITA can only help SDSU students, faculty, and staff who are nonresident aliens for tax purposes and had income in the U.S. during the previous calendar year. If you are a resident alien for tax purposes, attend the separate VITA sessions. See VITA Web site for more information.

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Q: How about state tax return?

A: Check and see if you are required to file a California tax return here: <https://www.ftb.ca.gov/individuals/FileRtn/index.shtml>. If you are required to file a California tax return, International VITA can provide you with limited assistance in preparing it. For other states, contact the appropriate state tax agency for assistance.

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Q: I’m leaving the U.S. permanently before I can file my tax return. What should I do?

A: Contact your employers as early as possible and confirm that they have the correct foreign address so that W-2 and/or Form 1042-S will be delivered to you on time. Do not file your tax return until you have received all the necessary tax statements.

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Q: I can’t file my tax return by the deadline. What should I do?

A: File Form 4868 [PDF] by the regular due date of the tax return to request an automatic extension of time to file. Please note that Form 4868 does NOT extend the time to pay taxes. So, if you owe taxes, you still must pay the amount due by the regular due date. Otherwise, the IRS will charge interest on the amount you owe and may also assess penalties.

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Q: I filed my tax return but haven’t received my refund. Is there a way to check the status of my refund?

A: Yes. Go to the IRS Web site, Where’s my refund? You will need your social security number, filing status, and the exact refund amount. For California tax return, go to the FTB Web site here: <https://www.ftb.ca.gov/online/refund/?WT.mc_id=HP_Popular_WheresMyRefund&WT.svl=HRe2>. You will need your social security number, mailing address, and the refund amount shown on your California tax return.

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Q: What happens if I am required to file a tax return but I do not file it?

A: The IRS may assess interest and penalties. Also, not complying with U.S. tax laws could affect your future immigration benefits, such as applying for a green card, because you may be asked during the application process to show proof that you have been filing U.S. tax returns.

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