You must report all income you earn while in the United States by filing a federal and state tax return each year. Tax returns must be filed by April 15th. Failure to file a tax return by the due date is a federal and state offense and can lead to criminal action against you.
If you are employed in the United States, your employer will generally withhold the estimated amount of taxes you will owe from your paycheck. Depending on your residency status, all or part of this money may be returned to you when you file your income tax returns. If you are hired as an independent contractor, you will generally be responsible for calculating and paying your own taxes.
Types of U.S. Taxes
SOCIAL SECURITY (F.I.C.A.)
Social Security taxes are used to support public health and retirement benefits. In general, you are exempt from paying Social Security taxes during your first five years in the United States if you are on in F-1 or J-1 status and you continue to declare yourself a non-resident for tax purposes.
All income earned in the United States, including graduate assistantships, is subject to taxation by the federal and state government. Unless you qualify for an exemption under a tax treaty between the United States and your home government, your employer is required by law to withhold income tax from your paycheck.
Support for Filing Income Tax Returns
Income tax returns must be filed by April 15th for the previous calendar year, even if you did not earn any income in the United States during the year. The DU accounting society Beta Alpha Psi offers free tax filing assistance to international students each winter quarter through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
The VITA program website gives details on how and when you can take advantage of this great service.
INDIVIDUAL TAXPAYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (ITIN)
The Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (the U.S. federal tax authority). It can only be issued to individuals who cannot get a Social Security Number (SSN) but need to file a federal tax return.
- Internal Revenue Service website for Foreign Students and Scholars
- Colorado Department of Revenue
- NAFSA Tax Resources for International Students and Scholars
- NAFSA Federal Income Tax Brochure for International Students and Scholars