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Finance & Taxes
for International Students

Taxes and International Students

The International Student Center is unable to give students specific tax advice since our advisors are not licensed tax professionals. It is the student's responsibility to file the appropriate tax documents by the deadline. Since tax regulations can be complicated, students should only use tax software for international students or consult tax professionals who have training in international student/non-resident regulations to help file your taxes correctly. 

Below is some general tax guidance for international students. 

You must file tax forms

All F-1 and J-1 students must file federal tax forms every year they are in the U.S. even if they do not earn any money in the U.S.

  • Social Security tax (FICA): International students in F-1 and J-1 status are exempt from Social Security tax (FICA). However, they are generally subject to federal and state income taxes.

Do not claim exemption

Students often mistakenly claim "exempt" on tax forms, only to find they must pay a large sum of tax when filing their taxes. For more information on which tax forms to complete, review the Tax Presentation by Dr. Steve Gill below. 

Filing deadlines

  • If you earned money from a U.S. employer or received a taxable U.S. scholarship/fellowship/grant in 2020, the deadline to file your tax forms is May 17, 2021. Learn more about paying employment taxes.
  • If you did not earn money from a U.S. employer or receive a U.S. taxable scholarship/fellowship/grant in 2020, the deadline to file Tax Form 8843 is also May 17, 2021. You can find this form on the IRS website. For instructions on how to complete this form, review the Tax Presentation by Dr. Steve Gill below.

ISC Tax Info Session & VITA program

Each spring semester during tax season, the ISC partners with College of Business Administration and their VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program to provide tax services to international students. Services include a Tax Information Session at the ISC and individual tax meetings with volunteers.

  • See the ISC calendar at the beginning of the Spring semester for the Information Session date.
  • Learn more about the VITA tax prepration program and schedule an appointment for your taxes. (Appointment scheduling available toward the end of January, and appointments go quickly.)
  • Watch the video of the Tax Info Session from February 1, 2021, presented by Dr. Steve Gill from the SDSU Fowler College of Business and review the Tax Presentation Slides.

Other resources

  • State taxes: California state tax forms and information are available on the California Franchise Tax Board website.
  • Federal taxes: Federal forms and information are available on the Internal Revenue Service website.
    • You can also have your tax questions answered on the IRS International Tax Law hotline, (215) 516-2000 (press 2, then press 3). This is not a toll-free number.
    • The following federal tax publications are of special interest to international students and available at
      • Publication 519: U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens
      • Publication 520: Scholarships and Fellowships
      • Publication 901: U.S. Tax Treaties
  • Certain tax preparation companies and online services can prepare your taxes for you and help you apply for a refund if you are eligible. Some of the best known tax preparation companies are not intended for international students/non-resident taxes, so be sure to ask the company in advance. If they are not trained in non-resident taxes, your taxes may be filed incorrectly. One fee-based company that specializes in international student tax preparation is Sprintax