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International Student and Scholar Support

How to File Your 2019 Taxes as an F-1 or J-1 International Student



Income is taxable in the United States. Every spring, the US federal government, and most states require American citizens and many international visitors to file a “tax return.”  A tax return documents the income that someone earned the previous year and determines if any additional tax is owed, or if a refund is available.

All international students are REQUIRED to file federal AND state tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each year they are in the United States. If you were studying in the US for any length of time in 2019, you must file documents declaring your income, or one stating that you did not earn an income. The deadline to file the tax return is July 15, 2020.

International Student Services provides access to Sprintax, an online tax software package designed specifically for Nonresident Aliens.  Access to file your FEDERAL tax return through Sprintax is offered at no charge to international students who were enrolled at the University of South Carolina or on USC administered Optional Practical Training (OPT) during 2019 ONLY.  You will also be able to file your STATE tax return for a fee using Sprintax.

If you were NOT present in the United States during 2019, then you do NOT have to file a 2019 tax return, and you can ignore this information.

If you were NOT enrolled at USC or NOT participating in Optional Practical Training (OPT) granted by USC during 2019, then you will NOT be eligible to access the Sprintax software under the USC Sprintax account. 



International students who were in the United States for any length of time during 2019 and did not earn income must file the Non-Employed 8843 Form. This form is also available through the Sprintax software, which is available for use by students who were enrolled at the University of South Carolina for any term in 2019. 

The Non-Employed 8843 Form is also available online at the IRS website:

You may also use this free tax Form 8843 Online Wizard for international students


IF YOU DID EARN AN INCOME IN 2019: You must file BOTH a FEDERAL (U.S.) and a STATE tax return:



Please note, your Sprintax “Access Code” only allows you to file your Federal Tax return, free of charge.  This being said, you can use Sprintax to file your state tax return for an additional fee.

You may use another software to file your South Carolina State Tax return as well, but you will need to enter your own credit card information in order to cover the additional filing fee.

If you do not want to pay an additional fee to file your state tax return through a software or tax specialist, you can print out your own copy of the “1040” form (for South Carolina State Taxes ONLY), which can be found at

If you lived in another state during 2019, you must file a tax form for that state as well.  Federal and state tax forms can also be downloaded from the IRS website (


If Sprintax Tax Prep determines that you are a resident for tax purposes, For more information about how your F-1 student status corresponds with your non-resident alien tax status, see this IRS webpage. Note that if you have been in the U.S. for more than 5 calendar years as an F-1 student, then you may qualify as a resident for tax purposes. Sprintax Tax Prep will help you determine this. If you do qualify as a resident for tax purposes, please click on the link provided by Sprintax (You will get another option of Software you can use).

Being a resident for tax purposes does not change your immigration status; it only changes your tax status.

Tax professionals and certified tax accountants, who charge for their services, can assist you with your taxes.


International Student Services and the USC International Payroll Office CANNOT offer individual assistance for filing taxes in the U.S.

Students who need tax advice are strongly encouraged to consult a tax preparation specialist.  To find a local tax preparation specialist, please visit You can also hire a tax professional or certified tax accountant, who charge for services. 

Sprintax Tax Prep does offer assistance (24/7 chat available) and tutorial advice:


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. government agency that collects taxes. As a nonresident F-1 or J-1 student, you may need to file forms each year with the IRS, even if you earned no income. It is your individual responsibility to understand and meet your tax obligations. Generally, tax returns are due every April 15th based on earnings from the previous year, though there are exceptions to this deadline. This year the deadline is July 15, 2020.

While employers do withhold money from your paycheck throughout the year and send it to the IRS, it may not equal the exact amount owed at the end of the year. If too much was withheld, you may be eligible for a refund. Or, perhaps not enough was withheld, and you will owe more. Salary from a job is not the only kind of earning taxed; many types of income are taxable. Even if you did not work and do not owe any taxes, you may need to submit an informational form to the IRS.

U.S. tax laws can be complex and confusing–we all get headaches during tax season–and the laws that apply to internationals are not the same as those that apply to U.S. citizens. These resources should help you to better understand your tax obligation, to learn what and where to research, and to successfully submit your tax forms. This page is meant to be a general introduction. We in ISS are not tax professionals, so this cannot be considered legal tax advice. You are advised to review the information from the IRS specifically addressed to foreign students and scholars.

Please note: Advisers in International Student Services (ISS) are not able to give tax advice about individual cases as we are not tax professionals.




Before you begin the filing process, be sure you have all the necessary information with you.

  • Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement: W-2 forms are mailed to current and former employees. This form shows how much you earned last year and how much was taken out for taxes. You will only receive this form if you have been employed.
  • 1042-S: The 1042-S form will only be given to nonresident alien students who have received scholarship or fellowship money that exceeds tuition and related fee charges. You will not receive a copy of the 1042-S form if you only have a tuition waiver on your account and do not receive any checks. 1042-S forms will be issued by UW Payroll Office no later than March 10.
    If you expect to receive a 1042-S form, wait until it is issued before filing your tax return.
  • Form 1099: (if applicable) The 1099 form documents miscellaneous income. For example, if you had CPT authorization to work as an independent contractor, rather than as an employee of an organization, you might receive Form 1099 instead of Form W-2 to document your earnings.
  • Passport
  • I-20 (F-1 status)
  • DS-2019 (J-1 or J-2 status)
  • Social Security number or Individual Tax Identification number (generally not required if you will file only Form 8843)
  • Address information (current U.S. address and foreign address)
  • entry and exit dates for current and past visits to U.S.  You can get much of your travel information from the online I-94 system;
  • Academic institution or host sponsor information (name, address, phone)
  • Scholarship/fellowship grant letter (if any)
  • A copy of last year’s federal income tax return, if filed 


ISS has arranged free access to Sprintax Tax Preparation, which will guide you through the tax preparation process, prepare the necessary documents and even check if you are due a refund.

All you need to do is:

  1. Registerand follow the simple instructions
  2. Complete the online questionnaire
  3. Enter the unique code SpTx2019USC501Fin the box on the ‘Review your order’ page*

*This code is only valid for University of South Carolina international students

  1. Sprintaxwill prepare your tax return.

As a reminder, you have to print, sign and mail your documents once you complete the preparation process in Sprintax. 

If you have any questions, please use the live chat function on Sprintax and their team will be happy to help. Advisers in International Student Services (ISS) are not able to give tax advice about individual cases as we are not tax professionals. 



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