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International Student and Scholar Support

How to File Your 2020 Taxes as an F-1 or J-1 International Student


Information about how to access Sprintax and/or Taxslayer Pro is included below in #6.

1. What is a tax return? 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.

2. Are international students required to file tax returns? Yes! All international students are REQUIRED to file a return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each year they are in the United States: the federal AND state tax returns required for those who earn income and the non-employed federal form for those who did not earn income. If you were studying in the US for any length of time in 2020, you must file (or submit) documents declaring your income, or one stating that you did not earn an income. 

3. What is the deadline to complete the process? The deadline to file the tax return is Thursday, April 15.

4. I was living outside the U.S. in 2020. Do I need to file taxes? No, if you were NOT present in the United States during 2020, then you do NOT have to file a 2020 tax return, and you can ignore this information.

5. I need to file taxes as a non-resident alien. What should I do? If you are an international student and need to file as a nonresident alien, (Form 1040-NR), you should not use TurboTax. Filing as a resident when you are not can lead to you owing money to the federal government. I

6. How can I file my 2020 taxes? ISS offers two tax filing resources: Sprintax and Taxslayer Pro. You should receive an email with a unique code to access Sprintax federal tax filing assistance free of charge no later than March 12, 2021. You will still have to pay approximately $40 to file your state taxes. If you are not able to access Sprintax or wish to pursue an option that is completely free, you can request a link to Taxslayer Pro here. Keep in mind that Taxslayer Pro does not accommodate individuals with tax treaties that impact their tax returns.



I lived in the U.S. and did not earn any income in 2020. What should I do? International students who were in the United States for any length of time during 2020 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 2020. Request Sprintax access here.



You must file BOTH a FEDERAL (U.S.) and a STATE tax return.

I lived in the U.S. and earned income in 2020. What should I do?

International students can file taxes through a variety of options.

  • How to file your federal tax return: 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 2020. We also provide access to Taxslayer Pro. 

What document do I file if I lived in another state during 2020? You must file a tax form for each state that you have lived in during the 2020 year. Federal and state tax forms can also be downloaded from the IRS website (

I still have questions about taxes. Where do I go for additional assistance? Tax professionals and certified tax accountants, who charge for their services, can assist you with your taxes.

 Can I call ISS Office with my tax filing questions? International Student Services and the UofSC International Payroll Office CANNOT offer individual assistance for filing taxes in the U.S. 



Where do I learn more about being a resident alien, 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.

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



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 (if applicable to you): The 1042-S form is not required to complete taxes for most international students at UofSC. 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.
  • Form 1099 (if applicable to you): 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. Most international students do not receive a Form 1099.
  • 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 


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