Payroll Services Frequently Asked Questions

for Non-resident Alien Tax Purposes Only

1. What happens if I fail to file my taxes?

If you owe taxes and don’t file, the IRS can assess penalty and interest and seize U.S. bank assests for repayment. Fines and penalties can often amount to more than the original tax debt.

There can also be immigration consequences for failing to file taxes. Applicants for permanent residency “green cards” are frequently asked to show proof of tax filing for previous years in the U.S.

2. I’m an F-1 or J-1 student and I had no U.S. earned income or scholarships for 2018. Do I need to file?

Yes. You must file IRS Form 8843. Dependent spouses in F-2 and J-2 status must also file Form 8843.

3. I only arrived in the U.S. in December of 2018 and I didn’t work. Do I still have to file Form 8843?

Yes. If you were in the U.S. even 1 day in 2018, you must file Form 8843.

4. I had bank interest on my checking or savings accounts, is that earned income and must I file other tax forms?

No. Simple bank interest and interest on CD’s are not considered earned income for non-resident aliens, and therefore are not reportable. Your bank generally reports this interest on Form 1099 and you should retain this form for your records, but not mail it with your tax filing. If you file taxes as a “resident alien”, bank interest is taxable income.

5. I only worked for a very short time in 2018 and I didn’t earn very much. Do I still have to file?

Possibly. If the total sum of your U.S. source income was less than the personal exemption ($4,000 for 2018) you are not required to file IRS Form 1040NR-EZ or Form 1040NR. However, if you had any taxes withheld, you should file IRS Form 1040NR-EZ or Form 1040NR to get a refund of these taxes and you must still file Form 8843.

6. I tried to get a Social Security number for my spouse or dependent child and was refused. What do I do?

For dependents not eligible for a Social Security number, you must apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Complete IRS Form W-7 and attach it to your 2018 income tax return. ITIN numbers are for tax filing purposes only.

7. I am from one of the countries that can claim an exemption for my spouse and/or child. Can I claim them if they don’t have a social security number or an ITIN?

No. In order to claim personal exemptions for dependents they must have a valid social security number or an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). To apply for an ITIN for your dependents, fill out Form W-7.

8. My young children live with me. Can I claim the Child Care Tax Credit?

Not as a rule. Only those students and scholars in non-resident tax status who are from one of the countries that can claim dependents (Mexico, Canada, Korea, Japan and India) can claim the Child Care Tax Credit.

9. I am a non-resident for tax purposes. Can I claim the HOPE or Tuition Tax Credit or the Earned Income Credit?

No. Non-resident aliens can not claim the HOPE or Tuition Tax Credit or the Earned Income Credit. Once you qualify to file as a resident alien for tax purposes, you may be eligible to claim these credits.

10. I just received my W-2 for the wages I earned in 2018. Can I file my taxes now?

Not necessarily. If you are from a country which has a tax treaty with the U.S., or you received a U.S. based scholarship or fellowship, you may also receive Form 1042-S from Student Accounts. This form is generally mailed about 1 month later than Form W-2 and you will need to have both forms before you can file.

These employees were paid through Payroll Services in 2018 and will receive a 1042S form due to a tax treaty exemption. Some employees will receive both a W2 form and a 1042s form because their tax treaty exemption was not for the entire calendar year.

11. My country has a tax treaty with the U.S. Do I still need to file?

Yes. You must file Form 1040NR-EZ or Form 1040NR. In the case where you earned more than the exempt amount of your treaty, you may receive both a Form W-2 and a Form 1042-S or you may just receive only a Form 1042-S.

12. I had a teaching assistantship or graduate research assistantship at WSU. Is this the same as a scholarship or fellowship?

No. TA and GRA salary payments are not considered scholarships or fellowships. Income from TA and GRA positions and tuition remission is considered earned income and is taxable.

13. I had a TA or GRA position. Can I deduct or exclude the cost of my tuition, books and/or fees?

No. Only those students who had bona fide scholarships or fellowships (no work was required as a condition of receiving the award) may deduct expenses paid for tuition, books and fees up to the amount of the scholarship/fellowship.

14. Can I deduct the cost of a computer as a valid educational expense?

Normally no. Equipment, such as a computer or educational supplies that are not required course items, are not deductible expenses. If it is required for everyone in a particular class or major, then the expense would be deductible.

15. I am from India. Can I claim the standard deduction?

Yes. Due to a tax treaty provision, ONLY students from India may claim the standard deduction on the non-resident forms. For 2018 the standard deduction for filing single is $6,300. Visiting Scholars and Researchers from India cannot claim the standard deduction.

16. Can students and scholars claim itemized deductions?

Yes, but they are limited itemized deductions for nonresident aliens. You can claim itemized deductions for state & local taxes, charitable contributions to churches or charities, casualty and theft losses, certain unreimbursed job expenses and tax preparation fees. For those claiming itemized deductions, you must use Form 1040NR.

17. Should I keep copies of my tax return and other tax forms?

Yes. Always keep copies of your tax return, W-2, 1042-S, 1099 bank interest statements and any other pertinent forms as proof that you have filed. The IRS can audit individual returns for up to 3 years following the filing deadline and your tax records are essential in proving your case.

18. What is the deadline for filing my tax return?

If you are filing Form 1040NR-EZ or Form 1040NR, the deadline to file is April 15. If you are filing Form 8843 only, the deadline to file is June 15.

19. If I owe tax, to whom do I make the check payable?

If you owe taxes, make checks payable to United States Treasury. Make sure that your social security number is on the check and that in the memo section your write, “For 2018 income taxes”.

20. Where do I mail my tax return?

Forms 1040NR-EZ, 1040NR and Forms 8843 should be mailed to:
Internal Revenue Service Center
Austin, TX 73301-0215, USA

21. I’m unable to file by the deadline, what do I do?

File IRS Form 4868, “Extension of Time to File”, which extends the deadline to file till August 15. If you owe any taxes though, you must still mail your estimated tax payment by April 15 or you will be assessed penalty and interest as of April 15, on any payment owed.

22. I need tax forms or additional help or information. Where can I get the necessary forms or assistance?

For questions about refund checks call 1-800-829-4477 or 1-215-516-2000 (not toll free)

For problem resolution, call Technical Services Division of the IRS at 1-800-829-1040

To download tax forms and publications, go to the IRS web site at

23. I am leaving the country before I can file my taxes. What should I do?

Make sure the Washington State University Payroll Services has your foreign address so that your Form W-2 and/or Form 1042-S can be mailed to you. Download the appropriate forms and instructions ( and file your U.S. taxes from abroad. Save copies of all forms submitted for your records.

24. My employer withheld Social Security and Medicare taxes from my salary. Can I get this refunded?

Yes. F and J visa holders are not subject to Social Security or Medicare taxes as long as they are considered a “non-resident alien for tax purposes” (IRS Publication 519, page 42 and 43). Refund of these taxes may be requested from your employer. If your employer is unable to refund these taxes, you may file IRS Form 843 and Form 8316 for a refund from the IRS.

25. My address in Pullman has changed since I began working at Washington State University, or I am on Curricular Practical Training and now living in another city, how do I notify Payroll of my address change so that I will receive my W-2 and/or1042-S?

Update your address via the internet at or e-mail Payroll Services at with your name, WSU ID number and new address.

26. I worked or attended university in another state and paid state taxes. How do I report this on my federal tax return and am I required to file a state tax return?

You may claim an itemized deduction on Form 1040NR-EZ (line 11) or Form 1040NR (line 36) for any state taxes withheld. You may also be required to file a state income tax return in addition to the Federal Income Tax Return.

27. I lost my 1042S form. Can I print a new one off the web?

No. 1042S data is not available on the web. Contact Payroll Services (509) 335-9575 or to request a copy.

28. I misplaced my W2 form for 2018. How can I get a replacement copy?

The W2 form can be downloaded from the secure website myWSU. If you lack internet access you can call Payroll Services (509) 335-9575 or email and request a copy.

29. Is a foreign student required to file an income tax return if he/she did not receive any income?

Even if the student does not receive any income, he/she must file a Form 8843 annually as long as they remain a nonresident alien for tax purposes.

30. Are students taxed on the interest they earn on their saving’s account at a U.S. bank?

If the student is a nonresident alien for tax purposes, they will not be taxed on their bank interest.

31. If a Canadian student earns $10,005 how much treaty benefit can they have?

None. The Canadian treaty provides for a $10,000 treaty exemption; however if the amount is exceeded, no treaty benefit is available.

32. Can nonresident aliens file a joint return?

No, if they both have a filing requirement, they will need to file separate 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ returns.

33. Can a nonresident alien claim their dependents on their return?

Generally no. However, special rules apply for nonresidents from Canada, Mexico, Japan, Korea and India. Please see Publication 519 for additional information.

34. Can a nonresident alien take advantage of the standard deduction?

Generally no. However, students from India can claim the standard deduction on their nonresident return. This provision does not apply to scholars from India.

35. The student I am trying to assist has not received his W-2 and 1042S forms. What should I do now?

You can’t prepare the return without the proper documents. Form W-2 is required to be issued by January 31. Form 1042S is required to be issued by March 15. You should allow a few days for mailing time for both forms. If the student has still not received the forms, direct them to the Payroll Office.