International Student Frequently Asked Questions

What is a nonresident alien?

The term nonresident alien applies to your tax residency status and not to your immigration status.   Your tax residency status is determined by the number of days you are present in the United States and is calculated by the “substantial presence test”. 

What is the substantial presence test?

This test involves determining the number of days you are physically present in the United States.  You will be considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes if you meet the substantial presence test for the calendar year.  To meet this test, you must be physically present in the United States on at least:

  1. 31 days during the current year, and
  2. 183 days during the 3-year period that includes the current year and the 2 years immediately before that, counting:
    • All the days you were present in the current year, and
    • 1/3 of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, and
    • 1/6 of the days you were present in the second year before the current year

Do I have to count my days of physical presence in the United States?

The answer to this question depends on your current immigration status.  If you entered the U.S. as a temporary F, J, M, or Q non-immigrant visa holder, you are exempt from counting the number of days of your physical presence for 5 calendar years.

What is the Foreign National Information System (FNIS)?

Since the substantial presence test is critical to determine your appropriate tax residency status and may be difficult to calculate manually due to the different visas and/or U.S. visits you may have experienced, we have purchased a software system that will consider these many factors based on your input to accurately determine your appropriate status.    As a student at Rhodes, you may receive scholarship funds that apply towards your tuition costs or you may be employed through our student employment program.  The FNIS system can also help us to determine if you qualify for any available tax treaty benefits between the U.S. and your home country and will generate the appropriate forms as required by the Internal Revenue Service.

What is qualified and non-qualified scholarship income?

If you receive scholarship funds that are applied directly to your education expenses, this is scholarship income.   Qualified scholarship income is the amount of scholarship funds that apply directly to your qualified education expenses (costs of tuition, required fees, and books) and is not taxable as income to you.  If however, you receive scholarship funds in excess of your tuition, books, and fees, this amount is termed non-qualified scholarship income and is considered taxable at a 14% tax rate unless a treaty exception applies.

Are the costs of room and board considered qualified education expenses?

No.  Room and board and other living expenses are not considered qualified expenses by the IRS.  If your scholarship exceeds tuition costs and fees, the amount in excess is taxable.

Do I have to file a U.S. Tax Return?

Yes.  Even if you didn’t work on campus or have non-qualified scholarship income, temporary non-immigrant F, J, M, or Q visa holders are required to file IRS Form 8843.  This form is used to explain the reasons why you can exclude days of presence for purposes of the substantial presence test. 

I worked on campus during the calendar year. Do I have to file more than one return?

Yes.  In addition to the Form 8843, you should also file a 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. You will receive a W2 Year End Wage and Tax Statement from the College by January 31st detailing your earnings for the previous calendar year that you’ll need to complete the tax forms.  If you had any federal taxes withheld from your paychecks and depending on your situation, you may receive a refund of these taxes after filing your tax forms.

I worked on campus during the calendar year but didn’t receive a W2.  Why?

If you are claiming a tax treaty benefit, you’ll receive a form 1042S by March 15th.  You’ll use this form instead of a W2 in completing your tax forms.

I didn’t work on campus, but I still received a 1042S.  Why?

If you received scholarship funds in excess of your qualified education expenses, the amount of non-qualified scholarship income and any taxes withheld are reported to the IRS on this form. 

What is the deadline for filing my tax return?

If you are filing a 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ along with Form 8843, the deadline is April 15th for the preceding calendar year.  If you are filing only Form 8843, deadline is June 15th.
Filing Taxes

F and J students are required to file income taxes for any time spent studying in the United States, regardless of whether or not they were employed during that time.

Every year the Buckman Center makes available the information that our F-1 international students need in order to file their annual income tax returns.  Rhodes will create an account for your use, free of charge, with Arctic International, an online tax preparation tool.

J-1 students at Rhodes are encouraged to contact their J visa sponsor(s) for assistance in filing their income tax returns.
Rhodes College does not offer tax preparation assistance or advice.  If you feel that you are in need of help beyond what Arctic International provides, you should consider seeking professional tax advice from a qualified accountant or attorney.