U.S. TAX BASICS
WHO: Every nonresident or resident alien (Non-U.S. Citizen) visa/status holder in the U.S. who has earned U.S. income must file an annual tax return and/or a statement to substantiate their status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) AND the State of Louisiana.
Resident/Non-Resident status for tax purposes is not always the same as residency status for immigration purposes.
Exception: If you are a non-resident and the amount of U.S. wages you receive is less than the personal exemption amount allowed for the tax year, you may not be required to file an income tax return. Click here for more information about if you are required to file a return. The 2013 personal exemption amounts and phaseout information can be found here.
Nonresident visa holders must file tax returns on Form 1040NR, ‘U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return,’ or Form 1040NR-EZ, ‘U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens with No Dependents.’ They must also attach Form 8843 to prove that they are nonresidents of the U.S. for tax purposes (This form may be required even if you are not required to file a return). More information about Non-Resident forms can be found here.
Resident visa holders must file returns on form 1040EZ, 1040A or 1040 depending on the exemptions and dependents they can claim. More information about which form to file can be found here.
More information on what form to use for State of Louisiana returns can be found here.
WHEN: If you are a resident or nonresident alien who earned wages subject to withholding, you must mail your federal tax return on or before April 15th. Louisiana State tax returns are due on or before May 15th. Remember that statements and tax returns for the current year cannot be filed before January 1 of the following year.
WHERE: All nonresident alien tax returns and statements are mailed to the IRS Service Center in Philadelphia. All resident alien tax returns are mailed to the address included on the form’s instructions.
Before mailing your return to the IRS or the State of Louisiana, you should make and keep a photocopy of your completed tax forms and any documentation submitted with them. In addition to maintaining good tax records, you will probably need a copy of any previous tax returns to complete your current return. If the IRS or the State of Louisiana should question your return, you cannot respond properly without an exact copy of the documents you submitted. As the IRS charges a fee to send you a photocopy of your return, it is much less expensive to make your own copy.
Non-immigrants applying to USCIS for permanent residency may be required to produce copies of returns filed for the last three years.
You should receive the following tax documents by January 31st every year:
From your employer
• Form W-2 (summarizing your paychecks)
From your financial institution(s):
• Form(s) 1099 (summarizing your investment earnings for the year)
You should receive the following tax documents by March 15th every year:
From your school, grantor or employer, if applicable:
• Form 1042-S (a report of any scholarship or income eligible for tax treaty benefits paid to you)
WHERE CAN I GET HELP WITH MY TAXES?
The local IRS office will assist you with your federal tax returns free of charge if you qualify. Qualification criteria for free assistance and required documents are listed here. Return preparation is available on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Information for the New Orleans office is below.
1555 Poydras Street
Monday - Friday - 8:30 a.m - 4:30p.m
The IRS also provides many free tax preparation assistance sites through the VITA program. For a partial list of sites and for contact information to find out if a site is in your local area, click here. Loyola University, LSU Law Center, LSU Accounting Services and Baton Rouge Community College have been sites for free tax preparation assistance in the past. The Office of International Services will provide information about local VITA sites as soon as dates of operation and locations are announced.
Note: An income limit of $51,000 must be met to qualify for VITA assistance.
A list of the 2014 VITA sites for the New Orleans Area is available here.
There are also various tax preparation services that can help most residents to prepare their federal and state returns. Most of these services will charge a fee for the preparation of your return.
*Software such as Turbo Tax, does NOT support forms for non-residents. Tax preparation services (H&R Block, etc.) typically are not prepared to assist non-residents. If you choose to use a preparation service, make sure they understand your filing status! The VITA preparation sites are the best source for getting help with non-resident taxes.
If you do not meet the income requirements for the IRS or VITA service, or you cannot get to a VITA site, tax preparation software designed for foreign national scholars, teachers and students, like Glacier are available for individual licensing at a low cost. Glacier does not support filing of state tax returns.
Find more information about filing state tax returns at the Louisiana Department of Revenue.
Make sure you bring all Immigration related documents in addition to the tax documents received from LSUHSC or other entities to any assistance site or IRS office.
** International Services CANNOT help with income tax questions or forms.***
TAX TREATY BENEFITS
Many countries have tax treaties with the United States that allow their citizens to avoid paying taxes to both the United States and the home country (or pay a reduced rate) for U.S. based income. For a list of countries that currently have tax treaties with the United States, and to see the treaty documents, please click here.
Please note that the type of activities engaged in while in the U.S. may determine eligibility for treat benefits. If the type of activity engaged in does not meet the treaty's criteria, the benefit should not be claimed. Many treaties also contain retroactivity provisions which means that if your stay in the U.S. exceeds the time limitation for the tax treaty, the treaty benefit is lost for the entire stay. Be very cautious about claiming a treaty benefit that can be retroactively lost under the treaty's terms. For a list of treaties for Foreign Students, Teachers and Scholars with details about retroactivity, please see IRS Publication 901.
In order for LSU HSC New Orleans to verify eligibility for tax treaty benefits, each person receiving funds from LSU HSC New Orleans must complete the following:
The appropriate statement on LSUHSC letterhead can be obtained from International Services or Payroll
Forms cannot be submitted to the IRS without a Social Security Number or ITIN number. Please make application for a Social Security number a priority upon arrival in the United States (if a number has not already been assigned to you) so that every effort can be made to ensure your taxes are properly withheld beginning with your first paycheck.
Non-Residents are subject to special withholding rules. Please see the IRS website here for assistance in determining what exemptions you may claim as a non-resident. This will assist you in completing your W-4 and L-4 forms correctly for your situation. Your W-4 and L-4 can be changed at any time if your situation changes or if the previous years' tax returns indicate that a change should be made.
The IRS website also provides information about who is subject to Social Security and Medicare withholdings here. LSUHSC is an employer who does NOT withhold Social Security taxes, as discussed here and here. The U.S. may also have entered into a Totalization Agreement with your home country which may also impact your Social Security and Medicare withholdings. More information about Totalization Agreements can be found on the IRS website here.