There are different kinds of tax in the U.S., and most are required to file a U.S. Federal Income Tax Return. Note that CIE advisors are unable to do tax advising. However, the information provided in this website addresses most questions and external resources are also listed. We also encourage you to visit the IRS website.

Overview of Tax System: This PDF outlines different kinds of tax in the U.S., tax residency, tax treaties, taxation without a U.S. income, tax exemptions from Social Security and Medicare, and completing a W-4.

How To File a Tax Return: Learn who must file federal and state tax returns and what is needed before preparing a tax form. Most of your questions will be answered by this document.

If you have additional questions please refer to the handouts listed at the bottom of this page. ISSS does not provide individual tax assistance.  

To help international students and scholars meet their filing obligations, ISSS has purchased access to Glacier Tax Prep (formerly CINTAX), a tax preparation software. Glacier Tax Prep will determine which tax forms you need, and will complete them for you as you answer questions. You will still need to print and mail the forms. Glacier Tax Prep is designed only for non-resident aliens for tax purposes. Most international students or scholars fall into this non-resident category. Glacier Tax Prep also includes a comprehensive FAQ on many tax related issues.

Each year during tax season all international students and scholars will be emailed about Glacier Tax Prep, including a password to access Glacier Tax Prep. If you do not receive the email, please email us at international@utk.edu or ischolars@utk.edu and request the tax email be sent to you. Please include your full name, the length of time that you have been at UT, and your visa category.

Tax Assistance

VITA Assistance

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a volunteer outreach program funded and managed by the IRS. It is available only to students or scholars with annual income under $50,000 or to people over age 60.

The UT College of Law offers special VITA sessions for international students and scholars. No appointment is required. They are located in the UT College of Law, 1505 W Cumberland Ave., Knoxville, TN 37996.

Please visit the IRS website for other Knoxville locations where VITA is offered. Availability of times and dates vary from location to location.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) local office:
710 Locust Street
Knoxville, TN, 37902.

This office is not able to answer questions concerning non-resident tax returns, but they do assist tax residents. They have IRS publications and forms, accept ITIN applications, and they can help with administrative questions, such as “Where is my refund?”

IRS National Office

Tax Forms and other information is available on the IRS website.

Toll-free information telephone helpline: 1-800-829-1040 (If you are a non-resident, ask for a non-resident specialist).

Recorded information: 1-800 829-4477 (See IRS Pub. 910 for a list of topics).

Unusual problems with past tax returns: 615-250-5000 (in Nashville, TN) or 877-777-4778 (toll free).

To request forms and publications: 1 800-829-3676.

If you are outside the U.S., call 215-516-2000 and choose option “2″ (This is not a toll-free number).

Paid Tax Preparers

Students or scholars with complicated situations (for example, someone who earned investment income such as stock dividends or capital gains) are strongly recommended to consider paying a tax preparer to complete their tax return. Be sure to find out if the tax preparer has experience with tax non-residents. There is typically a fee charged (at least $100) to prepare a tax return.


Click on the titles below for more tax information.

Tax Information for Newcomers

As an international student, researcher, or faculty member at UT, it is important that you be aware of your U.S. income tax obligations. U.S. tax laws distinguish between residents and non-residents for U.S. tax purposes. Non-residents only pay taxes on U.S. source income, while residents pay taxes on their “worldwide income.” Most incoming F and J visa holders are considered non-residents (F and J students for the first five calendar years in the United States and J-1 scholars for the first two calendar years in the United States).

The U.S. tax system follows the calendar year. It is a pay-as-you-go-system, which means that taxes may be deducted from salaries, stipends, and scholarships if these funds are from U.S. sources. In most cases, taxes are automatically withheld from your pay. Your available income after taxes, therefore, may be less than anticipated as you may be subject to federal, state and/or Social Security taxes that can range from 14% to 30% of your total income. The amount of taxes you pay will depend on the type of income you receive and your tax status in the United States.

Tax Treaties

There are many tax treaties between the United States and other countries. Such treaties may exempt earnings, scholarships, and stipends from taxes. In order to claim a tax treaty benefit you must have either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). More information about treaties can be found on the menu below.

Filing Tax Returns

Federal and state income tax forms are completed annually in the United States and submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) between January 1 and April 15 for the previous tax year (e.g. 2010 tax forms will be due by April 15, 2011).

Tax forms must be completed (even if a tax treaty exempts you from paying any U.S. taxes) if you were in the United States during any part of 2010 on any visa, other than a tourist visa. In Tennessee, most people do not need to file a state income tax.

If you are employed in the United States, you will receive a statement of earnings, called “Form W-2”. This form details your income and any taxes withheld during the previous year. If you receive benefits of a tax treaty for employment, scholarship or fellowship income, you will also receive a Form 1042-S that details your income and treaty benefits. You will need these documents to complete your tax forms. Be sure to keep copies of all your tax documents. If you are leaving UT before the end of the year, be sure that the UT Payroll Office has your correct mailing address so that you will receive the necessary tax documents.

Filing Tax Returns

For specific information pertaining to the current year, download the handout:
How To File a Tax Return.”

Federal and state income tax forms are completed annually in the United States and submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) between January 1 and April 15 for the previous tax year (e.g. 2010 tax forms will be due by April 15, 2011).

Most tax non-residents* who have received income (such as salary or scholarship) from sources in the U.S. during the previous calendar year are required to file a U.S. Federal Income Tax Return this year.

If your only U.S income last year was salary which was less than than the personal exception amount, you are NOT required to file a Tax return. But if the IRS owes you a refund, you must file a Tax Return to get it.

In addition, [almost] every person with F-1, F-2, J-1 or J-2 status who is a Tax Non-resident is required to file a Form 8843, even if no income was received in 2011. This requirement applies to dependents as well as students and scholars.

Persons exempt from income tax based on a tax treaty must still file a tax return, unless the salary was less than the personal exception amount.

*More information about tax residency in menu below.

Calculate Tax Residency

IMPORTANT NOTE: The IRS definitions of “Resident” is not the same as the DHS Immigration definition.

How to calculate Tax Residency

  • In the simplest cases, a student and dependents are considered non-residents for the first five tax years (Note: A portion of a calendar year counts as one tax year).
  • After the first five years, a student will be considered a resident in any year he/she is in the U.S. equal to or more than 183 days. If you have had more than five years in F or J status, but were in the U.S. less than 183 days in 2010, consult IRS Pub.519, Glacier Tax Prep, or a CIE Advisor.
  • If you were a student (F-1 or J-1), J-1 scholar, or a dependent (F-2, J-2) at any time during any five previous years (not counting years before 1985), and you were a student in the U.S. for equal to or more than 183 days in 2010, you are probably a tax resident for 2010.

Find additional help to calculate your tax residency status in the tax handouts below.

The basic differences* between Resident and Non-resident are as follows:

  • Resident
    • Pays federal income tax on income generated outside the U.S., as well as in the U.S. (includes scholarships from home government and salary from home country employer institution, unless exempt under a treaty).
    • Is usually responsible for paying Social Security Tax (FINA/Medicare), regardless of immigration status (Resident students may be exempt from paying FICA while working for the university).
    • May usually file joint return with spouse
    • May claim additional tax credits (such as education credit for tuition purposes)
    • Files income tax return of Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ
  • Non-resident
    • Normally pays federal income tax only on income which originates in the U.S.
    • Normally does not pay tax on bank interest
    • Persons with F-1 or J-1 status do not pay FICA or Social Security tax.
    • May not file joint return with spouse (unless spouse is a tax resident, in which case both may file jointly as residents).
    • May not take “standard deduction” (except for students from India); may itemize deductions, but only for a very limited list of expenses.
    • Must usually pay a flat 30% tax on income such as royalties, dividends, capital gains, mutual funds, etc. (income may not be associated with the “business” of being a student or scholar)
    • Files income tax return on Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ
    • Person in F or J status must normally file Form 8843.

*Taxation information and regulations are controlled by the IRS and are subject to change without notice.

Glacier Tax Prep

This information is provided for information purposes only. Please be aware that the Glacier Tax Prep system is only available during tax season (from approximately 2/1 – 7/31). ISSS will send an email to all international students and scholars once the site becomes active for the tax season.

Glacier Tax Prep is a tax preparation software that helps individuals determine what tax forms they need and fills out the forms for them. Glacier Tax Prep also helps individuals determine if they are residents or non-residents for U.S. tax purposes. Glacier Tax Prep can be used only to complete non-resident tax forms.

ISSS sends an email every February to current students and scholars with a password to access Glacier Tax Prep. If you didn’t receive the email contact CIE at international@utk.edu or ischolars@utk.edu.

The first time you visit Glacier Tax Prep website, you will be asked to set up a User ID and a new password. If you are a non-resident for tax purposes, Glacier Tax Prep will complete the appropriate forms for you to print out.

Download Glacier Tax Prep instructions: if you had incomeif you had no income.

Please have the following with you prior to logging in to Glacier Tax Prep:

  • Passport, visa and immigration status information
  • Form DS-2019 if you were in J status or Form I-20 if you were in F status
  • Social Security Number or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (If any)
  • Address Information (current USA and foreign addresses)
  • U.S. Entry and Exit Dates for current and past visits to the U.S.
  • Name of program sponsor (if in J status)
  • A University of Tennessee address and phone number (You may use CIE address and phone: 1620 Melrose Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37996-3531; phone: 865-974-3177)
  • Name, address and phone number of academic advisor or supervisor
  • Forms W-2, 1042-S and/or 1099 (if any)- Obtained from employer or other source of income
  • Any scholarship or fellowship grant letters you may have received from your academic institution or sponsor instead of an 1042-S (U.S.-based scholarships only)

Glacier Tax Prep does not file the tax forms electronically. You MUST print, sign and mail the forms generated by Glacier Tax Prep to the Internal Revenue Service Center in Austin, Texas as instructed by Glacier Tax Prep. Completing your tax forms should take approximately 30 minutes. All information entered into Glacier Tax Prep is encrypted and secured via SSL technology. Glacier Tax Prep cannot prepare amended returns, so be sure you have received all the relevant earning statements for the previous year before finalizing your return. Glacier Tax Prep is not accessible after July 31, so do not wait until the very last minute to do your tax return.

If you encounter problems using Glacier Tax Prep, contact them direclty at support@glaciertax.com. Glacier Tax Prep encourages everyone to file taxes as early as possible. Their web site experiences very high traffic from early April until tax forms are due. Glacier Tax Prep tries its best to provide timely responses to inquiries, but they get flooded with questions during the last few weeks before tax forms are due, so the earlier you file, the better.

Social Security Numbers & Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers

Any person who files a tax return must have a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). If you were previously issued a SSN or ITIN, you do not need to apply for a new one. If you are filing jointly with your Resident spouse or if you are eligible to claim exemptions for dependents (Tax Residents of U.S., and Residents of Canada, Mexico, Korea, and sometimes students from India), then you must have a SSN or ITIN for each person listed on your return.

Students with an F-1 or J-1 visa, please read the SSN and On-Campus Employment handout for the requirements and procedures to obtain a SSN.

International scholars must check-in with the CIE and wait ten days after arriving in the U.S. before they can apply for a SSN.

A Social Security Number card is an important document and should be kept in a safe place to avoid identity theft. For more information about “identity theft” and how to prevent it, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Download a map and directions to get to the Social Security Administration Office in Knoxville.

For additional information on Social Security Numbers:

Students, Scholars, and Dependents without a SSN

  • F-1 students who are not employed while studying in the U.S. are ineligible to apply for a SSN.
  • J-1 students who do not have on-campus employment are eligible for a SSN, but are not required to obtain one.
  • Certain banks will let international people open a bank account without a SSN. Two forms of identification are required. A VolCard (UT I.D. card) and passport are usually acceptable. The Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 should also be acceptable along with the passport. The student or scholar will also need to provide his/her local permanent address.
  • Those who want to purchase a mobile phone without a SSN may have to make a sizable deposit. Alternatively, prepaid phones do not require a deposit, and are offered by most cell phone providers.
  • Typically a SSN is required to obtain a credit card. However, a bank debit card is typically provided when opening a bank account. Debit cards can be used in most stores and restaurants. The difference between a debit card and a credit card is that the money “charged” using a debit card is drawn directly from the bank account.

State Income Tax

There is no state income tax in Tennessee unless you have received income from stock dividends or mutual funds. But if you lived or worked in another state of the U.S. last year, you may have to file a state income tax return. Visit the Federation of Tax Administrators to access state tax forms.

Tax Treaties

There are many tax treaties between the United States and other countries. Such treaties may exempt earnings, scholarships, and stipends from taxes. However not that if you earn a U.S. Income, you may still be required to file a tax return, even if you are exempt from paying taxes based on a treaty. In order to claim a tax treaty benefit you must have either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).

Download the Tax Treaty List (2012) to see what countries have signed treaties with the U.S. Visit the IRS website to download specific tax treaty documents.

For detailed information about tax treaties, see IRS Publication 901. We recommend that you read the information VERY CAREFULLY.

If you are a Resident for tax purposes, but are claiming treaty benefits, you should also file Form 8833 and Page 2 of Form 1040NR-EZ.

Tax Handouts

General Information

Handout Description
Questions About “W-4 Form Provides information on what is the W-4 Form and how to fill it out. Information is only for Tax Non-Residents.
How To File a Tax Return General information for International Students and Scholar on how to file U.S. Federal Income Tax.
No Income Instructions 2013 Tax filing requirements for persons with J or F status with no U.S. income last year.
Going home this year? How to file taxes from outside of the U.S. Provides information on how to file taxes after you have moved outside of the U.S.
What forms do you need? Provides information to figure out if you need to use Form 1040NR-EZ or 1040NR.
How Do I Find Tax Forms 2013 List of common tax forms for non-resident and resident tax returns.
How to get Social Security Refunded? Provides information on Social Security/Medicare Taxes: What is exempt? What if I paid by mistake?
Dual Status Alien Tax Return Information on how to file for those who changed to a Tax Resident last year (after January 1).
Frequently Asked Questions CIE staff is not able to answer individual tax questions. Please see this handout to find answers to the most frequent asked questions.
Resources on Non-resident and International Taxes Questions IRS Publications, offices and phone numbers; Vita and free file service; other resources.

Tax Residency

Handout Description
Resident vs non-resident (2013) How to calculate your tax residency and how do tax laws differ for residents and non-residents.
Residency worksheet for J-1 Scholars (2013) Worksheet to determine residency status for tax purposes to be used by J-1 Scholars and J-2 dependents.
Residency Worksheet for F-1 and J-1 Students (2013) Worksheet to determine residency status for tax purposes to be used by F-1 / J-1 Students and F-2 / J-2 dependents.
Residency worksheet for H-1B Employees (2013) Worksheet to determine residency status for tax purposes to be used by H-1B Employees and other persons who are not in F or J immigration status.
Residency Examples

Tax Treaties

Handout Description
Tax Treaty List List of countries with Tax Treaties with the U.S.
How does a Tax Resident claim tax treaty benefits (2013) Information for Tax Residents on how to claim a tax treaty benefit.
Summary of the India Tax Treaty (2013) Brief summary of treaty provisions for Indian students (not scholars).

Updated March 2014