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Tax Return Basics

Tax filing responsibilities are unique for each individual. We created an easy flowchart to help you determine what you (and your dependents) filing requirements are. Use this flowchart to help determine your filing responsibilities.

Form 8843

All international students and scholars (and any applicable dependents) are required to fill out Form 8843 each year they are in the U.S., regardless of if they had income or not. This form must also be completed for any dependents of international students and scholars. If you and your dependents did not make any income in the tax year, this form is your only filing requirement. This is a simple form and can be filled out without using the Glacier Tax Prep software.

The forms must be mailed in separate envelopes to the following address:

Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service Center
Austin, TX, 73301-0215

Tax Returns

The money that you pay in state and federal income taxes can sometimes be refunded to you depending on your situation. International Students are required to file a tax return if they made any income in the year of 2020. The deadline to file your taxes each year is April 15th (sometimes this date varies slightly). For example, the 2021 tax period would go from January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021 but your tax return would be due April 15, 2022.

All individuals will need the following documents to complete their tax return: Passport, social security card or ITIN, W-2, 1042-S (if applicable), Travel history (I-94).

Tax Filing Status

Your residency for tax purposes is different than your immigration status. If this is your first visit to the U.S. or you have been in the U.S. for less than 5 years (in F-1 status) or less than 2 years (in J-1 status), you would most likely be a nonresident alien for tax purposes. If you have been in the U.S. longer than 5 years in F-1 status (or longer than 2 years if in J-1 status), you may be a resident for tax purposes. Before completing any tax forms, we highly recommend confirming your residency status by updating your record through Glacier. Do not commit tax fraud by incorrectly filing as a resident through programs like Turbo Tax!

Federal Income Tax Filing – Nonresident Alien

Individuals classified as Nonresident Alien for tax purposes can use Glacier to confirm their residency information and complete their tax return forms. Glacier provides step-by-step instructions that assist individuals with completing their tax forms. Glacier will prepare your Non-resident alien tax return, but you may also take advantage of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site at the International House, if eligible.

Individuals in non-resident alien status should use Glacier to complete their tax forms accurately. Filing incorrectly by withholding information or filing incorrect forms through a website like Turbo Tax could be considered tax fraud and impact your ability to apply for permanent residency or citizenship in the future. Before filing any tax returns, it is recommended to verify your tax residency status by doing so through Glacier.

Federal Income Tax Filing – Resident Alien

Individuals who have confirmed they should file as a resident alien are eligible to use other online programs that assist taxpayers in completing form 1040 or 1040EZ. They may also be eligible for assistance from the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site at the UT Law School. If your adjusted gross income is $69,000 or less, you may review Free Filing options on the IRS website.

Tax Resources

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website is a good source of information on your tax questions. The publications listed below are some of the most commonly used resources by foreign nationals.

IRS Website

Determining Alien Tax Status

Publication 519—US Tax Guide for Aliens

Publication 901—US Tax Treaties(be aware there are different sections for scholars and students)

Publication 1915—Understanding your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number


This information is intended only for international students and scholars with income sources typical of students and scholars at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Although the information contained in this site has been reviewed carefully and should be adequate to assist most international students and scholars, it is not a substitute for advice obtained from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or a qualified tax accountant. If your visa status has changed in the past year, or you believe you have a complicated tax issue, please consult the IRS or a qualified tax accountant.
In addition, while the tax preparation software, Glacier, is being provided to help you with your tax filing obligations, you are individually responsible for verifying that the correct information has been entered into the tax preparation software and included on all forms and/or other documents printed or derived from the tax preparation software, and ultimately responsible for any errors or omissions.