I'm new to U.S. tax filing. What do I need to know?
Watch BIO's short Introduction to U.S. Tax Filing videos.
Can Berkeley International Office help me file my tax forms?
Berkeley International Office staff are not tax experts and cannot provide tax advice. To assist our clients, Berkeley International Office offers the following resources:
For student and scholars with no U.S. income: online instructions for how to file your required tax form.
For students and scholars with U.S. income: Berkeley International Office has purchased GLACIER Tax Prep (GTP). GTP is a user-friendly tax preparation software created specifically for international students and scholars who are nonresident aliens for tax purposes. GTP will help you navigate U.S. federal tax forms, residency status, tax treaties, exemptions, and deductions. GTP is accessible from around the world.
Do I have to file tax forms?
International students and scholars who have been in the U.S. for any portion of 2020 must file an annual tax report by the following year's tax filing deadline, even if they earned no U.S. income (see our "No U.S. Income" page).
International students and scholars who earned U.S. income should access GLACIER Tax Prep (GTP) to determine their tax filing requirement. You may be required to file taxes with the state of California as well. Income that is taxed includes wages, scholarships and earnings on investments. (A complete list of taxed income may be found in IRS and state tax guides.) The most common type of income is wages; the money withheld from each paycheck is an estimated payment of the federal and state income tax obligation. This money is sent by the employer to the IRS and Franchise Tax Board in the employee's account (the account number is the Social Security number). Taxable scholarship payments may have some amount withheld similar to wages. Investment income (not including bank interest) rarely has an amount withheld in advance; the applicable tax is paid when filing the tax forms.
What is the deadline to file tax forms?
Deadlines can be found on our main tax page. The deadline refers to the date the envelope is postmarked by the post office.
What are the consequences of not filing?
Filing a tax return is required by law. One of the conditions of your visa is to comply with U.S. law. If you owe taxes and don't file, the IRS can assess penalties, interest and seize U.S. bank assets 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 or "green cards" are frequently asked to show proof of tax filing for previous years in the U.S. In addition to the legal requirement, if you are owed a refund, filing a tax return is the only way to receive it.
Do I qualify as a nonresident or resident alien for federal tax purposes?
I worked in 2020 but returned to my home country. Do I need to file U.S. tax forms?
Yes, all students or scholars who were in F or J status, a nonresident for tax purposes and were present in the United States in 2020 must file a tax report for that year. Ask your employer to mail the Form W-2 to your home country address or explain how you may access it online. If you overpaid federal tax, the IRS can mail a refund check overseas.
There is a tax treaty between the U.S. and my country. Do I still need to file U.S. tax forms?
Yes, since you were present in the U.S. during 2020, you are required to complete and file tax forms.
GLACIER Tax Prep
How can GLACIER Tax Prep help me complete my tax forms?
GLACIER Tax Prep includes a tax resource library AND a comprehensive tax preparation program that:
Calculates the substantial presence test to determine the foreign national's U.S. tax residency status.
Checks each type of payment against any applicable tax treaty to ensure that the individual takes advantage of any tax treaty benefits.
Completes the correct U.S. federal income tax form—either Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ.
Prepares any additional statements or attachments, as applicable - Form 2106, Form 8843, Schedule C, and/or Scholarship/Fellowship Grant Statement.
Prints the federal tax return and all additional attachments.
Provides detailed instructions about which tax forms to submit and how, when, and where to submit them.
How do I access GLACIER Tax Prep?
Can I submit my tax forms electronically through GLACIER Tax Prep?
No. Once you provide GLACIER Tax Prep with all of the required information, the system will auto-fill the appropriate tax forms. To complete the tax filing requirement, you must print the forms and mail them to the address provided on the GLACIER Tax Prep instruction sheet. The address will depend on the form(s) you are filing. California state taxes must be filed with the California Franchise Tax Board. The address is available on the appropriate California tax form.
No U.S. Income
I received no U.S. income in 2020. Do I need to file anything?
All nonresident aliens for tax purposes, in F or J status, are required to complete Form 8843 with the IRS regardless of whether they received income. This also includes dependents in F-2 and J-2 status, regardless of age. For instructions on how to complete this form, follow the presentation here
I arrived in the U.S. in December 2020 and I didn't work. Do I still have to file Form 8843?
All nonresident aliens for tax purposes who spent any portion of 2020 in F or J status are required to complete Form 8843 and send it to the IRS. The deadline is June 15, 2020.
I forgot to file Form 8843 in a previous year. What should I do?
See No Income Tax Filing (bottom of page).
Students and Scholars with Families
Does my F-2 or J-2 spouse/child need to file a tax form?
Yes. Anyone in F or J status present in the U.S. and a nonresident for tax purposes is required to complete a tax form. If your F-2 or J-2 dependent did not earn any income, they would be required to fill out the Form 8843. J-2 dependents who received an EAD and earned income may be required to complete additional tax forms. They would be eligible to gain access to GLACIER Tax Prep to assist in the federal tax form process.
Do I need to file a Form 8843 for my U.S. citizen child?
No. If your child is a U.S. citizen and did not earn any income, no tax forms need to be completed.
Tax Forms You May Need
The information below is for international students and scholars (or their dependents) who earned U.S. income. If you did not earn U.S. income, you will not receive any of these tax forms.
What are some of the typical forms I may receive for tax filing purposes?
Some of the forms you may receive from UC Berkeley, your employer or other sources are: 1042-S, W-2, 1099-INT, 1099-MISC, 1098-T. For more information about the specific forms, see Tax Forms
What should I do if I didn't receive or if I lost the Form W-2?
If you were employed at UC Berkeley and want to know where to find your W-2, please review our Tax Forms page.
If you have not received Form W-2 or Form 1099-R, or received an incorrect form or information, contact your employer. You may not have received the form because of an incorrect or incomplete address. Be sure to verify the address used if already mailed. If the form was returned to the employer because of an incorrect address, or never mailed, and the employer intends to issue or re-mail, allow a reasonable amount of time for this action to occur before calling the IRS for help.
If you have requested the Form W-2 from the employer but have not received your Form(s) W-2, the IRS will help you obtain the missing form(s). Call 1-800-829-1040. Be prepared to provide your name, address (including zip code), phone number, Social Security Number, and dates of employment and the name, address (including zip code), and phone number of the employer. For additional information, see Tax Topic 154, "Form W-2 - What To Do if Not Received" on the IRS website
Who will receive the form 1042-S from the university?
A student or scholar who was employed and was exempt from tax withholding under a tax treaty.
Any nonresident alien student or scholar who received a taxable fellowship/scholarship/grant stipend in excess of required tuition and fees.
Any nonresident alien who received a non-employee service payment.
What should I do if I didn't receive Form 1042-S from UC Berkeley?
Not all students and scholars will receive a Form 1042-S. For more information on the 1042-S and where to find it, please see our Tax Forms page.
California State Tax Filing
Do I have to file taxes with the State of California?
Do I have to file taxes in California if I did not earn income?
What should I do if I am unable to file my tax form by the deadline?
If you need more time, you can file Form 4868 to request an automatic extension of time until August 15. You will not be notified if the extension request is approved, it is automatic. If you owe any taxes, you must still mail the estimated tax payment by the tax filing deadline in April or you will be assessed penalties and interest on any payment owed. Be sure to sign and date the forms and keep copies for your records.
I earned U.S. income in a previous year but did not file a tax return for that year. What should I do?
Anyone who failed to file a tax return for a previous year should do so as soon as possible. Nonresident aliens for tax purposes should do the following:
- Request an access code for GTP by following the instructions on our GTP page. You must meet the eligibility requirements.
- Once you have accessed GTP, you have the following options to file for a previous year (you will need to navigate to the appropriate page from the GTP menu page):
Option 1: Access blank tax forms from previous years. You can use this option if you would like to complete the tax forms on your own. BIO cannot advise on how to fill out tax forms.
- Option 2 (recommended): Purchase an access code for a previous year, which will allow you to use GTP software to complete your forms.
Please note that access to GTP is only free for the current tax year. To file for a previous year, you will need to purchase an access code.
I filed my tax report and am expecting a refund, but haven't received it.
Go to Where's My Refund? to track your refund. This page will usually have information about the refund three to four weeks after filing a paper return. Check weekly, on Wednesdays, for any updates to your refund information.
What should I do if I need a tax form signed?
If your home country has a tax form that requires confirmation of tuition paid, please contact Cal Student Central for assistance.