The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. federal agency for the collection of income tax. The "U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens" (IRS Publication 519) contains most of the information you might need about payment of federal taxes. While not every state in the U.S. collects taxes on income, the State of California does so through the Franchise Tax Board. If you have spent time in other states, you will need to obtain their state tax information.
Income Tax Withholding and the W-4 Form
When a person is working in the U.S., the employer is required to deduct a portion of the salary every pay period for income taxes. At the start of your job, you will complete a half page Form W-4: Employees Withholding Allowance Certificate. The information on that form determines how much will be withheld from your paycheck for taxes. When completing the W-4 form, most international students and scholars are required to file as "single," regardless of marital status (There may be some exceptions for citizens of Mexico, Korea, Canada and India). Your employer should be able to help you complete the W-4 form if you have any questions. UC campus departments can contact Central Payroll Office if they have questions about the UC W-4 NR/DE 4.
Social Security and Medicare Taxes
Anyone who works in the U.S. is required to have a Social Security Number to be hired and for use in completing tax return forms. Social Security (FICA) and Medicare are U.S. government programs that provide benefits for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, usually for retirement. It is financed by taxes withheld from the paychecks of working people.
F-1 or J-1 students and scholars who are "nonresidents for tax purposes" are not required to pay Social Security taxes. Those in J-2 status and those in F-1 and J-1 status who have become "residents for tax purposes" must pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. If Social Security and Medicare taxes are withheld in error you can obtain a refund by following the instructions in IRS Publication 519 or following the information outlined in the tax filing software program offered in spring by Berkeley International Office called GLACIER Tax Prep.
Sales tax is a state tax added to any item sold, except for certain food items. In the East Bay Area, the sales tax is approximately 9% (as of Oct. 2013). Sales tax may vary by city and county. There is no way to get a refund of sales tax.