Nonresident Alien Federal Tax Return


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. government agency that collects federal taxes.


How to File

To file your federal income tax return (Form 1040-NR), you can follow these steps:

Determine your tax residency status (resident or nonresident alien).

  • Resident and nonresident aliens are taxed differently in the U.S.
  • Residents are taxed on worldwide income, while nonresidents are only taxed on income from U.S. sources.

Identify the types of income you received throughout the calendar year.

  • Be sure to include employee compensation, scholarship/fellowship income, prizes/awards, and other income from MIT and other sources.

Determine if the income is U.S.-sourced or foreign-sourced.

  • If you are a nonresident alien, you are only required to report U.S.-sourced income on your U.S. federal income tax return.

Review the federal and state tax rules to understand the tax treatment for the income types you received.

  • IRS Publication 519 is a U.S. tax guide for nonresident aliens. Individual tax situations will vary depending on several factors. Review the information available on the IRS website to understand your personal tax obligations.

Gather any applicable tax forms from MIT and other sources that issued payments to you.

  • You will need certain tax forms for the income you are reporting in order to prepare your federal income tax return.
  • You cannot file your tax forms until you have received all applicable tax documents after the end of the calendar year. If you will leave the U.S. before tax season, you must wait to file until you have all the required forms. The IRS does not release the tax forms and instructions until the tax filing season begins in late January or early February.

Decide if you will use tax software to help prepare your federal income tax return.

  • Once you have compiled the necessary tax documentation, you can prepare your return. MIT makes certain tax preparation software available to nonresident aliens. Review the tax software list for more information. After you complete your federal tax return, you can prepare any applicable state returns.

File your tax return before the deadline.

  • Please refer to the information below regarding filing deadlines and extensions.


Forms to File

The IRS federal tax forms for nonresident alien individuals are:

  • Form 1040-NR
  • Form 8843

Review the list of tax forms filed with the IRS to find out which forms are applicable to you.


When to File

The IRS defines the tax year (January 1 through December 31) as an annual accounting period for reporting income and expenses. You are required to file your tax return by mid-April in the following year.

The IRS individual income tax filing deadline (including Form 1040-NR with 8843) is April 15. If April 15 falls on a weekend or holiday (including Patriot’s Day for residents of MA and ME), the federal deadline will fall on the next business day. Even if you are no longer living in the U.S., you are required to file a return by the stated deadlines.


Extension of Time to File

An individual can extend their personal filing deadline for six months by filing Form 4868 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) by the original April 15 due date. However, an extension of filing will not extend the deadline for paying taxes. If you believe you owe taxes, you must submit your payment for an estimated amount with Form 4868 by April 15.

See IRS Publication 505 for more information on tax withholding and estimated taxes.


Where to File

The Form 1040-NR along with Form 8843 should be mailed to the address listed in the Form 1040NR instructions. Please be aware that the address may change depending on whether or not you are enclosing a tax payment. If you owe tax, follow the form instructions to review payment options. If you are only required to file a Form 8843, use the alternate address listed in the Form 8843 instructions.


Checking on the Status of Your Refund

If you are waiting on a tax refund of tax withheld and owed to you by the IRS, you can contact the IRS to request a status update. If you will leave the U.S. and do not plan to return but have not yet received your refund by the time you need to leave, you should notify the IRS of a new U.S. address to which your refund can be sent. You should consider asking a local friend, relative, or colleague if you can use their address and ask the IRS to mail it to that address by stating your name “in care of” on that address. Make sure you ask a reliable person to handle this for you and give your friend or colleague your address overseas they can mail it directly to you.

See IRS Topic 157 for more information on changing your address.

The content in this website is provided for informational purposes only. MIT does not offer legal, accounting, or tax advice and services. This information should not be used as a substitute for consultation with a professional accounting, tax, or legal advisor. MIT recommends that students consult a tax advisor for individual tax advice.