Filing a Tax Return as a Non-Resident

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

Filing a U.S. tax return while engaging in a trade or business on an F, J, M, or Q visa can be tricky. Knowing which tax forms to file and which exemptions apply to you will depend on whether or not you meet the substantial presence test. This article covers the tax rules as it applies to those who do not meet the substantial presence test and may not file a U.S. 1040.


A non-resident alien who is not otherwise engaged in a U.S. trade or business but who is temporarily present in the United States under immigration laws on an F, J, M, or Q visa as a visiting student, teacher, trainee, or specialist is considered to be engaged in a U.S. trade or business. This means all income earned in the U.S. is taxable and must be declared on a 1040-NR.


Types of income that must be declared are:

  1. Wages, salaries, and tips reported on a W-2

  2. Income earned as an NEC

  3. Taxable Scholarships and Fellowship Grants

  4. Stipend paid by your university reported on 1042-S

  5. Income earned from the conduct of your trade or business


Note that as a non-resident you may not claim any standard deduction but may itemize certain expenses directly associated with the income you’ve earned within the tax year. These itemized deductions will reduce your taxable income and ultimately your tax liability. One benefit of filing as a non-resident is that you are not subject to tax on your worldwide income. This means all income earned in your foreign country or paid by a foreign employer is not taxable and does not have to be declared.


Who can help you file your tax return?


While turbo-tax is one of the largest online tax preparation services in the US – their product offering can only be used by US residents. If you do use turbo-tax you will be filing as a U.S. resident and your tax return will be inaccurate. You may be subject to fines and penalties if you file an incorrect tax return.


Why use Specialists Accounting?


Specialists Accounting provides accurate tax preparation services for non-resident aliens entirely online. With us you will:

  • Save time and worry less!

  • Determine your residency status

  • E-file your Federal and State tax return

  • Prepare a fully compliant US State tax return

  • Claim your maximum US tax refund

  • Discuss your US tax questions with one of our experts!


We look forward to working with you.



From Your Preferred Accountants,

Specialists Accounting LLC

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