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International Student Services

How to File Your 2021 Taxes as an F-1 or J-1 International Student

This announcement has general details about filing your taxes in the U.S. It does not include the Sprintax access code. If you were enrolled at USC or on USC-administered OPT during 2021, you should have received an email with your personal access code on February 4th. Do not share this code with others.


If you did earn an income in 2021:

You must file BOTH a FEDERAL (U.S.) and a STATE tax return.
  • How to file your federal tax return: International Student Services provides access to Sprintax, an online tax software designed specifically for Nonresident Aliens. Access to file your federal tax return through Sprintax is offered at no charge to international students who were enrolled at the University of South Carolina or on USC administered Optional Practical Training (OPT) during 2021. You will receive a unique access code to your University email if you qualify for the free federal tax return.
  • How to file your state tax return: : You can file your state tax return for a $35 fee using Sprintax. If you do not want to pay a fee to file your state tax return through a software or tax specialist, you can print out your own copy of the South Carolina Form 1040 . You can find instructions for filing your State Return here.

If you did not earn any income or have a taxable scholarship in 2021:

International students who were in the United States for any length of time during 2021 and did not earn income must file the Non-Employed 8843 Form (this includes non-degree and exchange students present in 2021). This form is also available through the Sprintax software,which is available for use by students who were enrolled at the University of South Carolina for any term in 2021. 

The Form 8843 must be mailed via postal service and cannot be electronically submitted. If you did not earn an income, no state filing is required. 

If you did not earn an income but did receive a taxable scholarship in 2021:

You will need to report your scholarship "earnings" when you file for taxes. Please consult with Sprintax for additional details. 


Frequently Asked Questions:

Income is taxable in the United States. Every spring, the U.S. federal government and many states require individuals who were present in the U.S. to file a “tax return.”  A tax return documents the income that someone earned the previous year and determines if any additional tax is owed, or if a refund is available. 

Yes! All international students are REQUIRED to file a return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each year they are in the United States: the federal AND state tax returns required for those who earn income and the non-employed federal form for those who did not earn income. If you were studying in the US for any length of time in 2021, you must file (or submit) documents declaring your income, or one stating that you did not earn an income. This includes exchange students who were present in 2021.

ISS offers Sprintax for all USC international students who were present in the U.S. and enrolled or on OPT in 2021. You should have received an email  on Friday, February 4th with a unique code to access Sprintax federal tax filing assistance free of charge. Y

You can use Sprintax to file your state taxes! There is a charge of $35 to file your state taxes. You must file a tax form for each state in which you have lived or earned income during the 2021 year if that state has a state income tax. South Carolina does have a state income tax, so you will need to file your state taxes in addition to your federal taxes if you earned income in 2021.  Federal and state tax forms can also be downloaded from the IRS website ( 

The deadline to file the tax return is Monday, April 18. If you do not file in time, you may be subject to financial penalties in the future.  More here. 

Some people do receive a "tax return." The tax filing process allows the IRS to determine if you paid too much or too little in taxes. If you paid more than you actually owed in taxes during 2021, you will receive a tax return. If you paid less than you actually owed in 2021, you may owe money to the IRS. 

No, if you were NOT present in the United States during 2021, then you do NOT have to file a 2021 tax return, and you can ignore this information.

You will need to report your scholarship "earnings" when filing for taxes. For more assistance, please utilize Sprintax. You will not qualify for a social security number if you did not work, but you will need to obtain an ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number). You can find out more about applying for an Indivdual Taxpayer Identification Number here.

 If you are an international student and need to file as a nonresident alien, (Form 1040-NR), ISS does not recommend using a standard tax filing service, as they might not be aware of the specifics of filing for taxes as a nonresident alien. Filing as a resident when you are not can lead to you owing money to the federal government. This is why ISS provides Sprintax, which is a company that specializes in helping nonresident aliens file taxes.

 Sprintax will tell you whether or not you are considered a resident or nonresident alien when you use their service. If you are considered a "resident alien," you will need to utilize another tax service to file your taxes. For more information about how your F-1 student status corresponds with your non-resident alien tax status, see this IRS webpage. Note: Being a resident for tax purposes does not change your immigration status; it only changes your tax status.

  1. Sprintax Tax Prep offers help (24/7 chat available) and tutorial advice:
    1. Sprintax Youtube Channel
    2. Upcoming Sprintax free tax webinars, which will cover the following:  An overview of tax for nonresident students and scholars; Who must file a 2021 US tax return; What income forms you may receive; Forms that need to be completed and sent to the IRS; We cover terms like FICA, ITIN and Form 1098-T; What happens if students don’t file, or misfile; State tax returns; IRS stimulus payments; Sprintax overview
    • You can find a VITA (Voluntary Income Tax Assistance) site at this link. Make sure that you confirm whether the site you want to visit can assist with nonresident alien tax returns.
    • Students who need tax advice are strongly encouraged to consult a tax preparation specialist who specializes in working with "nonresident aliens."  To find a local tax preparation specialist, please visit the IRS website. You can also hire a tax professional or certified tax accountant who specializes in non-resident alien tax preparation.



Useful Documents for Filing Your Taxes:

Before you begin the filing process, be sure you have all the necessary information with you.

  • Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement: W-2 forms are either provided to current and former employees. If you worked at USC, you will either receive your W-2 through Peoplesoft or via mail. This W-2 form shows how much you earned last year and how much was taken out for taxes. You will only receive this form if you have been employed.
  • 1042-S (if applicable to you): The 1042-S form is not required to complete taxes for most international students at UofSC. The 1042-S form will only be given to nonresident alien students who have received scholarship or fellowship money that exceeds tuition and related fee charges.
  • Form 1099 (if applicable to you): The 1099 form documents miscellaneous income. For example, if you had CPT authorization to work as an independent contractor, rather than as an employee of an organization, you might receive Form 1099 instead of Form W-2 to document your earnings. Most international students do not receive a Form 1099.
  • Passport
  • I-20 (F-1 status)
  • DS-2019 (J-1 status)
  • Social Security number or Individual Tax Identification number 
  • Address information (current U.S. address and foreign address)
  • entry and exit dates for current and past visits to U.S.  You can get much of your travel information from the online I-94 system;
  • Academic institution or host sponsor information (name, address, phone)
  • Scholarship/fellowship grant letter (if any)
  • A copy of last year’s federal income tax return, if filed 

Additional Resources:

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