U.S. Income Tax Basics (F and J)

U.S. income tax law is quite complex. This brief overview provides the basics of what you need to know.


U.S. Income Tax Overview

The tax year is from January 1 to December 31, and is “pay-as-you-go” which means that in most cases taxes are withheld from your income throughout the year.  Withholding means  employers are required to take money out of your paycheck for taxes during that year and send it to the tax collectors. The federal tax agency is called the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In addition, each state in the U.S. has its own tax regulations.

Your situation is unique and different from your fellow students and scholars because it is dependent upon the amount of time you have spent in the U.S., the nonimmigrant statuses that you have held, the type of income you may receive, and your nationality if your country has a tax treaty with the U.S.

New York State residency rules are different than those of the Internal Revenue Service. You may be a nonresident alien for federal tax purposes but be considered a resident for state tax purposes.

There are exceptions to the April 15th date, when it falls on a weekend or state holiday. The deadline for filing a 2016 tax return is April 18, 2017.

If you have had U.S. income during the year, you need to send a tax return by April 15th the following year to the tax authorities. Basically, it’s a reconciliation between tax that has been withheld and tax that is owed--sometimes you get a refund and other times you may owe the government money to make up for the shortfall.

If you're a non-resident for federal tax purposes you have to file a non-resident tax return. Don't commit tax fraud in error by filing a tax return for which you are not eligible!

Learn more about filing your tax return.

Orange Divider

Overview Webinar

Looking for more information about taxes? Watch our tax overview from our Sprintax Tax Webinar (below).

Tax Overview
Orange Page Divider

Income Overview

Sources of income include, but are not limited to:

Read more about withholding here. The amount of taxes you will pay will depend on the type of income you receive and your tax residence status in the United States.

Orange Page Divider

Determining Your U.S. Tax Status

You tax status is separate from your immigration status. It is based only on your presence in the U.S. over a period of years, with special rules for students and scholars in F or J status.

Students in F-1 and J-1 status (and their dependents) are generally considered a Non-Resident Alien (NRA) for their first 5 tax years* in student status.

*The tax year is from January 1 - December 31. Any time spent in the U.S. during a calendar year counts as one tax year--even one day!

Scholars (professors and researchers) in J-1 status are typically considered a Non-Resident Alien (NRA) if they have been in the U.S. for no more than 2 out of the last 6 tax years*.

*The tax year is from January 1 - December 31. Any time spent in the U.S. during a calendar year counts as one tax year--even one day!

Orange Page Divider

How to File

We have teamed up with Sprintax to provide you with easy-to-use tax preparation software designed for non-resident students, scholars, alumni and their dependents in the U.S. We (and and all other university staff) are not qualified or allowed to provide individual tax advice.

For login instructions and tutorials, visit our webpage on Filing Non-Resident Tax Forms with Sprintax (F & J).

Orange Divider

Receiving Money from Columbia

Are you receiving money from Columbia? If you are receiving money from Columbia as payment for work or as “non-work” stipend for a scholarship or fellowship, read more here.