SSN, ITIN and Taxes
A Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit number issued to citizens, permanent residents and temporary (working) non-residents by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Its primary purpose is to track individuals for taxation purposes; it is not intended to be used for identification purposes.
Per current legislation, SSNs can only be issued to someone who:
- Is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or
- Has a valid job offer and/or is eligible for legal employment
Currently, SSNs are only issued to non-residents who have an employment offer. Dependents with F-2 status are not eligible for a SSN because they are not permitted to work. However, J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for a SSN.
Students do not need a SSN to register for classes at UIW, get a driver’s license in Texas or open a bank account. However, landlords and utility, cable and cell phone companies may request a SSN to do a credit history check to determine the amount of deposit they will require to secure housing or to activate services. Students without a SSN may be required to pay a higher deposit payment prior to receiving service.
The SSA provides more information on SSNs for international students.
Students and scholars who are not eligible for a SSN may be eligible for a Tax Identification Number (ITIN) to use for filing taxes during tax season reporting.
The ITIN is used primarily for tax filing purposes and is not a form of work authorization.
Non-resident aliens who receive payments from UIW in the form of a check (paycheck, stipend, scholarship, etc.) but who are not eligible for a Social Security Number are required to obtain an ITIN. If a scholarship is applied directly against tuition, there is no need to apply for an ITIN.
Do not apply for an ITIN:
- If you already have an ITIN or SSN;
- If you are also employed by UIW (in which case you must apply for a Social Security Number instead);
How to Apply for an ITIN
Visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website and compete the following forms:
UIW ISSS hosts a International Tax Workshop every semester: A tax expert from H&R Block will give a free workshop on how to file as an International Student. – If you miss the workshop, we will have a copy of the presentation you can pick up in our office.
ISSS cannot advise you on your Taxes, as we are not trained by the IRS, however here are a few Tax resources to help you:
VITA Programs are volunteer-run, community tax-assistance services. Visit the Central District VITA site for individual tax assistance. They are not trained for international students specifically, so make sure they know you are an international student and how to help Non-Resident taxes. They are volunteers, so they many not all be training in helping international students. VITA is hosted at UIW, Administrative Bldg., Room 62. SAT: 10 am - 12 pm (Jan. 24 thru April 11 only)
Visit the IRS Website or call 1-800-829-1040 for telephone assistance. IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers provide face-to-face assistance if you are unable to get your questions answered online or by phone. Assistance is available for preparing your basic individual income tax return if your income is $49,000 or less. For locations and more eligibility information, visit the IRS's Face-to-face Tax Help.
Tax Help Company Websites:
The following companies specialize in int’l student tax preparation, they can charge anywhere from $25-50 to file your taxes.
- Sprintax is a make specifically for Int’l Students
- Glacier Tax Prep is also made specifically for Int’l Students
Most international students and scholars are liable for taxation on any income earned in the United States from the beginning of their arrival in the U.S. Income can include: salary, scholarships, fellowships, money earned from U.S. mutual funds or U.S. bank accounts.
Taxes for each calendar year are reported in the spring of the following year. Tax forms are filed with both the U.S. government (federal) through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. state(s) where income was earned. Luckily, Texas does not have a state tax, so Texans and international students only working in Texas do not need to file state taxes.
F-1 and J-1 students and their dependents are usually considered non-residents (NR) for tax purposes for their first five years in the United States. Non-residents file federal form 1040NR (long form) or 1040NR-EZ (short form). Scholars are also typically considered NR for their first two years in the United States. H-1B, TN or O-1 status holders who have been in the U.S. for more than 183 days, should go to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) site, specifically Publication 519 (U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens), to find out which resident (1040, 1040A or 1040EZ) or non-resident tax forms to fill out.
To determine residency threshold for tax liability, use the “ Substantial Presence Test” utilized by the IRS.
All non-residents in F, J, M or Q status and each of their dependents must file federal form 8843 and Statement of Non-Residence every tax season, even if no income was earned. Please note that being a resident for tax purposes does not mean resident for immigration purposes.
information adapted from University of Southern California website