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The Office of International Admissions & Student Services provides currently enrolled F-1 students and F-1 alumni currently on Post-Completion OPT and STEM OPT with a complimentary code to file their taxes with Sprintax. Sprintax is a company that specializes in non-resident tax filings. It is very important to file with Sprintax and not other common tax filing software, as other programs are designed for residents.  

Office of International Admissions & Student Services staff cannot provide individual tax advice. We can only provide basic general guidelines to get you started in preparing your taxes. No information on this site may be considered formal tax advice. We suggest you consult with appropriate tax counsel as necessary. 

We recommend that you contact Sprintax directly with any tax-related questions that you may have, and attend one of their FREE webinars to learn more about your tax filing obligations.

Sprintax Tax Webinars for Filing Season 2023

Sprintax Nonresident Tax Webinar

In these tax webinars, international students, scholars and professionals will be run through everything they need to know about nonresident tax for the 2023 tax season. Topics will include who must file, tax residency, FICA, State returns, implications of misfiling as well as how to use Sprintax to prepare a compliant tax return.

Sprintax Nonresident Tax Overview for OPT/CPT

Topics covered will include residency for tax purposes, tax liabilities when on OPT/CPT
and pre-employment tax forms when on OPT/CPT. The Sprintax team will also provide an
overview of Sprintax Forms which can be used to prepare your pre OPT/CPT employment tax

Request Free Sprintax Code

  1. Log into the ISD Portal
  2. Complete the Sprintax Code Request form under Current Students or Alumni Forms. 
  3. Your international advisor will confirm you are in Active F-1 status.
  4. You will receive an email to the preferred email listed in your request with your Sprintax code.  
  5. Create or Log In to your Sprintax account here to complete your tax return.

Complimentary tax codes are limited and provided on a first-come first-serve basis. If we reach our limit of codes available, you will be responsible for purchasing your tax return from Sprintax. Allow 3-5 business days for processing.  

You must request a new code every year, as the codes will change annually.  

Tax Basics

Income tax in the U.S.

Income taxes in the United States are imposed by the federal government (IRS) and most state governments. The income taxes due are determined by applying a tax rate to taxable income, which is the total income less allowable deductions.

How Income Taxes Are Paid

Often, your employer/institution will withhold a portion of your paycheck to pay the IRS the estimated taxes due on your behalf. Sometimes taxes are not withheld, so you will be required to pay any taxes due when you file your tax return.

Taxable Income

Income that comes from employment, assistantships, fellowships, scholarships that cover more than tuition and fees, investments, awards, etc. are all examples of taxable income. 

Who Is Required to File a Tax Return

Anyone who was present in the U.S. for any length of time in the given tax filing year must file at least one tax form, even if no income was received.

Tax Filing Year

For January 1 – December 31, tax returns are due in April of the following year. Example: Tax filing year 2022 is January 1, 2022 – December 31, 2022. Taxes are due April 15, 2023.

Tax Residency Status

Tax residency is determined by the IRS Substantial Presence Test (or using a software like Sprintax). Determining your tax residency is very important, as it will determine which tax forms you are required to file. You must file the proper tax forms to be in legal compliance. Your tax status is different from your immigration status.

Nonresidents for tax purposes: 

*Must file Form 8843 to confirm status as a nonresident for tax purposes 

  • Taxed on U.S. income only
  • If income was received during tax filing year, individual will also need to file Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ
  • May NOT submit/file tax return online, must print, sign, and mail to IRS
  • Must use a specialized tax return software to assist with preparing tax return, like Sprintax, as IRS free file options are for residents only
  • May NOT file joint return with nonresident spouse
  • May NOT claim education tax credit (can be confusing if student receives Form 1098-T from Rice, but it is not relevant for nonresidents)

Residents for tax purposes: 

  • Based on Substantial Presence Test determination
  • Follow same rules as U.S. citizens
  • Taxed on worldwide income
  • If income was received during tax filing year, individual will need to file Form 1040 or 1040EZ
  • May use any U.S. income tax preparation software
  • May submit tax forms online to IRS
  • May benefit from education tax credits and other tax deductions
  • May claim dependents on tax return


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the federal agency who applies and enforces U.S. federal tax laws. 

Tax Return

A tax return is a report you send to the IRS that indicates:

  1. How much taxable income you received during the previous calendar year.
  2. How much tax you have already paid (tax withholding from your employer/school).
  3. How much tax you are required to pay (whether you owe tax or are due a refund for overpayment).

Tax Treaties

Tax treaties are agreements between the U.S. and 65 different countries. Each treaty is unique, and the terms vary regarding benefits to foreign nationals residing in the U.S. See IRS Publication 901 (09/2016), U.S. Tax Treaties for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I really have to file my taxes? What if I didn’t receive any income?

Yes! Anyone in the U.S. for any length of time last year is required to file a tax return this year to be legally compliant – whether you received U.S. funds or not. If you are a nonresident and did not receive any income last year, you still must file Form 8843 to be compliant. You may use Sprintax to assist you with the 8843, or you may complete it on your own - Form 8843 Download.

What happens if I don’t file?

Foreign nationals are required to comply with all U.S. laws, and that includes tax filing obligations. Failure to comply can negatively impact future immigration benefits, like applying for a change of status or applying for visa renewals. Failing to comply can also include fines, penalties, and interest if you owe the IRS money.

What do I do if I cannot file on time?

If you cannot complete your tax filing on time, you may request a 6-month extension. Please note that if you expect to owe taxes, you must still pay on time to avoid penalties.
To request an extension, you will need to file Form 4868 by the April 15 deadline and submit any taxes you expect to owe. Always be sure to keep copies of any tax forms you file for your records.

If you are requesting an extension because you have not yet received your SSN or ITIN that you have applied for, you may file Form 4868 and indicate "Applied For" in the SSN/ITIN box.

What if I am graduating or leaving the U.S.? 

You are still required to complete your U.S. tax filing obligation, even if you have moved back home. Read Sprintax's blog on Filing Your U.S. Tax Returns from Abroad to learn more.

What happens if I forgot to file in previous years? Is it too late?

If you failed to file your tax return in previous years, it is important to correct the problem so that you are in legal compliance. You are allowed to file for previous years at any time (not just tax time). You just need to make sure that you use the specific tax forms for that filing year. If you are a nonresident, you can purchase Sprintax software for the specific tax filing year you are missing to assist you with completing the tax forms that you forgot or you may choose to download the forms directly from the IRS. If you are a resident, you may look into programs like Turbo Tax for that particular filing year or you may look up older tax forms on the IRS website.

What if I filed my forms incorrectly? What do I do now? 

If you misfiled, you must fix it. Use Form 1040X – Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return to correct your mistake. Be sure to use Form 1040X for the proper year you are correcting and follow the instructions. You may also use a program like Sprintax to assist you.

Do I need to file a state tax return?

It depends. If you lived/worked in a state that charges state income tax, you may need to file a state tax return as well. Texas does not have a state income tax.
If you lived in another U.S. state that does charge state income tax you will likely need to file a state tax return as well. See Federation of Tax Administrators Forms & Filing Options to learn more. You may use Sprintax to assist you with filing your state tax return if you are a nonresident.

How long does it take to get a tax refund?

If you are due a refund it can take between 6 weeks – 6 months to process. You can always check the status of your federal refund by visiting IRS: Where's My Refund.

What are all these tax documents: W-2, 1042-S, 1099, 1098-T, etc?

These are tax documents that you will use to report how much income you have received and how much tax you have already paid to the U.S. government. If you are missing any forms, please contact the payroll office for your employer or educational institution to request a duplicate copy. These forms are a required part of your tax return. Be sure to follow the tax return instructions on which copy must be included as documentation in your tax filing submission.

Tax Document Income Source Details
W-2 Employee wages or salary  Issued by your employer for wages earned (if paid by UHCL, you may access your W-2 in your PASS account). 
Typically available by end of January. 
1099 Investment income, independent contractor sources  Issued by the paying entity (bank, employer, etc.). 
Typically available by March. 
1098-T Tuition Statement Issued by your educational institution. 
**NOT APPLICABLE for nonresidents. 

My friend received a refund, but I am being told I owe money. Did I do something wrong?

Taxes are based on individual circumstances. The amount owed or due will depend on sources of income, resident vs. nonresident status, tax treaties, eligible deductions, income levels, and whether the forms were completed correctly. Just be sure to double check your entries and ask your tax software support if you have specific questions/concerns.

Additional Resources

External Resources



  • International Student Services

    Phone: 281-283-2740
    Fax: 281-226-7038

    Bayou Building B2123
    2700 Bay Area Blvd, Box 225
    Houston, TX 77058-1002