How to File Your Nonresident Tax Return from Outside the US

Need to file a US nonresident tax return from outside America?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone! Countless nonresidents face this very predicament every year.

Filing from outside the US can pose its own unique set of challenges. But, with some planning, organization and a little help from your friends at Sprintax, filing your documents can be easier than you think!

In this handy guide, we’ve got 5 top tips to follow if you’re filing your nonresident tax documents from outside the US.

1. File early!

Firstly, even if you are outside the US you are still required to file your US tax documents with the IRS by the tax deadline.

Filing is one of the conditions of your visa. It’s also the law.

By not filing you risk being hit with fines and penalties. You may also jeopardize your future US visa or green card applications.

It’s important to note that, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the IRS has extended the federal tax filing and payment deadlines from 15 April to 15 July.

The following states* have also extended their filing deadlines:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan. Minnesota, Mississippi Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont District of Columbia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Virginia has extended its tax deadline to June 1, Idaho to June 15,  Hawaii to July 20 and Iowa to July 31.

*lists up-to-date on May 11

While you now have additional time to file your federal tax return, we recommend that you prepare your tax documents as soon as possible.

By preparing your tax documents today you can ensure that you receive your tax refund without delay.

As you will be mailing your documents to the IRS from outside America, delivery times may take longer than what you would expect if you were mailing from within the US. This is why it’s a good idea to file your documents as soon as possible to ensure they reach the tax office on time.

Give yourself plenty of time to locate everything you will need in order to prepare your documents. This includes your:

  •         Passport
  •         form I-20 (F visa) or DS-2019 (J visa)
  •         SSN (Social Security Number) or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)
  •         Income documents (W2, 1042-S and/or 1099)
  •         Bank account information (if you are eligible for a tax refund)

 2. Figure out what you need to file

The type of tax forms you must file will differ depending on a number of personal circumstances including whether or not you earned income in the US.

In short, if you earned an income (this includes wages, tips, scholarships that cover living expenses and fellowship stipend) in the US, you must file a federal tax return – Form 1040 NR or 1040NR-EZ.

You may also need to file a state tax return in addition to your federal tax return, depending on the amount of income you earned and the state in which you received it. Each state has its own separate tax regulations.

And even if you did not earn any US-sourced income, you must file form 8843.

3. Use a registered delivery service

In order to file your tax forms, you will need to mail a hard copy of the completed documents to the IRS.

The first step is to print a copy of your completed documents. You will then need to sign the forms and mail them.

As you will be sending your documents from overseas, it’s always a good idea to use a registered mailing service.

This way you can track the delivery and enjoy peace of mind when your documents successfully reach their destination!

4. Keep your bank account open

You can choose to receive your tax refund either as a bank transfer, check or forward the amount to your 2021 return.

However, every year countless nonresidents who file their tax documents from outside the US experience difficulties in accessing their tax refunds.

There are two common reasons for this.

Firstly, the IRS does not transfer tax refunds into overseas bank accounts.

And secondly, if you receive your refund as a check, you may find that banks in your home country will not cash them.

The solution?

By keeping your US bank account open after you leave you can ensure you have fast access to your tax refund after you file your return!

5. How to prepare your nonresident tax documents?

You can always choose to prepare your tax return directly with the IRS.

The main advantage of filing on your own is that it’s free (aside from the mailing costs). The main disadvantage is that, by filing on your own, the burden of ensuring that your tax return is fully compliant will lie solely with you.

And, if you file an incorrect tax return you may be hit with fines and penalties. You may even jeopardize your future US visa or green card applications.

And it’s for this reason that many nonresidents seek help from Sprintax when preparing their tax documents.

We are the nonresident partner of choice for TurboTax and the only online federal and state self-prep tax software for nonresidents in the US.

When you create your Sprintax account you can:

  • Prepare fully compliant federal and state tax returns and form 8843 online in minutes
  • Claim your maximum legal tax refund
  • Discuss your US tax questions with our Live Chat team anytime 24/7

Prepare your US tax documents here

 

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Kristina Valcheva

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