Which tax form should I use: Form 1040, 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ?

Important: As of 2020, the 1040-NR-EZ had been made obsolete. The IRS has simplified the 1040-NR, which will be used instead.

Coming to the US from a foreign country presents both thrills and challenges to every nonresident.

One of the more common difficulties nonresidents face is filing their tax return.

In this blog, we’ll be discussing Forms 1040, 1040NR, 1040NR-EZ, and how they apply to each person’s situation.

Form 1040 (NR & NR-EZ) figures out the total taxable income of the taxpayer and determines how much of a refund the person may be due.

So, without further ado, let’s examine how to find out which form applies to you!

Determining your residency status for tax purposes

This is always a key part of figuring out which forms you need to file for your US tax return, and how much tax you will pay.

One of the more common mistakes nonresidents make is filing their taxes as a resident (i.e. filing form 1040). If a nonresident files as a resident they can claim benefits and receive refunds that they’re not entitled to.

There are three types of residency for tax purposes: resident for tax purposes, nonresident for tax purposes, and dual resident. Check this resource for more information.

You can also determine your tax residency status for free using Sprintaxsimply create an account to get started.

Should I file a Form 1040, 1040NR, or 1040NR-EZ?

Essentially, each resident should file a Form 1040 and a nonresident should file with a Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ.

That is because every nonresident alien in the US is still legally required to file tax documents.

If you earn an income from US sources, you must file a tax return.

What if I filed 1040 instead of 1040NR?

Filing the wrong form can lead to complications when applying for a future US visa or for a Green Card, or even fines and penalties.

If you file the wrong form, you should amend your tax return as to not lead to problems with the IRS later in the year.

1040NR tax return Sprintax

The difference between 1040NR and 1040NR-EZ

Essentially, Form 1040NR-EZ is used if your only income from U.S. sources is salaries, tips, wages, refunds of state and local income taxes, or fellowship grants and scholarship.

Most international students will file Form 1040NR-EZ. This is because it meets the criteria of most nonresident individual’s circumstances.

It is important to note that Form 1040 is for residents only.

As mentioned, it depends on the individual’s circumstances. You should file 1040NR-EZ instead of Form 1040NR if any of the below sounds like you:

  • Your taxable income is less than $100,000
  • Your only US source income was from wages, salaries, tips, refunds of state and local income taxes, scholarship or fellowship grants, and non-taxable interest or dividends.
    Note: If you had taxable interest or dividend income, you must use Form 1040NR.
  • The only taxes you owe are:
    • The tax from the Tax Table, or
    • Unreported social security and Medicare tax from Form 4137 or 8919
  • You do not claim any tax credits
  • The only itemized deduction you can claim is for state and local income taxes.
    Note: Residents of India who were students or business apprentices may be able to take the standard deduction instead of the itemized deduction for state and local income taxes
  • The only exclusion you can claim is the exclusion for scholarship and fellowship grants, and the only adjustment to income you can take is the student loan interest deduction
  • You do not claim a child or child care expenses tax credits
  • You cannot claim any deduction other than the student loan interest deduction and the itemized deduction for state and local income taxes (or, if a resident of India who was a student or business apprentice, the standard deduction)
  • You do not claim any dependents
  • You cannot be claimed as a dependent on another person’s US tax return (such as your parent’s return)
  • If you expatriated or terminated your US residency, or you are subject to the expatriation tax, you must use Form 1040NR if you are required to file that form

Prepare your 1040-NR-EZ return with Sprintax

Below you can see the 1040NR-EZ form, with instructions outlining what you will need in order to complete the document.

1040 NR EZ tax form example 2019

As you can see, the form will ask you for some personal information, such as:

  • Your name, address, and TIN
  • Details of your wages, salaries, tips, etc. Your employer will provide you with a Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) by early February, and you will find this document very useful when you are filing your end of year tax return. The form includes important details regarding your total gross earnings including wages, tips, taxable fringe benefits, and the Federal and State tax that is withheld
  • Details of your scholarship and fellowship grants, if applicable
  • Details of treaty-exempt income – If you are entitled to avail of tax treaty benefits, you should report all your income that is exempt on your Form 1040NR-EZ

Who should file form 1040-NR?

This is known as the more ‘complicated’ of the two forms.

It is a five page form used for reporting income such as self-employment compensation, investments, as well as the types of income.

It is typically for nonresidents who earned investment income, sold or bought a house, or had self-employment income, or other income.

It can also be used by nonresidents who qualify for a tax treaty and wish to claim a tax refund for employment taxes that were withheld before the tax treaty was granted.

Sprintax can help guide you through the tricky tax-filing process!

Prepare your 1040-NR tax return with Sprintax

I am a dual-status alien! Which tax form should I file?

Nonresident aliens at the beginning of the tax year and resident aliens at the end of the tax year should file Form 1040 labelled “Dual-Status Return” with Form 1040NR attached as a schedule and labelled “Dual-Status Statement.”

Taxpayers who were resident aliens at the beginning of the tax year and nonresident aliens at the end of the tax year should instead file Form 1040NR labelled “Dual-Status Return” with Form 1040 attached as a schedule and labeled “Dual Status Statement.”

I didn’t receive any income. Which form applies to me?Form 8843 Statement for exempt individuals - even when you have no income

If you did not receive any US sourced income during your stay in the States, you should file a Form 8843.

Form 8843 is not an income tax return. Instead, it is a statement you file for the US Government if you are a certain type of nonresident alien for tax purposes.

However, if you earned income in the US you must file a tax return – either Form 1040NR/Form 1040 NR-EZ – as well as Form 8843.

You can find out more about Form 8843 here.

How to file form 1040NR online

The IRS allows e-filing of 1040NR forms. As of 31 Mar 2021, nonresidents can now E-file 1040NR with Sprintax. However, not everyone can e-file their federal taxes. Learn more.

Sprintax can help you prepare your nonresident alien tax return easily and stress-free! Not only this, but we are the only tax preparation software for nonresident aliens in the US and the nonresident tax partner of Turbotax! We are currently the only nonresident tax prep solution offering e-filing services.

In case you’re not eligible for e-filing, you can still prepare your form, download and sign it, and mail it to the nearest IRS processing center in the state you were in during your stay.

Prepare Your Nonresident Tax Return with Sprintax

What’s the easiest way for me to prepare my tax documents?

Sprintax can guide you through the tricky tax filing process! Firstly, we’ll determine your tax residency status, and then identify which forms you need to complete based on your own personal circumstances.

Plus, if you have any questions, our Vita Qualified Live Chat team are on hand to help 24/7!

File your US tax documents the easy way today!

Hey I'm Stacy! I'm dealing with US taxes and can't wait to help you prepare your tax return! I've been working with taxes for like forever, so you can totally trust my expertise. Sprintax can make things much easier for you. Check out my blog posts and feel free to ask me any questions.

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