2021 General Tax Information 

U.S. income tax rules and regulations are very complex!   The U.S. tax system can be especially challenging for international students and scholars newly arrived in the United States.  The following information will help explain U.S. tax basics for nonresident taxpayers.  


If you are an F or J student who entered the U.S. for the first time in 2017 or later, or if you are a J scholar who first arrived in the U.S. in 2020 or 2021, you are a nonresident for 2021 U.S. tax purposses.   The law requires nonresidents to file a tax report with the U.S. government for every year they are present in the U.S. whether or not they worked or earned income in the U.S.

PLEASE NOTE:  If you are a nonresident for U.S. tax purposes, it is not legal to file a resident tax return using Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ.  Filing resident tax forms when you are a nonresident is tax fraud and can jeopardize your legal U.S. immigration status.  If you are an F-1 or J-1 student who has been in the U.S. since 2016 or earlier, or a J-1 scholar who has been in the U.S. since 2019, you may be considered a resident for 2021 U.S. tax purposes and can use the same forms and tax software products that apply to U.S. citizens and residents.  However, if you are an F-1 or J-1 student who first entered the U.S. in 2017 or later, or a J-1 scholar who entered the U.S. in 2020 or 2021, you cannot use tax software or tax forms that are for U.S. citizens and residents.  Instead, nonresidents should read on to learn more about nonresident tax returns and how to prepare them.



If you had no U.S. source income during 2021, you should file only Form 8843. Submit this form by June 15, 2022, and you’re done. (Note, you can also use Sprintax to prepare Form 8843 - see below).

If you worked and/or had U.S. source income in the United States during 2021,  you must file Form 1040NR along with Form 8843 to determine if you are  due a refund or if you owe additional tax for 2021. You must file Form 1040NR and Form 8843 even if all your income for 2021 was exempt under a tax treaty.


You must prepare, print, sign, and mail your 2021 U.S. income tax return no later than April 18, 2022.  Keep a copy of your income tax return for your records. 

The State of Iowa 2021 tax return deadline is May 2, 2022.



Gather your materials:

  • If you worked at ISU during 2021, a W-2 form summarizing your income and tax payments is available to download and print from your Workday homepage.
  • If you worked for any other U.S. employer (perhaps you were authorized for CPT or OPT) you must have a W-2 form for that job, too. Contact your employer if you have not received their W-2 form by the end of January 2022.
  • If you claimed a tax treaty or had a taxable scholarship in 2021, watch for an e-mail from ISU asking you to authorize electronic delivery of Form 1042-S through the FNIS system.  If you do not authorize electronic delivery, make sure your address in AccessPlus is up to date as your Form 1042-S will be mailed to you in early February 2022.  PLEASE NOTE: The tuition benefit of a graduate assistantship (GA) is not a taxable scholarship. No Form 1042-S is issued or needed for GA tuition benefits.
  • A copy of your 2020 State and U.S. tax returns (if any) will be very useful in completing your 2021 tax returns.
  • Passport
  • Entry date, exit date, and U.S. immigration status for each of your current and past visits to the United States. 
  • Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) if you have one.  

Use the ISSO's free tax preparation software:

ISSO provides free Sprintax tax preparation software to prepare U.S. nonresident tax returns for students and scholars who were present at ISU during 2021.   Check your ISU e-mail for a message explaining how to access Sprintax.  If you are an F-1 or J-1 student who first entered the U.S. in 2017 or later (or a J-1 scholar who first entered in 2020 or after), Sprintax will help you complete all required nonresident U.S. income tax forms for 2021.  PLEASE NOTE:  It is not legal to use resident tax forms (1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ) or software packages if you are a nonresident.  Please be sure to file the appropriate forms.


Get some tax help:

  • Ivy College of Business VITA tax help site here:  VITA     Tax return preparation help for residents and nonresidents offered free of charge by appointment only.  Visit this site in advance to schedule an appointment for tax help between February 21, 2022, and April 13, 2022.
  • Consult the information elsewhere on this ISSO Tax page for answers to common tax questions and simple instructions for State of Iowa tax return preparation.



    In some cases it is not possible to file a nonresident tax return electronically.  In that case, you must prepare, print, sign, and mail your 2021 U.S. income tax return to Austin, Texas, if you are due a refund, or to Charlotte, North Carolina, if you must pay additional tax. State of Iowa tax returns are mailed to Des Moines.  Sprintax will provide the correct mailing address for your situation.  The State of Iowa tax return mailing address is printed on the bottom of the IA1040 form.



    Because it’s the law! (And because you may be due a refund which the government will not send to you unless you request it on your tax return.)

    One final note….the tax rules and processes for nonresidents are very different from those that apply to U.S. residents. The tax forms that an F-1 or J-1 student who arrived in 2017 or later and a J-1 scholar who arrived in 2020 or later must complete are very different from the ones that apply to your American friends and colleagues. Do not be tempted to make the wrong choice. If you are unsure about your tax status in the U.S., Sprintax will analyze your situation and determine if you are a resident or nonresident for 2021 U.S. tax purposes.

    Disclaimer: The resources on this page were prepared by the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) as general guidelines to assist you in preparing your Iowa and federal government income tax returns. The information here is not to be construed as professional tax advice and does not apply to every situation. If your tax circumstances are more complicated (for example, if you had income from both Iowa and another U.S. State) you will want to obtain professional tax advice from resources in the community.