TurboTax / Tax Calculators & Tips / All Tax Guides / General Tax Tips / Tax Tips for Resident and Non-Resident Aliens

Tax Tips for Resident and Non-Resident Aliens

Updated for Tax Year 2016


OVERVIEW

Even if you're not an American citizen, if you live in the United States or spend a significant amount of time there, you still need to pay U.S. income tax.


Resident or non-resident alien

The IRS uses two tests — the green card test and the substantial presence test — for assessing your alien status. If you satisfy the requirements of either one, you’re considered a resident alien for income tax purposes; otherwise, you’re treated as a non-resident alien.

If you're an alien with a green card, meaning the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service allows you to reside in the country legally, you are a resident alien. However, if you don’t have a green card and spend at least 31 days in the U.S. during the current tax year and a total of 183 days during the last three tax years (inclusive of the current tax year), you’ll usually satisfy the physical presence test and are also treated as a resident alien.

Counting 183 days

When counting the number of days you’re present in the U.S. during the three-year period, you don’t include every single day. Instead, count only a fraction of the days in two of the three years. Suppose, for example, you’re trying to figure out your status for the 2016 tax year because you lived in the U.S. for 60 days. You count all 60 days for 2016, one-third of the days in 2015 and one-sixth of the days in 2014. Therefore, if you were in the U.S. for 120 days in 2015 and 180 days in 2014, only include 40 days for 2015 and 30 days for 2014, with the total for the three-year period being 130 days. In this scenario, you pay income tax as a non-resident alien.

Also, do not count days when you are physically present in the US under the following circumstances:

  • Days you commute to work in the United States from a residence in Canada or Mexico if you regularly commute from Canada or Mexico.
  • Days you are in the United States for less than 24 hours when you are in transit between two places outside the United States.
  • Days you are in the United States as a crew member of a foreign vessel.
  • Days you are unable to leave the United States because of a medical condition that arose while you are in the United States.
  • Days you are an “exempt individual”.

An “exempt individual” for purposes of this test refers to the following individuals:

  • An individual temporarily present in the United States as a foreign government-related individual under an “A” or “G” visa.
  • A teacher or trainee temporarily present in the United States under a “J” or “Q” visa, who substantially complies with the requirements of the visa.
  • A student temporarily present in the United States under an “F,” “J,” “M,” or “Q” visa, who substantially complies with the requirements of the visa.
  • A professional athlete temporarily in the United States to compete in a charitable sports event.

Resident alien taxes

As a legal U.S. resident, you’re subject to the same tax rules as U.S. citizens. This means that you must report all income you earn on annual tax returns, regardless of which country in which you earn it. When you prepare your return, you can always use the 1040, or if eligible, the 1040A or 1040EZ.

Non-resident taxes

A non-resident must also pay income taxes to the IRS but only on the income that’s effectively connected to the U.S., which generally includes the money you earn while in the U.S. The IRS, however, has no authority to impose tax on the income that non-residents earn in their home countries or in any foreign country for that matter. When you prepare your U.S. tax return, you must use Form 1040NR or the shorter 1040NR-EZ, if eligible. Regardless of the form you use, you will only report amounts that are considered US-source income. Just like resident aliens and U.S. citizens, there are deductions and credits you can claim to reduce your taxable income.

Dual-Status Taxpayer

In the year of transition between being a nonresident and a resident for tax purposes, you are generally considered a Dual-Status Taxpayer. A Dual-Status Taxpayer files two tax returns for the year—one return for the portion of the year when considered a nonresident, and another return for the portion of the year considered a resident. In some situations, a taxpayer can elect to be treated as a full-year resident in the transition year to avoid having to file two separate returns.

Get every deduction you deserve

TurboTax Deluxe searches more than 350 tax deductions and credits so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

For only $54.99$34.99*
Start for Free

Looking for more information?

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.


Security is built into everything we do
Here's how
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • TURBOTAX ONLINE/MOBILE

  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Free 1040EZ/1040A + Free State offer only available with TurboTax Federal Free Edition; Offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Savings and price comparisons based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • QuickBooks Bonus Offer with TurboTax Self-Employed: File your 2016 federal return with TurboTax Self-Employed by 4/18/17 and receive a complimentary subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 4/30/18 at no additional cost. After you file your taxes, you must activate your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription by 7/15/2017 by logging into QuickBooks Self-Employed via mobile app or at https://selfemployed.intuit.com/login. Once activated, you will have access to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 4/30/2018.
    Offer valid only for new QuickBooks Self-Employed customers.
    • When you use TurboTax Self-Employed to file your 2017 taxes, you will have the option to renew your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription. If you do not file with TurboTax Self-Employed by 4/30/2018, your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription will automatically renew on 5/1/2018 for another year at the then-current annual subscription rate. You may cancel your subscription at any time from within the QuickBooks Self-Employed billing section.
  • Pays for itself: In order to pay for the price of TurboTax Self-Employed, you will need at least $600 in deductible business expenses. This calculation is based on the self-employment tax income rate for tax year 2016.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and data rates apply to download and use mobile app.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • TurboTax Expert Help, Tax Advice and SmartLook: Included with Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed (via phone or SmartLook); not included with Federal Free Edition. Feature availability varies by device. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.
  • CompleteCheck: Covered under the TurboTax accurate calculations and maximum refund guarantees.
  • TurboTax Self-Employed Expense Finder: Available only in TurboTax Self-Employed. Not available for people with certain types of expenses and tax situations including paying contractors or employees, home office or vehicle actuals, inventory, self employed health insurance or retirement, asset depreciation, sale of property or vehicles, and farm income. Some financial institutions limit the timeframe for which historical transactions may be imported by ExpenseFinder. ExpenseFinder expected late January (late February for mobile app).
  • TURBOTAX CD/DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE

  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice. This benefit is available with TurboTax Federal products except TurboTax Business.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support vary by time of year.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice via phone is included with Premier and Home & Business; fees apply for Basic and Deluxe customers. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2015 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2011 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.