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Form 1040-NR: A comprehensive guide for nonresident aliens

Form 1040-NR: A comprehensive guide for nonresident aliens

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or tax advice.

Always consult with a tax professional for your specific circumstances.

Form 1040-NR, an essential document for nonresident aliens in the United States, often seems like a maze of tax jargon and regulations.

However, understanding and filing this form accurately is crucial for those who have US-sourced income but don't meet the criteria for tax residency.

This guide will walk you through the intricacies of Form 1040-NR, ensuring you're well-equipped to tackle tax season with confidence.

Understanding Form 1040-NR

Key components

This form is not just a tool for reporting income but also serves as a means to claim any applicable deductions and credits, tailored specifically to those with nonresident status.

Detailed components:

  • Income reporting: This includes various types of income like wages, dividends, and interests from US sources, as well as gains from US real estate investments.
  • Deduction claims: Unlike standard deductions available to US citizens and residents, nonresident aliens can itemize deductions related to US-sourced income, such as state and local taxes paid, and charitable contributions to US organizations.
  • Credit eligibility: While limited compared to residents, nonresident aliens can claim certain credits directly linked to US-sourced income.

Income types to report

  • Wages, salaries, or tips earned in the US,
  • Dividends and interest from US companies or banks,
  • Income from US real estate investments,
  • Scholarships or grants from US entities.

Who needs to file Form 1040-NR?

Determining your status

The primary criterion for filing Form 1040-NR is your status as a nonresident alien.

This classification applies if you haven't met the requirements of the green card test or the substantial presence test.

  • Green Card Test: You're considered a resident for tax purposes if at any time during the calendar year you were a lawful permanent resident of the US according to immigration laws.
  • Substantial Presence Test: This involves a calculation based on the number of days you were present in the US over the past three years. If you meet the threshold, you're generally considered a resident for tax purposes.

The TaxesForExpats offers a detailed Substantial Presence Test calculator to help determine your status.

Common scenarios for filing 1040-NR

  • Employment income: If you worked in the US and received wages or salaries, you need to file Form 1040-NR. This includes part-time or temporary work.
  • US-sourced income: Any income derived from US sources, like rental properties, business operations, or investments, necessitates filing this form.
  • Scholarships or grants: If you're a student or researcher from a foreign country and received grants or scholarships from US institutions, these might be taxable and require filing Form 1040-NR.

Form 1040-NR preview



How to file Form 1040-NR

Step-by-step filing

Filing Form 1040-NR can be done either electronically or by mail.

The electronic filing method is often more convenient and ensures faster processing.

  1. Gather required documents: Collect all necessary documents, such as W-2s, 1099s, and records of the US-sourced income.
  2. Complete the Form: Fill out each part of Form 1040-NR carefully. Pay special attention to sections on income and deductions, ensuring all information is accurate.
  3. Review and submit: Double-check your form for any errors. You can file electronically for convenience and quicker processing, or mail your form to the IRS.

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Electronic vs. paper filing

While e-filing is recommended for its ease and efficiency, paper filing remains an option.

Ensure the form is mailed to the correct IRS address if you choose this method.

Deadlines and important dates

Submission deadlines

  • April 15: General deadline for those who earned US-sourced income.
  • June 15: For those without US income or if only filing Form 8843.

Late filing implications

Late filing can result in penalties. If you're unable to meet the standard deadline, file Form 4868 to request an extension.

NOTE! This does not extend the time to pay any taxes due.

Common mistakes and solutions

Typical errors and tips

  • Incorrect filing status: Filing as a resident alien when you're a nonresident alien is a common error. Double-check your status before filing.
  • Misreported income: Ensure all US-sourced income is accurately reported. Failing to report income can lead to serious consequences.
  • Personal info errors: Incorrect SSN or ITIN numbers can cause processing delays or other issues. Verify all personal information is correct.

Correcting mistakes

Careful review and understanding of the form can prevent common errors.

If you discover errors after filing, you can amend your return using Form 1040-X. Timely correction of these errors is important to avoid further complications.

Tax treaties and exemptions

Impact of tax treaties

The US has tax treaties with numerous countries that can affect how you file Form 1040-NR. These treaties may provide exemptions or reduced tax rates on certain types of income.

Familiarize yourself with these treaties to understand your tax obligations.

Claiming exemptions

Income types like certain scholarships, fellowships, and pensions may be exempt under tax treaties.

To claim exemptions under a tax treaty, you must disclose this on Form 1040-NR.

Understanding your home country's treaty with the US is crucial for accurate filing.

When to seek pro help

If you have complex tax situations or are unsure about your filing obligations, it's wise to seek advice from a tax professional specializing in expatriate tax issues.

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Bottom line

Make sure to assess your situation each tax year as your residency status or income sources may change.

For nonresident aliens, correctly filing Form 1040-NR is a crucial aspect of meeting US tax obligations.

While the process may seem complex, a thorough understanding of your requirements and careful attention to detail can ensure compliance and peace of mind.


1. What is Form 1040 ES NR?

Form 1040-ES NR is used by nonresident aliens who conduct business in the US to calculate and pay estimated tax on income not subject to withholding. This includes income from self-employment, rentals, or investments.

2. What is the difference between 1040-NR and 1040EZ?

The 1040-NR is for nonresident aliens to report US income, while the 1040EZ (no longer in use after 2018) was a simpler form for US citizens and residents with straightforward tax situations.

3. What happens if I file 1040 instead of 1040-NR?

Filing Form 1040 instead of 1040-NR can result in incorrect tax calculations and possible compliance issues. Nonresident aliens are subject to different tax rules and need to file 1040-NR to accurately report their income and deductions.

4. Does 1040 NR get standard deduction?

Generally, nonresident aliens filing Form 1040-NR are not eligible for the standard deduction. Instead, they can itemize deductions related to US-sourced income if applicable.

Ines Zemelman, EA
Founder of TFX