Some organizations may offer services to international students that are not in your best interest, and may even have serious consequences. Whether these services are offered free or for a charge, please be aware of the following:
International students and scholars are targeted by phone and email scams. The Internal Revenue Service and other governmental agencies will NEVER contact you by phone to demand an immediate payment, and the IRS does not contact individual taxpayers by email or phone.
If you receive a call from someone saying you must pay immediately to resolve a tax problem, it is fake, so you should hang up.
If you receive an email from someone claiming they are the IRS, delete the email. Do not respond or click on any of the links in the email.
If you are classified as a Non-Resident, you may NOT file a Resident return. Residence, for tax purposes, is determined by the Substantial Presence Test, which considers whether you were present in the U.S. for the majority of the last five calendar years.
Some organizations may tell you that you can choose, often because they do not know how to complete non-resident returns, so they would like to file a Resident return for you. It is not a matter of choice! Only people who are determined to have "Resident" Filing Status may complete a Resident Return. Most students and scholars will be classified as Non-Residents.
Locally, some free tax assistance sites have erroneously filed resident returns for non-residents, who were promised larger refunds by this method. This could result in a charge of tax fraud against you, which may jeopardize your legal status. The fact that your preparer erred will not excuse you from liability. Please protect yourself!
Few students will need to apply for an Individual Taxpayer ID Number (ITIN). The only students or scholars who should need an ITIN are those with non-work U.S. income, such as scholarship or investment dividends. A Taxpayer ID number is OPTIONAL on the Form 8843, and working students will have a Social Security Number instead. ISSS has become aware of some local organizations that will offer a service for hire of applying for this Taxpayer ID number for you. There is no need for this. It is also important not to hand over your official documents to such an organization.