In April 2020, the US government introduced the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act is a stimulus package to support qualifying recipients with a one-time payment. Following the first payment in April 2020, the US government authorized the release of the second stimulus payment in December 2020. Although your PDSO/DSO officials are not able to provide specific advice on your tax status or your eligibility to receive the stimulus payment, you can find relevant information, resources, and contact information for a qualified tax specialist below.
Who Will Receive a Stimulus Check?
It is our understanding that most international students, who are considered “nonresident aliens” for tax purposes, are not eligible to receive this, but some might. If you meet the substantial presence test and are thus considered a resident alien for tax purposes (not the same as permanent resident with a green card) and have an SSN, it appears that you might receive it. For more information, including eligibility requirements, please see the IRS Economic Impact Payment Information Center.
Sprintax has a detailed guide for international students on their website.
If You Receive a Stimulus Check in Error
Some students might receive this check by mistake, if in the past they erroneously filed their taxes as a resident (using software like TurboTax) instead of as a nonresident alien (using software like Sprintax). If you filed incorrectly, it is important that you amend (correct) your previous tax returns for all incorrect years. If you are in this situation, you likely owe money to the US government.
If you received the check by mistake, you will also need to return the stimulus check. Please follow the instructions on the IRS website to return it. We recommend that you keep copies of the check and any correspondence, and to send with some kind of delivery tracking in case it’s needed in the future.
If you need to correct past US tax filings, here are some options:
- Sprintax can help you amend your tax return
- VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance): IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in local communities. Currently all VITA locations are closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but are expected to reopen in June.
- Using an online search, locate a tax accountant in your area.
- IRS information on amending a tax return
For more information, please visit the IRS website.