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Publication 519

U.S. Tax Guide 
for Aliens



For tax purposes, an alien is an individual who is not a U.S. citizen. Aliens are classified as nonresident aliens and resident aliens. This publication will help you determine your status and give you information you will need to file your U.S. tax return. Resident aliens generally are taxed on their worldwide income, the same as U.S. citizens. Nonresident aliens are taxed only on their income from sources within the United States and on certain income connected with the conduct of a trade or business in the United States.
Table A, Where To Find What You Need To Know About U.S. Taxes, provides a list of questions and the chapter or chapters in this publication where you will find the related discussion.

Table A. Where To Find What You Need To Know About U.S. Taxes

Commonly Asked Questions Where To Find The Answer
Am I a nonresident alien or resident alien?See chapter 1.
Can I be a nonresident alien and a resident alien in the same year?
I am a resident alien and my spouse is a nonresident alien. Are there special rules for us?
  • See Nonresident Spouse Treated as a Resident in chapter 1.
  • See Community Income in chapter 2.
Is all my income subject to U.S. tax?
Is my scholarship subject to U.S. tax?
What is the tax rate on my income subject to U.S. tax?See chapter 4.
I moved to the United States this year. Can I deduct my moving expenses on my U.S. return?See Deductions in chapter 5.
Can I claim exemptions for my spouse and children?See Exemptions in chapter 5.
I pay income taxes to my home country. Can I get credit for these taxes on my U.S. tax return?See Tax Credits and Payments in chapter 5.
What forms must I file and when and where do I file them?See chapter 7.
How should I pay my U.S. income taxes?See chapter 8.
Am I eligible for any benefits under a tax treaty?
Are employees of foreign governments and international organizations exempt from U.S. tax?See chapter 10.
Is there anything special I have to do before leaving the United States?
Answers to frequently asked questions are presented in the back of the publication.
The information in this publication is not as comprehensive for resident aliens as it is for nonresident aliens. Resident aliens are generally treated the same as U.S. citizens and can find more information in other IRS publications.

Comments and suggestions.(p2)


We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.
You can write to us at the following address:

Internal Revenue Service 
Individual Forms and Publications Branch 
1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526 
Washington, DC 20224

We respond to many letters by telephone. Therefore, it would be helpful if you would include your daytime phone number, including the area code, in your correspondence.
You can email us at * (The asterisk must be included in the address.) Please put "Publications Comment" on the subject line. Although we cannot respond individually to each email, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax products.

Ordering forms and publications.(p2)

Visit to download forms and publications, call 1-800-829-3676, or write to the address below and receive a response within 10 days after your request is received.

Internal Revenue Service 
1201 N. Mitsubishi Motorway 
Bloomington, IL 61705-6613


Tax questions.(p2)

If you have a tax question, check the information available on or call 1-800-829-1040. We cannot answer tax questions sent to either of the above addresses.

What's New for 2009(p2)



IRA deduction expanded.(p2)

You may be able to take an IRA deduction if you were covered by a retirement plan and your 2009 modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than $65,000 ($109,000 if married filing jointly or a qualifying widow(er)).

Making work pay credit.(p2)

If you are a resident alien who had earned income in 2009, you may be eligible for a refundable tax credit. The credit is the lesser of:
  1. 6.2% of your earned income for 2009, or
  2. $400 ($800 in the case of a joint return).
For details, see Schedule M (Form 1040A or 1040) and its instructions.

Government retiree credit.(p2)

You may be able to take this credit if you received a pension or annuity payment in 2009 for service performed for the U.S. government or any state or local government (or any agency of one or more of these) and the service was not covered by social security. For details, see Schedule M (Form 1040A or 1040).

Portion of unemployment compensation not taxable.(p3)

The first $2,400 of unemployment compensation for 2009 is exempt from federal income tax. Any unemployment compensation over $2,400 is taxable.

Deduction for motor vehicle taxes.(p3)

Resident aliens may be able to deduct state or local sales and excise taxes paid on the purchase of new cars, light trucks, motor homes, and motorcycles after February 16, 2009, as an itemized deduction or as part of the standard deduction. For details, see the instructions for Schedule A (Form 1040).

Hope education credit.(p3)

The maximum Hope credit has increased to $2,500. Part of the credit is now refundable. See Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.

First-time homebuyer credit.(p3)

This credit has been extended for purchases of a main home in the United States after 2008 and before May 1, 2010 (before July 1, 2010, if you entered into a written binding contract before May 1, 2010). The credit is generally 10% of the purchase price of the home but is limited to $8,000 ($4,000 if married filing separately).
Also, the credit has been modified to allow a smaller credit (limited to $6,500, $3,250 if married filing separately) if you (and your spouse if married) owned and used the same main home for any period of 5 consecutive years during the 8-year period ending on the date you bought your new main home in the United States. For this credit, the replacement home must be purchased after November 6, 2009, and before May 1, 2010 (before July 1, 2010, if you entered into a written binding contract before May 1, 2010).
You can choose to claim the credit on your 2009 return for a home you bought in 2010 that qualifies for the credit.
See Form 5405 (Rev. December 2009) for more information.

Exemption for certain distributions from mutual funds extended.(p3)

The exemption from the 30% tax on certain interest-related dividends and short-term capital gain dividends received from a mutual fund or other regulated investment company has been extended 2 years. It now applies to dividends for tax years of the company beginning before 2010. See Dividend Income in chapter 3.

What's New for 2010(p3)



IRA deduction expanded.(p3)

You may be able to take an IRA deduction if you were covered by a retirement plan and your 2010 modified AGI is less than $66,000 ($109,000 if married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)). If your spouse was covered by a retirement plan, but you were not, you may be able to take an IRA deduction if your 2010 modified AGI is less than $177,000.

Repayment of first-time homebuyer credit.(p3)

If you claimed the first-time homebuyer credit for a home you bought in 2008, you must begin repaying it in 2010. See Form 5405 for details.

Personal exemption and itemized deduction phaseouts ended.(p3)

For 2010, taxpayers with adjusted gross income above a certain amount will no longer lose part of their deduction for personal exemptions and itemized deductions. Under current law, these phaseouts will resume in 2011.

Earned income credit (EIC).(p3)

You (if you are a resident alien) may be able to take the EIC if:
The maximum AGI you can have and still get the credit also has increased. You may be able to take the credit if your AGI is less than the amount in the above list that applies to you. The maximum investment income you can have and get the credit is still $3,100.

Personal casualty and theft loss limit reduced.(p3)

Each personal casualty or theft loss is limited to the excess of the loss over $100 (instead of $500).

Expiring tax benefits.(p3)

The following benefits are scheduled to expire and will not be available for 2010.

Exemption for certain distributions from mutual funds expires.(p3)

The exemption from the 30% tax on certain interest-related dividends and short-term capital gain dividends received from a mutual fund or other regulated investment company expires for dividends for tax years of the company beginning after 2009. See Dividend Income in chapter 3.




Third party designee.(p3)

You can check the "Yes" box in the "Third Party Designee" area of your return to authorize the IRS to discuss your return with a friend, family member, or any other person you choose. This allows the IRS to call the person you identified as your designee to answer any questions that may arise during the processing of your return. It also allows your designee to perform certain actions such as asking the IRS for copies of notices or transcripts related to your return. Also, the authorization can be revoked. See your income tax package for details.

Change of address.(p3)

If you change your mailing address, be sure to notify the Internal Revenue Service using Form 8822, Change of Address.

Photographs of missing children.(p3)

The Internal Revenue Service is a proud partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Photographs of missing children selected by the Center may appear in this publication on pages that would otherwise be blank. You can help bring these children home by looking at the photographs and calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) if you recognize a child.