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I came to the US in 2016 August as a F1 student and I know I am a non resident alient for the first five years. I want to know when the earliest I can file as a resident alien. Is it when I file in 2021 for 2020 or when I file in 2022 for 2021? Thank you!

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In general, the IRS considers status on December 31 to be the one that must be used for filing tax returns for that year. For example, a person who marries during the year (and is still married on December 31 of that year; quickie divorces not allowed!) is entitled to file a joint return with the spouse for that entire year; it is not necessary to file a part-year return as single and a part-year return as married. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. For example, a person whose spouse passed away during the year and is thus a widow/widower on December 31 ((no quicker remarriages either!) can still file a joint return with the deceased spouse for that year. So, there are two different ways one could look at it but I suspect that the IRS will expect a US resident tax return for all of 2021 (filed in 2022) since the OP will become a tax resident in August 2021. I don't know hat this will do for things like Social Security taxes on any wages for assistantships etc during January 2021-Auugat 2021; these taxes were perhaps not withheld while the OP had F-1 nonresident alien status. Will the OP's W2 for 2021 not include these Jan 2021-Aug 2021 wages in Box 3 "Social Security wages" on the W2 form? Or will all the wages paid in all of 2021 be included in Box 3 while Box 4 "Social Security Tax withheld" shows only the tax withheld during August 2021-December 2021?

  • The foreign student (including F1) 'exemption' for determining tax residence goes by calendar year; see pub 519 ch 1 and two pages later under 'Students' (note not yet updated for TY 2018). So exempt for (all of) 2020, resident for 2021, file in 2022. A person becoming a tax resident or nonresident during a year can actually file split returns 1040NR + 1040 for the partial years, called 'dual-status' (later in same chapter) but this OP doesn't want to. – dave_thompson_085 Feb 6 at 13:59
  • Resident in 2021, file in 2022. Got it! Thanks – Heisenberg Feb 6 at 16:13

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