This is about an F-1 International student since 09/2019 and it concerns the 2019 tax year.

I did my taxes properly and filed them by mail. A lot of time had passed and I couldn't even find my status using the 'Where is my Refund' tool the IRS offers.

I got a bit worried so I used TurboTax to e-file my taxes, without realizing that it is only for US citizens.

Now I got my refund from TurboTax, and also the COVID stimulus check. I assume erroneously since they thought I'm a citizen.

Now having realized my mistake, but currently being outside the US due to the pandemic I am not able to contact the IRS or try to amend the situation. Does anyone have more in depth knowledge about this and about what I should do next?

  • 1
    You might want to know that companies like TurboTax are legally obligated to offer you an option to file taxes for free when you earn less than $36,000 a year. But they don't advertise that option very well and they use various dark patterns to trick you into paying anyway. Check out turbotaxsucksass.com for more information on how to find the tax filing programs which are actually really free and don't try a bait-and-switch scam on you (including the one by the same company that makes Turbo Tax).
    – Philipp
    Sep 24, 2020 at 9:42
  • It seems extremely strange / confused that OP "got a covid stimulus cheque".
    – Fattie
    Sep 24, 2020 at 11:28
  • @Fattie not that strange if they think I have a resident status. Turbotax submitter 1040 instead of 1040NR. At least this is what I think.
    – dearn44
    Sep 24, 2020 at 15:05
  • Were you ever in F or J status before 09/2019? Were you in the US in any status in the part of 2019 before 09/2019?
    – user102008
    Sep 24, 2020 at 17:29
  • 1
    Initial processing of mailed/paper returns is manual and even in normal years takes a month or more -- before 'where's my refund' can track it. If you filed by mail after mid-Feb, it probably got 'stranded' when IRS shut down in late March (like everybody else). They will still process that backlog when they safely can, and when they see two different returns filed in your name, you may start to get notices about suspected identity theft. Sep 25, 2020 at 6:33

1 Answer 1


TurboTax is not "only for US citizens". TurboTax is for US citizens and resident aliens. Only if you are a nonresident alien should you not use TurboTax, since they do not support Form 1040NR.

You are a resident alien for US tax purposes if you pass the Green Card Test or the Substantial Presence Test. You pass the Green Card Test if you were a US permanent resident (green card holder) during the year. You pass the Substantial Presence Test if (the days you were present in the US that year + 1/3 the days you were present in the US the previous year + 1/6 the days you were present in the US the year before that) >= 183 days.

You said you were an F-1 student, and F-1 students are considered "exempt individuals" (i.e. their days on F-1 status are not counted in the Substantial Presence Test) unless they have been an exempt individual for some part of 5 previous calendar years. So if you just came on F-1 status in 2019, and you have not been in the US in F or J status before, you would be an exempt individual for all your time on F-1 status in 2019, and thus you would not pass the Substantial Presence Test for 2019 (unless you were in the US in another status for the part of the year before you came on F-1), and you would thus be a nonresident alien for 2019.

As a nonresident alien, you were not supposed to file tax returns using Form 1040, so you shouldn't have used TurboTax. As a nonresident alien, you are also not eligible for the stimulus check. You need to amend your tax returns by filing Form 1040X. The 1040X instructions has a section on changing from one form to the other. Basically, you only fill out certain parts of 1040X, and attach a correctly filled-out 1040NR. This IRS page has information on how to return your stimulus payment.

  • I believe that most probably I do not qualify for a resident status.
    – dearn44
    Sep 24, 2020 at 8:55
  • @dearn44: I have updated the answer
    – user102008
    Sep 24, 2020 at 17:34

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