How to file income tax for new immigrants

Everyone who works in the USA and earns a certain amount of money must pay income taxes. Learn what income tax is and how to file it. Find helpful information for new immigrants.

A woman with tax forms in front of her face

What is tax?

Taxes are a certain amount of money you must pay the government. They are collected by the federal, state, county, and city governments. Taxes help the government pay for the services it provides, including social security, medicare, education, and transportation. You pay taxes if you earn money, spend money, or own property in the USA.

What is income tax?

Income tax is an amount of money you owe the government based on how much money you earn or receive every year. Income taxes are withheld from your paycheck and sent to the government.

You must calculate how much you earned in a year and how much income taxes you owe and report it to the government. This is called filing your taxes. You pay income tax to the federal government and to most state governments. Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming do not charge income tax.  

Being married or single can affect how much income tax you pay. If you have children, you can get a child tax credit that gives you back money at tax time to help with the costs of raising a family. Single people may pay more tax. Married couples who both work may also pay more tax together than when they were single.

Income tax forms

If you worked in the United States, you will receive forms in the mail at the beginning of each year to help you file a tax return. Some jobs pay people illegally and do not report the work to the government. If you are being paid “off the books” with cash you will not receive any tax documents. This type of work comes with risks.

Employee with W-4

If you filled out a W-4 tax form when you were hired, income tax is usually taken out of each of your paychecks. You will then receive Form W-2 from your employer at the beginning of each year. The W-2 shows how much money you earned and how much money you paid in taxes for the previous year.

Many people have already paid their income tax in full through their paycheck deductions but others might still need to pay the government additional money. Sometimes, your tax return may show you’ve already paid too much tax, and the government will then pay you a refund.

Self-employed with W-9

Self-employed people do not have taxes taken out of their paychecks. If you provide a W-9 form to those you work for, you will receive a 1099-MISC Form from everyone who paid you $600 or more.

Some self-employed people who are freelancers, independent contractors, or owners of small businesses pay a self-employment tax, which is calculated based on their net earnings or profits.

Do I need to file a tax return?

If you worked in the United States and have earned over a certain amount of money you are required to file an income tax return. This is true whether you don’t owe taxes, you owe taxes, or the government owes you.

It is your responsibility to know when and how to pay taxes. You must file taxes if you want to get a refund or tax credit. 

How do I file my tax return?

Federal income tax is collected by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and goes to the U.S. Treasury. State income tax goes to state revenue departments. Find IRS tax information in different languages.

To file your tax returns:

1. Find out if you need to file taxes.

2. Collect your tax forms and information.

  • Social Security or ITIN numbers
  • Birth dates
  • Earnings statements (Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R,1099-Misc)
  • Form 1099-G for any taxable unemployment compensation „ 
  • Forms 1099 for interest and dividend statements from banks„ 
  • Last year’s federal and state returns „ 
  • Bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit

3. Fill out and submit your federal tax return (Form 1040) and state tax return.

4. Pay any taxes you owe to the federal and state government.

Many people use a paid e-file service, such as TurboTax or H&R Block. These services both file and pay your federal and state taxes all in one place and at the same time. Some have a free version as well.

Your tax return for the previous year must be submitted by Tuesday, April 18th.

Information for non-citizens

The IRS has two categories for people who are not citizens: resident aliens and nonresident aliens. Resident aliens file taxes the same way as U.S. citizens.

It is important you tell the truth on your tax return, especially if you are not a U.S. citizen. False information on your tax returns can get you deported. If you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), make sure you declare all your income.

Find more information for filing taxes if you are not a citizen.

How do I get help filing taxes?

Filing taxes is a complicated process. Many organizations offer free or low-cost help preparing taxes and explaining tax credits.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help. VITA helps people who earn $60,000 a year or less, people with disabilities, and people with limited English. Find the nearest help by using the VITA locator. Many places offer help in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and other languages.

Other organizations offering trustable help include United Ways MyFreeTaxes and AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Services

IRS Free File offers guided tax preparation for those who earned $73,000 or less.

If you need to contact the IRS:

  • English and Spanish: 800-829-1040
  • Other languages: 833-553-9895
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The information on this page comes from the IRS and other trusted sources. We aim to offer easy to understand information that is updated regularly. This information is not legal advice.