如果你聽信這個謠言而不報稅,那你的麻煩可就大了。山姆大叔並沒有這麼好心,雖然留學生前五年為non-resident alien,但是美國來源收入(U.S. income)仍需報稅。如果你有學校發的fellowship或assistantship,那不用懷疑,你一定要繳稅。

Publication 519, Chapter 2
A nonresident alien usually is subject to U.S. income tax only on U.S. source income. Under limited circumstances, certain foreign source income is subject to U.S. tax. See Foreign Income in chapter 4.
凡事都有例外,稅法也是。在某幾種情況下,你的U.S income是non-taxable的。

和美國業務無關的利息收入
1. A U.S. bank
2. A U.S. savings and loan association
3. A U.S. credit union
4. A U.S. insurance company
5. Portfolio Interest (Described in section "Exclusions From Gross Income" – "Interest Income" – "Portfolio interest" of Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens)

如果你用1040NR報稅,可以在第五頁的問題L中填入和美國業務無關的利息收入,但是並不會因此需要繳這一部份的稅。如果你用1040NR-EZ報稅,裡面並無欄位讓你填和美國業務無關的利息收入,你也不需要填。

記得開戶時要填寫Form W-8BEN,向銀行告知你的non-resident alien的身份,銀行才不會把你的利息收入傳至IRS。萬一不幸你的銀行搞錯你的身份而導致你收到Form1099-INT,你並不會因此需要繳這一部份的稅。

原文請見http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/article/0,,id=129229,00.html

用於學業相關費用之獎學金(Scholarships and Fellowship Grants)
如果你是合格教育機構之學位攻讀者(candidate for a degree),你的獎學金中用於學業相關費用(qualified education expenses)不需要算在收入中。這一部份是resident alien跟non-resident alien都適用的規定。

要注意的是獎學金指的是不用工作即可獲得的,通常是1042-S上面的金額。如果你收到W-2,則是代表你拿的是assistantship,為工作所得,不能算獎學金。

學業相關費用(qualified education expenses)
到底那種花費是學業相關費用,並不是自己說了算。IRS上的規定為:
*Tuition and fees required to enroll at or attend an eligible educational institution, and
*Course-related expenses, such as fees, books, supplies, and equipment that are required for the courses at the eligible educational institution. These items must be required of all students in your course of instruction.

格主碎碎念
1. 如果在1040NR或1040NR-EZ中列了scholarship and fellowship excluded(也就是上述的qualified education expenses),請記得保留所有單據,萬一日後被查稅的時候需要出示單據。
2. 由上可知,獎學金中用於課本跟學費的部分為non-taxable,這一點應該是沒有疑問的。但是後面又出現supplies跟equipment這種定義較為模糊的字眼。這時候又會出現爭議啦~有些人會把買筆記型電腦、印表機等當作qualified education expenses。不知道到底實際被查稅的時候執行的有多嚴苛。如果按照字面上解釋,你可能需要跟查稅人員解釋為什麼學校或教授要求你要買這些設備才能修課。

有些費用即使是每個學生都規定要繳交的,也不能算是學業相關費用,例如是:
*Room and board,
*Travel,
*Research,
*Clerical help, or
*Equipment and other expenses that are not required for enrollment in or attendance at an eligible educational institution.

另外,如果獎學金中包含個人服務所得(ex. GA, RA or TA),獎學金中的個人服務所得部分仍為taxable。

以下是我自己舉的例子,若有錯請告知。
若你去年有assistantship $10,000(會收到W-2)及fellowship $5,000(會收到1042-S),則你的fellowship excluded的上限是$5,000,填超過$5,000必死無疑,因為根本不合規定。若你去年qualified education expenses為$3,000,則你可以在fellowship excluded欄位中填$3,000,剩下的$2,000仍為taxable。

原文參見:http://www.irs.gov/publications/p519/ch03.html#d0e3058

所得稅條約(Income Tax Treaty)
留學生前五年在校收入不用繳稅的謠言有可能是有人誤用了中國與美國簽訂的所得稅條約(Income tax treaty)。但是很抱歉的是,台灣是沒有簽這個條約,所以只適用於大陸同學。

至於這個所得稅條約和中國學生有什麼關係,在網路上有一篇「留美學生與中美稅務條約」一文中有較詳細的描述。其實中國學生對於RA或TA到底是$5,000免稅或是全部免稅也有爭議。雖然我覺得那篇文章的論點好像有點怪,但是畢竟我又不是中國學生,應該也輪不到我來操這個心,只是附上讓大家參考一下。到底哪些國家簽了Income Tax Treaty呢?這個IRS的網頁可以查詢。

附上中美稅務條約以供參考,再次強調這只適用於中國學生,台灣學生不能用。
ARTICLE 20
(Students and Trainees)
A student, business apprentice or trainee who is, or was immediately before visiting a Contracting State, a resident of the other Contracting State and who is present in the first- mentioned Contracting State solely for the purpose of his education, training or obtaining special technical experience shall be exempt from tax in that Contracting State with respect to:
(a) payments received from abroad for the purpose of his maintenance, education, study, research or training;
(b) grants or awards from a government, scientific, educational or other tax-exempt organization; and
(c) income from personal services performed in that Contracting State in an amount not in excess of 5,000 United States dollars or its equivalent in Chinese yuan for any taxable year.

The benefits provided under this Article shall extend only for such period of time as is reasonably necessary to complete the education or training.

後記
話說我有一個朋友她被系上當作中國學生,而且系上可能是像「留美學生與中美稅務條約」一文中所認定的一樣,把RA的薪水當作通通免稅,所以她沒有付過半毛稅。看來留學生亂報稅的情況好像還真的蠻普遍的~

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