fica tax refund opt irs

How to Get Refund of FICA Taxes for OPT Students

Raghuram Sukumar Personal Finance 68 Comments

FICA stands for The Federal Insurance Contributions Act. Do you want to know how to get FICA Tax refund from IRS?

  • FICA tax = 6.2 % for Social Security + 1.45 % Medicare tax.

Students on F1 Visa who are working on OPT are Exempt from FICA Tax for a certain period. If your salary is $50,000 per year, then $3,825 is paid as FICA tax annually as an Employee. Did you know your employer is also paying the same amount to the IRS?

Let’s look at the following question from a F1 Visa holder who wasn’t aware of this exemption and have paid FICA taxes.

I have a question regarding FICA taxes. As a OPT student, I am exempt from FICA taxes, but these taxes are still getting deducted from my salary. I know that I can file for refund of this money to IRS. But I was wondering if there is any way to stop these deductions from my salary itself. (So that I don’t worry about filing for a refund). I checked this with my employer. But company people were not sure. and I wanted to check with IRS but I could not due to shutdown. It will be great if you could throw some light on this.

OPT and FICA Taxes

  • As per IRS you don’t have to pay FICA Taxes (Social Security and Medicare)
  • Employer’s payroll processing team should be aware of this
  • If not, no worries, you can educate them and have them not deduct FICA taxes from your paycheck.
  • Worst Case : If they continue to deduct the FICA taxes, you can claim it back while filing your taxes in April.
  • You can apply for FICA Tax refund via service provider SprinTax ( look under their Services).

Click here to learn about 16 FAQ’s About Filing Income Tax for International Students in USA.

IRS : FICA Taxes and OPT Students

Following is taken from IRS Website

Nonresident aliens, in general, are also liable for Social Security/Medicare Taxes on wages paid to them for services performed by them in the United States, with certain exceptions based on their nonimmigrant status. The following classes of nonimmigrants and nonresident aliens are exempt from U.S. Social Security and Medicare taxes:

F-visas, J-visas, M-visas, Q-visas. Nonresident Alien students, scholars, professors, teachers, trainees, researchers, physicians, au pairs, summer camp workers, and other aliens temporarily present in the United States in F-1,J-1,M-1, or Q-1/Q-2 nonimmigrant status are exempt on wages paid to them for services performed within the United States as long as such services are allowed by USCIS for these nonimmigrant statuses, and such services are performed to carry out the purposes for which such visas were issued to them.

  • Exempt Employment includes:
    • On-campus student employment up to 20 hours a week (40 hrs during summer vacations).
    • Off-campus student employment allowed by USCIS.
    • Practical Training student employment on or off campus.
    • Employment as professor, teacher or researcher.
    • Employment as a physician, au pair, or summer camp worker.

If You Paid FICA Taxes?

You can ask your employer to read the IRS site about FICA Taxes. If they continue deduct taxes, then you can request refund of FICA Taxes withheld from you paycheck back from IRS.

Following is the procedure to get FICA Taxes Refund ( from IRS Site)

FICA Tax Refund from OPT Period

If social security or Medicare taxes were withheld in error from pay that is not subject to these taxes, contact the employer who withheld the taxes for a refund.

If you are unable to get a full refund of the amount from your employer, file a claim for refund with the Internal Revenue Service on Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement (PDF). Attach the following items to Form 843:

  • A copy of your Form W-2 to prove the amount of social security and Medicare taxes withheld,
  • A copy of the page from your passport showing the visa stamp,
  • INS Form I-94,
  • If applicable INS Form I-538, Certification by Designated School Official, and
  • A statement from your employer indicating the amount of the reimbursement your employer provided and the amount of the credit or refund your employer claimed or that you authorized your employer to claim. If you cannot obtain this statement from your employer, you must provide this information on your own statement and explain why you are not attaching a statement from your employer.
  • If applicable, Form 8316,Information Regarding Request for Refund of Social Security Tax Erroneously Withheld on Wages Received by a Nonresident Alien on an F, J, or M Type Visa (PDF)

File Form 843 (with attachments) with the IRS office where your employer’s Forms 941 returns were filed.

You can locate the IRS office where your employer files his Form 941 by going to Where to File Tax Returns.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions about claiming FICA tax refund. Also, read the comments shared here. It will be helpful.

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Comments

  1. Aashka

    Thank you for the information you’ve provided.
    I do have a question for you – I am a PhD student and have been on an F1 VISA for the past eight years or so. So, for tax purposes I am resident alien. While I am funded through a graduate assistantship in the Fall and Spring semesters, in the summer my department hires me part-time (so it is an on-campus job). Since, they must not be hiring me as “a student”, FICA is deducted from my summer payroll. So, my job function is still the same as the other 9 months but I end up having to pay FICA for the other three months.
    Do you think the FICA-exemption applies to my case? And if so, the same form you mentioned above should work for me?
    Thanks!!

    1. Author
      Raghuram Sukumar

      If you have been in USA over 5 years, FICA exemption doesn’t apply any more.

  2. Nidhi

    Hi, Thanks for this!

    I have a question – I was on OPT from July 2014 – July 2015 and paid the extra FICA taxes for the paid.

    I did not however take care of this for July 2014 – Dec 2014 when I paid my 2014 taxes in April 2015. Can I still get my return while filing this year’s taxes? If so, how exactly should I go about it? Your help will be much appreciated.

    Best,
    Nidhi

    1. Erika

      Hi Raghuram,

      Thanks for this information. Fica has been withheld by my employer and I would like to request a refund. My OPT expired July 2015 and my H1B started October 2015. Should I request a refund for my OPT duration or from the beginning of my OPT until the start date of the H1B?

      1. Author
        Raghuram Sukumar

        Please follow the Sprintax questions. If you qualify, you should be able to get all the FICA taxes withheld.

        1. Rudra

          Hi Raghuram,

          Can we file the taxes even with Turbotax ? I heard that it doesn’t include the non -resident 1040NR form completely. Is it true?. Please guide me to the right service.

          1. Author
            Raghuram Sukumar

            Refer to the Review of Sprintax I wrote recently.

          2. Yeh

            If you want to file the 1040NR, you can’t use Turbotax. In addition to Sprintax, you can try the H&R Block or the TaxAct online software. The H&R Block online will let you fill in the information and then direct you to a CPA to review your information. This seems to be good because a CPA will help review your form before you file it. The TaxAct is like Sprintax you fill in the information and then print out the 1040NR (or 1040NR-EZ). I feel like TaxAct is more comprehensive than Sprintax because it allows you to deduct more items, such as job related expenses (license fee, professional association fee, legal fee, etc.) I actually tried three of them and then compare their results. As long as you don’t hit the final you don’t have to pay the service fee for using them. If the numbers came out differently, I looked at the instructions for the 1040NR to see which one is correct. It really took me a lot of time to research the instructions. If you don’t have time to do so, you might want to hire a CPA who really knows how to file 1040NR. I ended up using the TaxAct to file the 1040NR. But note that the TaxAct does not prepare the 843 and 8316 if you are going to get FICA back. Also note that if your visa had changed from F-1 visa to H1B last year sometime and when you fill in this information in Sprintax, it ended up not getting you any FICA tax back. But if you just put F1 visa in the program (even if you really had visa changed), it will get you all year’s FICA back which seems to be not correct. So this is also a reason why I don’t use Sprintax. I will do the 843 and 8316 manually.

            The above is just based on my experience filing the 1040NR for 2015 and I am not a CPA. If something is not right, please correct it. Thank you.

          3. Author
            Raghuram Sukumar

            Thanks for the write up. If you don’t need all the fuss, then use Sprintax or other services you prefer. As a nonresident thre snot going to much difference in refund.

          4. Author
            Raghuram Sukumar

            Thanks for the write up. If you don’t need all the fuss, then use Sprintax or other services you prefer. As a nonresident thre snot going to much difference in refund.

          5. Author
            Raghuram Sukumar

            Thanks for the write up. If you don’t need all the fuss, then use Sprintax or other services you prefer. As a nonresident thre snot going to much difference in refund.

  3. Divya Ananthanarayanan

    One of the documents for FICA tax return is submitting a statement from employer on how much amount they reimbursed or credited to me. In my case I did not get any refund from my employer so what document should I submit?

  4. Loraine

    Hi, my OPT is expired Aug 2015 and I just received the W-2 form from my previous employer. Can I still apply for tax return even I am not in US and my OPT is already expired? My current visa will be B-2 (I applied for travel visa right after i went back to my country in Aug.)
    Big Thanks!

  5. Monica

    So if I have been in the US for a little over 5 years (5 and 3 months as of today), I am not expempt of FICA am I??? and should I then use the regular 1040EZ form??

    Thanks for your help

    1. Author
      Raghuram Sukumar

      If you are in US 5+ years, then you are not exempt from FICA. I can’t advise on forms.

  6. RP

    How long will it take to receive SSN and Medicare taxes refund check? I filed last April and unfortunately neither received the check nor any communication from the IRS. Will it help if I check at my local SSN office? I gave my friend’s address and was constantly checking with them.

    1. alvin

      OMG, this is crazy. It seems to be taking forever to get FICA back. I am planning back to my country this year. I don’t really know if I will have a chance to get my FICA back.

      Also, just wanted to updated my current status. I sent my amended form 1040X, 1040NR and related documentations to the IRS on 10/6/15 because I filed the wrong form (1040) for the year of 2014. Now they just updated online that they sill NOT processed my documentations at this time (It has been 13 weeks since they received them.) I called them and they said I still need to wait for another 4 weeks to see if they will handle my forms. Hopefully they can do it asap so I can start to send them the forms for FICA refunds.

  7. Suresh

    Hi,

    I see this post is mostly talking about FICA returns, I have question regarding filling W4 and NC-4NEZ.

    My status: F-1 Visa on OPT

    W4:
    —–
    What are the allowances I am allowed to claim in A-H?
    What is the number I can put on #5 of the form?(Depend on previous question)?

    NC4-NEZ:
    ————
    What should be kept in fields 1-5?

    Some where I read that OPT people can claim only 1. I am not sure about the accuracy of this information.

    Requesting help. Thanks in advance.

  8. Pratik

    Hi,

    I prepared documents and sent them to

    Department of the Treasury
    Internal Revenue Service
    Odgen, UT 84201-0044

    (I am living in california)

    But I haven’t got any response from IRS, Neither email or post mail. What am I suppose to do? Its been a 4 months since I mailed the documents to IRS address. Please advise me.

    Thank you.

    1. Author
      Raghuram Sukumar

      Some folks have reported 6 months wait time. Plese come back here once the process is over to share the timeline.

  9. Edwin

    Hi,

    This is super helpful! I think I have all the forms but I don’t know where to send to, does anyone know? I’m in NYC and do I send to the NY state tax office or the Federal IRS office?

    If anyone is in the same situation and have an exact address, that will be great! THANKS!

    1. Harry

      You should send it to this address below.

      Internal Revenue Service

      Austin, Texas, USA Zip code 73301-0215

  10. Harry

    Hi, there.

    your web site helped me a lot with going through this FICA tax return.

    I just got the mail from IRS saying that they cannot process my claim because I didn’t use form 1040NR when I file the tax return.

    I looked up my files, and I noticed that my accountants used 1040 and 1040EZ to file 2 different tax years. Also, I made mistake with form 843 (I wrote 1040NR on “original return” for both claim instead of 1040 and 1040EZ).

    Wondering what should I do to fix this problem..
    and is it true that I cannot get FICA tax return if I didn’t use form 1040NR?

    Thanks in advance :))

    1. Author
      Raghuram Sukumar

      Oh, I didn’t know that you had to use 1040NR for getting FICA refund. ( as you ca see, I’m not a legal tx consultant).

      I know you can amend a tax return, but you have to find if you can file new form now for previous years. You would need a tax consultant (or CPA) to do that (or talk to).

      1. Harry

        **Update Info about this situation.

        I finally could talk to IRS people after waited about 2 hours, and he clearly mentioned that 1040NR is “ESSENTIAL” to get FICA tax return.

        My accountant used 1040 and 1040EZ when they filed 2013 and 2014 tax return.
        That was the reason they denied to process my FICA tax return.

        If anyone has same problem just like me, this is what you should do.

        1. You have to send 1040X and 1040NR for each tax period to fix your status
        (He said this will take about 12~16 weeks to fix, but not sure they are going to send notification letter if they are done)

        2. You have to send another Form843 for each period after you waited that 12~16weeks. (That means you need to wait until they fix your status)

        3. Wait for the letter form IRS

        Personally, I sent my form843 on July 7th 2015, and I got their letter on November 23rd 2015. So, I am guessing any FICA tax return will take at least about 5 months.

        Hope this information could help you guys. :))

        1. Alvin

          Thank you so much for info. This really helps a lot. But I was wondering if you found that you would owe the IRS some money (federal income tax) once you refiled 1040NR before you can get FICA back. When I used the 1040 for 2014, the IRS returned me, for example, 2045 dollars. I used the wrong form, like you. So I recently refile the 1040NR with the 1040X, and I found that I can only get, for example, 1245 dollars back for federal income tax return. So I am guessing the IRS will send me a notice, saying I owe 800 dollars (2045-1245). Is this right? Thank you.

          1. Harry

            That is my guess too, but I was worrying that I end up paying money instead of getting return.

            I am still researching about this issue regarding how this 1040NR will affect to my previous return.

            If you find new info, plz share with me through this site.

            Thanks in advance!

          2. Author
            Raghuram Sukumar

            It depends on the tax agreement between USA and your country.

            For example, India and USA have $5000 deductible agreement when filing 1040NREZ, but that wouldn’t apply if you file 1040, but there’s standard deductible. So, you have to talk to a CPA.

  11. Rutuja

    Do we have to fill out any specific IRS form for the employer to provide the FICA expemtion?

    1. Author
      Raghuram Sukumar

      Nope. You have to inform them via email. That should be good.

  12. Meet

    What percent of the total tax return(for both state and federal) i get back on OPT?
    For e.g i have paid 5000$ tax including state and federal for the last year,how much would i get it back?

  13. Nivedita

    I am on my F1 OPT. Am married. I have a confusion about filling my W4. Should I still write single or can I write married filing jointly. ( we do file tax jointly only). And, should I write ” EXEMPT” in line 7. I understand they should withhold only fed tax and not FICA tax. How do I make sure my W4 is correct and shows that clearly.

    1. Author
      Raghuram Sukumar

      Married filing jointly.
      Unless you have spent over 5 years in US, fica is exempt.

      1. Nivedita

        So how do I state that on my W4 that I should only be deducted for fed tax and FICA exempt

  14. Stefano

    I was an F1 Student and was doing my OPT when I filed for my FICA refund in June 2015. How long does it take for the FICA refund to be processed? And is there a number/site to check the status? http://Www.IRS.gov only gives information regarding tax refunds and amended tax refunds — nothing on FICA.

    Thanks,

  15. Alvin

    Hi,

    Thank you for the information. it helps a lot. I still have one question. So the question 6 (Original return) on the Form 843, are we supposed to put a checkmark on 941 or 1040? Thank you.

    1. Author
      Raghuram Sukumar

      You should check the appropriate box, which is which form did you submit the Original Return.

      1. Chun-Chih Yeh

        Thank you again. I still have one question. You said “which form did you submit the original return.” Do you mean original return for SSN and medicare taxes or for income tax? I am thinking it will affect which form I need to select. Thank you.

        1. Author
          Raghuram Sukumar

          I think they ment Income Tax – 8843 or 1010 or 1040NR, etc. If you have doubts, talk to a CPA.

  16. Gerardo Gutierrez

    Hi,
    I am OPT F1 and Exempt of FICA taxes, it is clear. Does my employer have to pay his FICA part? How much?
    Thank you for your article.

    1. Author
      Raghuram Sukumar

      I’m not sure if your employer have to pay or not, but you don’t have to pay.

  17. Ryan

    Will I be able to file the form now to get previous two quarters back this year 2015? If not, when can I file this form? Cause right now it costs a lot if the employer asks this money for me. Thanks.

    1. Author
      Raghuram Sukumar

      You can file the form now or when you file next year taxes.

  18. Manpreet

    Is it possible to get FICA refund for the year 2013 at this point?

    1. Author
      Raghuram Sukumar

      Yes, you should be able to get it now as well. File the right form or get help from CPA.

  19. Rakesh

    Hi,

    I have a question about filing W-4 form.

    I am on H1B ( I-140 – approved) and my wife is on OPT EAD status .
    She got a job and her employer is asking to send the filled W-4 .

    Questions:

    Which option do we both choose “filing single” or “Married filing jointly” .
    Can I claim my wife as dependent while she is working on OPT EAD status.

    I am looking for what to fill in “W4 – Personal Allowances Worksheet ( A, B, C, D, E” for each of us.

    Thanks,

    1. Author
      Raghuram Sukumar

      You can claim your wife as dependent unless someone else is not claiming.

      Mostly you should be doing married filing jointly.

  20. Ravish

    Hey! Thanks for the helpful article. I was wondering if it was possible to file this from abroad (as the forms do not have a “country” section to fill out). I got done with my OPT and left the USA last year. But I am eligible to get some money back from my 2013 tax deductions (and have all the necessary documents ready). Or should I just use a friends mailing address?

    1. Author
      Raghuram Sukumar

      I don’t know the answer. If you find an answer can you come back to post it here?

      1. Ravish

        So, I used my friends mailing address. I assumed that it would be faster that way, plus being safer. Anyway I do have another question, how long does this process take? Its been close to 5-6 months now, when should I expect to hear anything back?

  21. Prabhat Sinha

    Hi,

    I am in the United States since last two years on F1 Visa, currently I am on my OPT. The employer who I work for pays me $ 10 per hours and charges $66 federal tax on the amount of $ 555 for per two weeks.

    Can i get exemption from Federal tax withholding

  22. John Smith

    Worked in the US on a J-1 visa during the summer of 2014 in New York city, was unaware i did not have to pay FICA. Do i follow the suggested steps to get a full refund and am i entitled to one?

  23. YDY

    I have been in the US for more than 5 years on F1 visa and therefore I am counted as resident alien for tax purposes but I am on OPT now, my employer is withholding FICA and medicare. Can I ask them not to withhold in this case or am I eligible for a refund?thanks!

  24. Olga

    Addition: F-1 students are exempt from FICA taxes only for up to five years. Right?

  25. Vinod

    Hello,

    Is a person with OPT status (valid EAD card) but expired F-1 visa still eligible for this FICA refund?

    Appreciate your response.

    Thanks!

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