fica tax refund opt irs

How to Get Refund of FICA Taxes for OPT Students

Raghu Personal Finance 72 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.

Comments

  1. Arvind

    Hi Raghuram,

    I am on OPT Status. When I was with my previous employer, I paid SSN Tax for couple of months, in the last year, and now I am with another employer. I just have a letter from my previous employer stating that there was SSN tax which needs to be refunded to me, being on OPT. Do I also need to have my previous employer to submit a Form 941 for this? Or shall I go ahead and submit the forms 843 and 8316 to IRS with required supportive documents as mentioned in the article? Can you please suggest?

    Thanks,
    Arvind

  2. Jahan Nargolwala

    Hi Raghuram,

    I am currently on my OPT and have just started working in the United States. I have a question regarding the W-8BEN form. What information needs to filled in Part II of the form? I have been unable to find the Article name or the % rate I can claim as an F-1 visa holder. I tried the online resources of the IRS, but couldn’t figure it out. My employers are also unfamiliar with the process, so any help you could provide would be most appreciated.

    I have also attached the link to the W-8BEN below:

    https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw8ben.pdf

    Regards,

    Jahan Nargolwala

  3. 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.

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