Los Ángeles, CA
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Some Q&As for VITA clients:

Q: My friend and I filed tax return with USC VITA on the same day. He/she has already received his/her refund and I am still waiting for mine. Why?

We handle an extremely large amount of tax returns per tax season. By comparison, we prepared nearly double the amount than UCLA VITA last year. We will efile all tax returns before the Federal Apr 15 deadline. 

    • We randomly assign all cases to different VITA board members. Some may finish ahead of others, and some need extra processing time due to client workload and other complicated returns. 
    • We cannot control which board member to efile faster, and we cannot expedite any tax returns for any reason. Please be patient and we will process all client returns before Apr 15
    • If you encrypted documents for security purposes, it may delay our processing as we have multiple board members to check the same tax return. Please do not encrypt any documents submitted to our form. By placing your signatures on Form 14446, you agreed to let us handle your documents in a professional manner. 
    • Checking on federal and state website will not get you anything. We will send you email confirmations from our end. IRS does not furnish proof of submission. We only send emails to you if these efiles have been successfully transmitted to the relevant tax authority. Otherwise, we will reach out to let you know. 

Q: Can I mail my tax return/efile on my own to the IRS? USC VITA is taking too long to process my returns. 

You have the right to mail your tax returns to Federal and State(s) for any reason. However, we strongly urge you not to do this for the following reasons:

  • If both you and USC VITA send duplicate tax returns, IRS will treat both as duplicate returns and identity theft. IRS can, at their discretion, take as much time as they need to investigate this issue. No matter how you justify these are indeed made/authorized by you, identity theft is a serious issue and IRS may take months to resolve this.
  • How we know this? A USC VITA board member inadvertently sent two identical copies to IRS in the same envelope, and it took him six months and many in-person visits to IRS field office to get refund. 
  • If USC VITA did not receive your signed return, we do not efile your return for any reason. That means, if you wish to mail/efile your return at somewhere else, DO NOT send your signed return to us. If we already received your signed return for any reason, that is a confirmation that you agree to let us efile your return. 
  • If you insist on not letting us efile your return for any reason, you must write an email to us, at least one week before Apr 15, with headline [DO NOT EFILE], and explain how you want us to proceed. You MUST wait until USC VITA send you email confirmation that we have confirmed on our end. Otherwise, our board members may have already efiled your return. 
  • If you choose to mail/efile your returns without us, that is a one-time, irrevocable decision. You cannot come back and request us to efile again. This is because we delete all documents and your signed tax return, and we delete all your data in our system, so it is impossible to re-create a profile even if you send documents back to us again. 

Q: Why am I paying taxes?

As an Indian F-1 student with India-US treaty, you are being taxed at the same rate as American citizens, but you still may owe taxes. 

    • Indians can claim standard deduction, which means the first $13,850 of your total income is tax free. 
    • After subtraction, the remaining amount is taxable. Form 1040-NR, line 1 lists your total annual income you have earned from all jobs and internships. Minus $13,850 is your taxable income (also shows on line 15 of your 1040NR). 
    • Usually, income tax is 10% of the said taxable income, and that is why you owe taxes, after W-2 tax withheld has been deducted (because W-2 withheld is not enough to offset your taxes).

As an international student with F-1 visa, you can only choose to itemize your income taxes. Basically, that means you have a limited exemption amount and almost all your income are taxable income. 

If your home country has a tax treaty with US, and you believe USC VITA made an error on your tax return, please email us and we can look into it.

Q: I worked at an internship outside California. Shouldn’t I only pay tax for that state? Why do I end up paying more taxes for California, especially since my internship state has no income tax (e.g., Texas, Washington)?

A state like Texas may not have income tax for the state, but California does for all worldwide income if you are considered a resident of California for tax purposes. Scenario 3 explains how CA will tax your total income. No matter where you live, where you work, you are liable for California tax for all income you have earned, worldwide

As a student from USC, we can safely assume you are a California resident for tax purposes, based on your length of stay in CA. 

    • Therefore, all income you have earned within the United States (e.g., your temporary relocation to Texas for an internship), in its entirety, is taxable to CA. 
    • Even when you physically move to another state, you still pay CA tax when you compute your final tax return. An example of you may not be liable for CA tax is if you moved to Texas and did not come back (you have become a Texas resident).

Upon completion of your tax return with USC VITA, you should receive a PDF copy of your tax return. 

    • Page 19 states how CA will calculate your income from all sources (section D, total amounts using CA law as if you were a CA resident), this is the amount they use to calculate your final tax amount. 
    • Section E only gives you a summary of all income you actually earned in CA. Which is why on line 17 of your CA state return, your California AGI is the same as your federal AGI, and taxes will be calculated based on that. 

Q: I am an international student, my employer has withheld Social Security and Medicare (FICA) tax that I am not supposed to pay. Can I add it back to my refund amount?

No. FICA taxes will never be included in your refund amount. USC VITA cannot get this refund back on your behalf. 

    • To determine FICA tax, you should first ask yourself: Have you been in the US for more than 5 years? Do you work at an educational institution (e.g., University) and not anywhere else?
    • If you see box 3, 4, 5, 6 on your W-2 have any amount, you have been deducted FICA tax by your employer.
    • As an F-1 international student working for the University, you are never liable for FICA tax, even when you become a resident for tax purposes. 
    • You should inform your employer HR to not deduct FICA tax if you work at an eligible institution, if you qualify. However, if you have been withheld FICA taxes, you need to contact HR directly to issue FICA refund to you. 
    • USC VITA cannot assist you in any way regarding FICA taxes. If HR refuses to issue you FICA tax back, check if you need to pay FICA tax first, per IRS rule. Then, you can fill Form 8316 and follow IRS instructions to mail it. 

Q: I found myself not eligible to file a tax return with USC VITA. Can you refer me to any other VITA or help me find a reliable CPA?

If you are not eligible to file a tax return with USC VITA, you do not qualify with any VITA in the nation, per IRS rules. These rules are universal across all VITA sites. 

    • Regrettably, even if you have $1 dividend income (for non-residents) or $1 cryptocurrency transaction, IRS is very strict about repporting these income, and VITA cannot, under any circumstances, file tax returns for you. You cannot simply ignore this income. 
    • We do not know, and we cannot refer or endorse any paid tax professionals. You are responsible for reaching out to any tax preparers outside VITA.
    • We cannot answer any tax-related questions if you did not file a tax return with VITA. We cannot compare your refund amount or answer questions, if you find discrepancies with tax returns from other software (e.g., Sprintax, Turbotax).

Para los contribuyentes no residentes: Donde enviar las declaraciones

¿Tiene una declaración aparte de una CA 540 NR?

Haga clic abajo en el enlace para buscar adonde enviar las declaraciones de los estados distintos: