Fact check for NRAs – is your US source capital gain exempt?

This article should serve as a reminder to foreign students, scholars and other foreign government employees in the USA.

Based on the F, J, Q or M visa categories, the above taxpayers are considered non- resident aliens even if they meet substantial presence test and would otherwise be considered US tax residents.

Internal Revenue Code specifically exempts US source capital gain income generated by the non-resident aliens. I am being often asked a question whether the capital gains are taxable for foreign students, scholars and other NRAs who are in “exempt” categories for the US residency purposes. 

The tax law is very clear on this. A flat 30% tax applies on US source capital gain for the NRAs who are substantially present in US for more than 183 days. This 183-day rule bears no relation to the 183-day rule under the substantial presence test of IRC section 7701(b)(3). 

For example, a foreign diplomat, consular officer, or other nonresident alien employee of a foreign government, or nonresident alien employee of an international organization, who is visiting the United States in A or G nonimmigrant status for a period longer than 183 days in a calendar year would be subject to the 30 percent tax on his/her U.S. source capital gains – even if he/she continues to be a nonresident alien per the “exempt individual” rules under the substantial presence test. The same rule applies to a foreign student or scholar visiting the United States in F, J, M, or Q nonimmigrant status whose presence in the United States equals or exceeds 183 days in any calendar year.