ISSS-BU News 12 March 2012 ISSS-BU News


An electronic news service for international students and scholars, owned by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services atBinghamtonUniversity, State University of New York

Visit ISSS on the Web!   http://isss-new.binghamton.edu

Editor’s Note: Did you remember to set your clocks one hour ahead before you went to sleep on Saturday night? Sunday began “Daylight Savings Time” where we will enjoy an additional one hour of daylight each day.

Now that the income tax filing season is upon us, you will continue to see several articles about taxes in each weekly edition of ISSS-BU News through mid-April. Also, helpful information is available in the “Taxes” section of the ISSS website, at the following link: http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/taxes/index.html

CONTENTS:
1.Summer Session 2012 Advance Registration Begins Today, Fall 2012 Course Schedule Available for Viewing on March 23
2. Poetry Reading by Dorothea Smartt on Tuesday, March 13
3. In-Person Income Tax Assistance Begins Tuesday, March 20
4. Important Workshop on Post-Graduation Employment Issues Wednesday, March 21
5. April 1 is the Deadline for Spring 2012 Health Insurance Adjustments
6. This Week’s Campus and Community Connections Newsletter
7. Frequently Asked Income Tax Questions, and Answers
8. Income Tax Information: Important Items to Remember When Completing Income Tax Forms
9. How to Stay Safe from Stalking
10. Off Campus Employment Rules
11.The Clock is Ticking on Some Practical Training Applications
12. Income Tax Information: Common Mistakes When Reporting Income
13. Income Tax Information: For F-1 and J-1s in the U.S. for More than Five Years Who are Residents for Tax Purposes
14. Important Notice From Student Accounts Regarding Fall 2012 Pre-Registration

1. Summer Session 2012 Advance Registration Begins Today, Fall 2012 Pre-Registration Time Tickets Available on March 23
Advance registration for the 2012 Summer Session begins today. For more information on summer classes, visit http://summer.binghamton.edu. The schedule can be viewed here:

View schedule >>

Fall 2012 Pre-Registration begins on April 10 for all students. All students are assigned a time ticket or registration start time. To view your time ticket, log into BU BRAIN beginning March 23 and click on "Registration Status". Pre-registration will be open through Friday, May 11.

2. Poetry Reading by Dorothea Smartt on Tuesday, March 13
On Tuesday, March 13 at 8 pm in Science I Room 149 there will be a free poetry reading from
Dorothea Smartt, a British-Barbadian poet, playwright, performer and community activist based in London. Smartt has published two poetry collections, Connecting Medium and Ship Shape.

A playwright, performer and community activist, she is regarded by many critics as among the best talents of her generation. The forbidden desires and powerful Caribbean rhythms in Smartt’s poetry move through meditations on slavery, sexuality, history, and the body.

Smartt’s writing has appeared in numerous anthologies, including Caribbean Erotic and Red:Contemporary Black British Poetry. She has been an Attached Live Artist at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts and a featured guest at the British Festival of Visual Theatre. Smartt is an editor at Sable magazine and co-director of Inscribe, Peepal Tree Press’s black and Asian writer development program.

This event is sponsored by the Department of English, the Multicultural Resource Center, SHADES, Africana Studies, the Caribbean Students Association, Women's Studies, the Institute for Global Cultural Studies, and Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies.

3. In-Person Income Tax Assistance Begins Tuesday, March 20
ISSS is pleased to announce the availability of in-person assistance with completing your non-resident income tax forms beginning Tuesday, March 20. This service is primarily to assist you if you need help with New York State forms IT-2, IT-203 and IT-203B, since GLACIER Tax Prep is available for completing your federal returns. However, federal non-resident tax questions can be answered as well.

Mr. Jim Rollo, who graduated from Binghamton University’s School of Management in 1984 and is a local businessman, is available to provide in-person assistance with completing your non-resident income tax forms on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00am to 1:00pm. Please come to the ISSS main office first to obtain your appointment form, which will be numbered in the order that students come in. Then, follow the signs upstairs, across the patio, and into the Hinman Commons section of the building to see Mr. Rollo.

This service continues through Thursday, April 12, 2012.

Appointments are not required. Please be sure you have already logged into GLACIER Tax Prep and have created your account. Be sure to bring your income tax forms with you.

4. Important Workshop on Post-Graduation Employment Issues Wednesday, March 21
What may be the most important immigration workshop offered this year will be held Wednesday, March 21 at 5:00pm in Academic A, Ground Floor, Room G08. Will you be seeking employment in the United States after graduation? Do you have questions regarding H-1B visas, labor certification, PERM and employment-based permanent residency? Are you confused about the H-1B “cap” and the “cap gap?” How long are H-1B visa numbers likely to last, and what is the earliest date for submitting an H-1B petition with an October 1, 2012 start date? What about those 20,000 extra H-1B visa slots for those with U.S. master’s degrees or higher? What is going on with H-1B placement agencies, the deemed export attestation requirements, and are there any issues if you travel into the United States with a new H-1B visa? You do not want to miss this workshop!

Learn about your options under U.S. immigration law from special guest and featured speaker, immigration attorney Rosanne Mayer from the law firm of Miller Mayer LLP in Ithaca, New York. This workshop is sponsored by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services.

5. April 1 is the Deadline for Spring 2012 Health Insurance Adjustments
Please note that there is a deadline for requesting a Health Insurance Waiver or adjustment. – International students requesting a waiver or adjustment of their international health insurance fee must do so by April 1, 2012 for the Spring 2012 semester. To file a waiver or adjustment request go to:
http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/health-insurance/waiverinfo.html. Filing a request does not guarantee a wavier or adjustment. You must either be a graduate assistant (G.A.), Teaching Assistant (T.A) or Research Assistant (R.A.) funded through Binghamton University and enrolled in employee health insurance, OR meet the standards for comparable coverage outlined on the ISSS Health Insurance web page located through the above link.

If you have questions about the International Student Health Insurance, please contact the International Health Insurance Team at intl.insure@binghamton.edu

6. This Week’s Campus and Community Connections Newsletter
The latest Campus and Community Connections newsletter has been posted at:

http://www2.binghamton.edu/cce/connect/CCC-Spring2012-28.pdf

The Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) publishes Campus and Community Connections to provide BU students with information on ways to participate in activities both on campus and in the local community, including:

* Upcoming Campus & Community Events
* Volunteer & Service Opportunities
* Internships (Credit & Non-Credit)
* Community-Based Research Project

Previous newsletters are archived at: http://www2.binghamton.edu/cce/campusconnect.html
For more information on the Center for Civic Engagement, visit http://www2.binghamton.edu/cce/

7. Frequently Asked Income Tax Questions, and Answers
Here are the top income tax questions being asked this week, we hope you find the questions and answers helpful!

1. I have used GLACIER Tax Prep for filing my federal income tax return. At the final screen, GLACIER indicates that I should file a NY State income tax form, and provides a link. But, I am not sure I understand what to do next. Can you help me?
The ISSS has income tax webcasts that explain how to complete each of the three required New York State income tax forms line-by-line. The ISSS webcast web page,

http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/taxes/webworkshp.html also includes links to all three NYS Forms and the NYS instruction booklet. The forms that need to be completed are IT 203, IT-2 and IT 203-B. These forms must be printed and mailed together. Full instructions are provided in the webcasts.

2.Both the Federal and NY State income tax forms allow for my income tax refund to be direct-deposited into my bank account. Is this a good idea?
It’s actually a very good idea. Most U.S. citizens have their income tax refunds direct-deposited into their checking account, rather than have the check mailed to them. You’ll receive your refund more quickly, you don’t have to worry about lost checks, and even if you are traveling, you will know that your funds are safe. It is easy to look at your on-line bank statement or monthly paper bank statement to see when your refund is credited to your account. There is no fee for this service.

3. GLACIER and New York State Form IT-2 ask me to enter an “Employer Identification Number” from my W-2 form. I’ve reviewed my W-2 very carefully, but I cannot find the “Employer Identification Number.” Where is it?
The Employer Identification Number is also known as Federal ID Number. You should be able to locate it on the W-2, where the employer name and address have been printed.

4. GLACIER is indicating that I am a resident for tax purposes, and therefore cannot use it for my tax filings. But I have been F-1 for fewer than five years. Has GLACIER made a mistake?
Perhaps not. If you were in the United States in some other non-immigrant status prior to becoming an F-1 student, federal tax law require that those prior years be counted. GLACIER then computes your income tax status. If it is determined that you are a resident for income tax purposes, follow the instructions for filing as a resident, available at:

http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/taxes/residentaxinfo.html

5. I am a graduate assistant/teaching assistant. My New York State W-2 form has Box 13 “retirement plan” checked. Does that mean I have a retirement plan? If I am completing form IT-2 for New York State, what instruction should I follow for Box 13?
If box 13 on your New York State W-2 has been checked, it only means that you are eligible to be enrolled in a New York State retirement plan, not that you have actually enrolled. There is nothing special you need do for your federal or state income tax filing if Box 13 is checked. If you are completing New York State form IT-2, leave Box 13 blank.

8. Income Tax Information: Important Items to Remember When Completing Income Tax Forms
A number of students sometimes forget all of the necessary steps when completing their income tax forms. Here is a helpful reminder for ISSS-BU News readers:

  • Remember that GLACIER -prepared income tax forms must be printed from the GLACIER website, and mailed by you to the Internal Revenue Service Center in Austin, Texas. Be sure to print the GLACIER instructions page, which provides all of the information you need for assembling and mailing your federal income tax forms.

9. Income Tax Information: Common Mistakes When Reporting Income
There are some common mistakes that international students frequently make on income tax forms. Here are a few of them.

Mistake 1: Attempting to e-file (electronically file) the federal income tax return.
Non residents for tax purposes (F and J students who have been in that status in the United States for five or fewer years, 2007 or later) and J scholars/faculty who have been in that status in the United States for two or fewer years, 2010 or later) are non-residents for tax purposes and must file non-resident income tax forms. Currently, the federal non-resident forms, 8843, 1040NR and 1040NR EZ, cannot be filed electronically. If you have used an e-filer for your federal income tax returns, and you are a non-resident, you have filed the wrong forms and will need to file an amended income tax return. If you use GLACIER, this mistake will not be made.

Mistake 2: Filing Your Income Tax Forms Too Soon
Do not file your income tax forms too soon! Before you file, make sure you have a unique W-2 Wage and Tax Statement from each employer for whom you worked in 2011. If you have not received a W-2 form from each of your 2011 employers, it is your responsibility to contact the employer and request one.

If you can exempt salary (wages) from tax based on a tax treaty between the United States and your country AND did the necessary tax treaty paperwork with either the State Payroll Office or the Research Foundation Payroll Office, you MUST wait until you receive form 1042-S from your employer before filing your income tax forms. If you are not certain whether you will be issued form 1042-S, check with your employer.

If you received a scholarship, such as an athletic scholarship, dissertation year fellowship, graduate school scholarship or enhancement award during calendar year 2011, you will receive form 1042-S in mid-March. If you are not certain whether you will be issued form 1042-S, check with your scholarship source.

Once you receive form 1042-S, GLACIER will help you correctly file your income tax forms.

Students from India should note that because of the unique nature of the U.S. income tax treaty with India, no form 1042-S is issued for those eligible to claim the tax treaty based on wages (salary). Therefore, unless you have a scholarship or fellowship grant as described above, you may file your income tax forms without form 1042-S

Mistake 3: Confusing wages with scholarships/fellowships.
All wages are reported on form W-2, and should be indicated on line 3 of form 1040NR EZ. All scholarships are generally reported on a form 1042-S, and if coded as a scholarship (code 15 on the 1042-S) is indicated on line 5 of form 1040NR EZ. If you think you have a scholarship, but the earnings were reported on a form W-2, it is NOT a scholarship, and must be reported on line 3 of form 1040NR EZ. If you use GLACIER, this mistake will not be made.

Mistake 4: Putting the wrong amount on line 11 of form 1040NR EZ.
Only state or local income tax withheld can be reported on line 11 of form 1040NR EZ. DO NOT list federal income tax withheld on this line, only state and local tax (found on box 17 and box 19 of form W-2 and also on form 1042-S). Students from India eligible to claim the India Tax Treaty must put only the standard deduction amount on line 11. If you use GLACIER, this mistake will not be made.

Mistake 5: Including your tuition scholarship on line 5 of form 1040NR EZ
Graduate students who have received a tuition scholarship from Binghamton University should NOT enter the amount of the scholarship on line 5 of form 1040NR EZ. These tuition scholarships do not fit the IRS definition of "taxable scholarship." If you use GLACIER, this mistake will not be made.

Mistake 6: Excluding the wrong amount on line 8 of form 1040NR EZ
You can only exclude an amount on line 8 if you also had a taxable scholarship/fellowship amount on line 5. Exclusions are limited to the amount you spent on fees and books during the period you had a scholarship/fellowship. There are no exclusions for wages reported on form W-2. If you use GLACIER, this mistake will not be made.

International Student and Scholar Services staff are neither qualified nor permitted to give individual tax advice. Tax assistance is available at:
http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/taxes/taxsem.html

10. Income Tax Information: For F-1 and J-1s in the U.S. for More than Five Years Who are Residents for Tax Purposes
Until now, all of ISSS-BU's income tax articles have focused on F-1 and J-1 students who are non- residents for tax purposes; those who have been in F or J status for five years or less. This information is for those F-1 and J-1 students who entered the U.S. in 2006 or earlier, or J-1 scholars who entered the U.S. in 2009 or earlier, and therefore file as residents for tax purposes.

Need assistance with your resident tax forms? There are a number of resources available to you. If your total earnings for 2011 were less than $57,000, you can file both your Federal and your New York State income tax forms for free using special income tax software. Access Free File at http://www.irs.gov

Free assistance with resident tax forms only is offered through the VITA volunteer program of AARP at the Broome County Public Library, 185 Court Street in downtown Binghamton. The hours are: (by appointment only) Monday – Saturday (closed Sundays) from 10am to 2pm. To request an appointment, call 211 or (800) 901-2180 from 8:30am to 4:00pm. There is also assistance available at the Oakdale Mall, near Ruby Tuesday’s Restaurant. These are walk-in hours from 10am to 2pm on Tuesdays - Fridays. After March 16, the days will be Tuesdays-Thursdays. The volunteers at the Broome County Library and at the Oakdale Mall are NOT trained to assist with non-resident tax matters, nor are they trained on such issues as tax treaties.

Resident income tax filers can purchase income tax software such as Turbo Tax or Tax Cut from stores such as Staples, Barnes and Noble, or Walmart, or on the web through Amazon.com.

There are also paid preparers in the local community who can assist you including H & R Block and Jackson Hewett.

If you have been in F-1 or J-1 status for more than five years, you need to file form 1040, or its shorter versions; 1040A or 1040EZ. Residents with income should also file New York State tax form IT-150 and IT-2. Residents for tax purposes must report all world-wide income, including bank interest. However, residents for tax purposes can also list spouses and children as dependents, and therefore claim a greater number of exemptions and deductions.

In addition to the personal exemption of $3700, residents for tax purposes can also claim the standard deduction, which for a single person is $5800 for tax year 2011. Residents may also claim certain tax credits, if they meet the eligibility requirements. These credits include child care, earned income, and education credits. Graduate students who are eligible to file as residents for tax purposes may be especially interested in the lifelong learning education credit.

For more information on education credits, obtain IRS publication 970 "Tax Benefits for Higher Education." It can be found on the World Wide Web at the IRS Forms and Publications site; http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p970.pdf

Remember that these benefits are only available to F-1 and J-1 students who have been in the U.S. in those statuses for MORE than five years.

11. How to Stay Safe from Stalking
Safety is our goal! So be careful what information you post on the internet. Did you know that 1 in 4 females and 1 in 5 males in some colleges are stalked or harassed? Use gender neutral userid’s and don’t post too much or very specific information to online places such as blogs and websites like Facebook, MySpace, etc. This information is provided by the University Counseling Center:
http://www2.binghamton.edu/counseling/

12. Off Campus Employment Rules
Previously, staff in the Office of International Student and Scholar Services have had to address several issues regarding off campus employment that have not had pleasant consequences for some students. A reminder: A student in F-1 or J-1 status cannot be employed away from the Binghamton University campus unless they have obtained appropriate federal authorization to do so before employment can begin. This includes internships and jobs done “at home” from a computer, such as on-line surveys and forums that offer payment if you participate. The only exception to this rule is F-1 students who are working away from BU but are paid on a Binghamton University state or research foundation payroll.

  • All off-campus internships must be authorized in advance
  • Employment at another SUNY campus (such as Cortland or Oneonta) or Community College (such as Broome Community College) must be authorized in advance. Other SUNY campuses are no different than any other off-campus location; the employment must be authorized.

The U.S. government exacts heavy penalties for students who work without authorization.

Readers may wish to take note of the following two articles on the ISSS website:

Employment Overview

http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/employment/overview.html

Don’t Place Your Immigration Status at Risk: Consequences of Illegal Employment

http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/employment/illegalemp.html

The ISSS website has many resources on employment. Just visit http://isss-new.binghamton.edu and click on “Employment.”

If you have questions regarding employment, please do not hesitate to contact Assistant Director Shawna Szabo or Associate Director Karen Keefe-Guzikowski, at intl.work@binghamton.edu They are happy to assist you.

If you would like to make an appointment to discuss issues of employment, please call the ISSS office at (607) 777-2510. Employment Walk-In hours are Tuesdays from 1:30pm to 3:15pm.

13. The Clock is Ticking on Some Practical Training Applications
F-1 students who will be graduating in May 2012 and plan to apply for post-completion optional practical training are reminded that they must submit their application paperwork to the ISSS, and then send the processed documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) so that it is received at the USCIS lock box address no later than sixty days after their degree conferral date, which this year is May 22, 2011.

F-1 students who have not yet begun the practical training application process are urged to do so soon so that you will have the best possible opportunity to obtain your employment authorization card in a timely manner. Currently, it is taking the USCIS Service Centers approximately 12 weeks to process OPT employment authorization applications. Employment cannot begin unless you have the card "in hand."

14. Important Notice From Student Accounts Regarding Fall 2012 Pre-Registration
Any outstanding balance on your Student Account the must be paid or cleared at least 24 hours prior to your Fall 2012 pre-registration time. Please do not wait until the last minute to resolve any outstanding debts in order to ensure that you will be able to register at your priority time. You can view and/or pay any balance due by visiting
http://bubrain.binghamton.edu and select “Quick Pay Student Payment.”

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Last Updated: 8/28/14