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Tax Time is Here! 

Introduction to U.S. Income Tax Basics:

ALL students in F and J status are required to file tax returns, even if you have earned no income in the United States.

At the end of January, many of you received annual statements from your bank or credit union, listing your 2015 interest earnings "for income tax purposes." Some of you who filed tax forms last year may receive new forms in the mail from both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and New York State (NYS).  Those of you who were employed in the U.S. during 2015 should have also received a Wage and Tax Statement for 2015, also known as a W-2 form.  If you have not yet received your W-2 forms, check with your employer to ensure they have your proper mailing address on file.  The W-2 form is the most common tax form received by students and scholars who have been employed.

Many international students and scholars are also issued tax form 1042-S.  This is known as “Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding”.  This form has multiple purposes.  It is used to report Tax Treaty-eligible income, as well as scholarships.  By law, form 1042-S may be issued as late as mid-March.  If you are the recipient of an athletic scholarship, dissertation year fellowship, or a US sourced scholarship such as a Fulbright or Muskie grant, OR if you worked for the State Payroll or Research Foundation Payroll and were able to claim the benefits of a tax treaty based on wages, a form 1042-S will be issued to you in March.  This form is an essential part of your income tax filing if the above mentioned situations apply to you.  Do not file your income tax form until you have received this form, as well as your W-2, if applicable.

What does all this mean, and what should you do with these forms?

The ISSS provides free income tax compliance software, known as Glacier Tax Prep, to all international students, international faculty and scholars, and international alumni who are eligible to be considered as non-residents for tax purposes (see the next paragraph for information on what qualifies someone to be a non-resident). Glacier Tax Prep provides an easy to use web interface for entering information regarding your federal income tax liability (whether you worked or not), and then enters the information onto the required forms so that you can print them, make copies for your records, and then mail the originals to the IRS.  Glacier Tax Prep is password-protected, so that only you have access to the information.  Do not attempt to complete your income tax forms using the e-filing options recommended by the Internal Revenue Service.  It is not possible to e-file tax returns if you are a non-resident for tax purposes.  Information about how to access and use Glacier Tax Prep can be found on the ISSS Website by clicking here.

After you have completed your non-resident Federal Tax Return, you will then proceed to complete your non-resident State Tax Return.  Although Glacier cannot be used to file State taxes, information on how to file your NYS Tax Return, as well as links to the NYS non-resident tax forms can be found here.  There is also an option for non-residents to use Sprintax (different from Glacier Tax Prep, but similar in that it is also an online system that walks you through the tax form completion process) to complete their State Tax Forms.  Please note that there is a fee that you would need to pay to use Sprintax (the ISSS is not involved in this process, nor do we collect the fee).

Note:  Be sure to complete your Federal Returns before you begin your State Tax returns, and do not forget to keep copies of both sets of documents for your records before you sign and mail in your originals.

Who is considered a “non-resident for tax purposes”?

International students in F or J status for 5 years or less (since 2011 or later) and their dependents, file tax forms as non-residents. Research scholars or faculty in J-1 status for 2 years or less (since 2014 or later) also file as non-residents.  If you are unsure if you are a resident or a non-resident, you should log into Glacier Tax Prep and begin to enter your tax information.  The software system will stop you and let you know if you are considered a resident for tax purposes at the beginning of the process, before you prepare the non-resident tax forms.  If you are considered a resident for tax purposes, you will not be eligible to use Glacier Tax Prep to file your taxes, but you would be eligible to file using commons tax programs such as Turbo Tax or H&R Block (Note: DO NOT USE Turbo Tax or H&R Block if you are a non-resident for tax purposes.  The forms will not be correct).

What if I earned no income or did not work?

If you did not earn any U.S. income during 2015 other than bank or credit union interest, then you need only file form 8843, the Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition. The purpose of the 8843 is to verify that a non-resident qualifies to exempt days of presence, and thus shields the non-resident from being taxed as a resident. Being taxed as a U.S. resident allows the IRS to tax your world-wide income.  This form can be completed using Glacier Tax Prep.

When is the deadline to file my taxes?

The deadline for filing tax forms is April 15, 2016.  International students who have been in for F or J status for more than 5 years, research scholars and faculty who have been in J-1 status for more than 2 years, or those who are in other non-immigrant statuses, are generally eligible to file as residents for tax purposes, and must use different forms.

Please note:  The Office of International Student and Scholar Services are neither qualified nor permitted to give individual tax advice. Students with complicated tax situations may wish to consult with a tax preparation service, professional tax accountant, or tax attorney who is knowledgeable about nonresident tax law.

Where can I find additional information?

Binghamton University ISSS Website

University of Buffalo Office of International Student and Scholar Services Office

University of Texas at Austin ISSS Website

IRS Website

NYS Tax Department

Additional Tax Resources

Last Updated: 3/2/16