Understanding taxes

  • If you receive U.S. source income, including wages, stipend, or scholarship, you will likely have federal and state tax withheld from your checks
  • U.S. taxes is a pay-as-you go system in that there may be automatic tax withholdings from your paycheck, stipend, or financial aid. This means that in some instances your available income will be reduced by the tax withholdings. When you file your annual tax report in April of each year, you will calculate the exact amount of tax due. (Some years you may get a refund and in others you may owe additional taxes)
  • The U.S. tax system is organized according to the calendar year (January 1- December 31).In addition to filing a federal tax return, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or another state may also require you to file state and/or local taxes for income earned in that state.

Important disclaimer

The information on the Office of Global Services webpage is provided as guidance and is not intended to be legal tax advice. The Office of Global Services staff are not tax specialists and are NOT qualified to answer international students/scholars questions regarding taxes. If you believe you have a complicated tax issue, please consult the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, local and state tax agencies and tax professionals for advice and guidance regarding your individual tax situations.

Tax information

International students and scholars (F or J immigration status) in the U.S. are required to file (Federal) tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service each year for the previous calendar year (e.g. You start your degree in September 2016; therefore, you must file taxes in April 2017. It is a legal requirement to report your taxes even if you did not earn income in the U.S.

To help our international students and scholars, the Office of Global Services provides free access to Sprintax, an online tax software assistance program. An email will be sent to all international students with log in information by the end of February.

State and local tax

  • Some students and scholars must also file a state and/or municipal (local) tax form. For more information, please refer to the respective State Department of Revenue (e.g. Massachusetts Department of Revenue FAQ site)
  • Sprintax will help determine your State residence status. If you used the software to prepare your federal tax return it will prepare the forms you will need to file, if it is required
  • NOTE: You may be required to file a state tax return for each state you lived or worked during the preceding calendar year.

Tax residence categories

Tax residence categories are not to be confused with the immigration terms. The names are classified as non-resident and resident similar to immigration terms, but it is important to know that it is independent from your immigration classification.

For the purpose of tax, residence is defined based on the Substantial Presence Test. Sprintax, the tax preparation software we offer to international students and scholars will help you determine your tax residence status.

Do I need to file taxes?

YES! You must file federal tax returns if you were in the U.S. for any period of time during the previous calendar year.

If you receive income in the U.S., including wages, stipend, or scholarship funds, you will likely have federal and state tax withheld from your checks.

  • Form 8843: Whether or not you earned income in the U.S. in the previous calendar year, you must file at least the USA federal tax Form 8843
  • Form W-2: If you are employed by Northeastern University and/or any U.S. employer you should have received Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement that summarizes your previous year’s income and taxes withheld. W-2 documents are sent by the end of January. If you have worked for compensation and not yet received your W-2, please contact your Human Resources department. (The Office of Global Services does not have access to these forms)
  • Form 1040(s): It is the main form when filing taxes and reporting income. (Please, be aware that there are several versions of this form, consult you tax advisor for further information)
  • Form 1042-S: It details your benefits if it applies under a tax treaty between the U.S. and your home country

NOTE: This is not a complete list of tax forms. For more information consult your tax advisor.

How can I file taxes?

The options are different for taxnon-residents and residents. Whichever software you chose, make sure it is appropriate for your tax residency status.

  • For tax non-residents, the Office of Global Services provides free access to Sprintax for Federal tax filling. Sprintax will also offer a variety of plans for state tax filing depending on your tax situation for all states, not just Massachusetts. You will need to create an account with Sprintax or use an existent account and access the software via a customized Sprintax landing page created for Northeastern University. (Link available early Spring 2019). At the end of your filing with Sprintax, you will be asked for an access code that will be provided at the beginning of each tax season. (Please note that there are other options for filing taxes as tax non-residents)
  • For tax residents, there are further tax preparation programs available such as Turbo Tax, TaxAct, H&R Block Tax Software and QuickBooks

Deadlines

The tax filing deadline for the year 2018 is Monday April 15, 2019. The deadline refers to the date the envelope is postmarked by the post office. For further information, please visit the Internal Revenue Service website.

Tax software

The Office of Global Services provides free access for federal tax filing via Sprintax. Sprintax will also offer a variety of plans for state tax filing depending on your tax situation for all states, not just Massachusetts. You will need to create an account with Sprintax or use an existent account and access the software via a customized Sprintax landing page created for Northeastern University. (Link available early Spring 2019). At the end of your filing with Sprintax, you will be asked for an access code that will be provided at the beginning of each tax season.This code provides access to a limited number of students, and is therefore offered on a first come first serve basis.

NOTE: There are other options for filing taxes.

Resources

Boston IRS Office contact information:
Phone Number: 617-316-2850
IRS National helpline: 1-800-829-1040
IRS VITA Program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance): 1-800-829-1040

Tax treaty information:

U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens (IRS Publication 519)
U.S. Tax Treaties (IRS Publication 901)

Massachusetts Department of Revenue contact information:
Phone Number: 1-800-392-6089 or 617-887-MDOR (6367)

Tax information session video

 

Form I-9 acceptable documents

Please see the following U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services page for the list of acceptable documents that need to be brought to an I-9 appointment.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Form I-9 Acceptable Documents

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