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.

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.)

 

Who must file tax forms for 2020 tax season?

Even if you did not earn any income, if you were physically in the US on F or J status anytime between 1 January – 31 December 2020, you’re obligated to file a Form 8843 with the IRS (the Internal Revenue Service, or ‘IRS’, are the US tax authorities).

Meanwhile, if you earned more than $0 of taxable US source income, you may need to file a federal tax return with the IRS. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may also need to file a state tax return(s).

Tax Filing Deadline:

15 April 2021 is the last day for residents and nonresidents who earned US income to file Federal tax returns for the 2020 tax year.

Who is considered Resident or Nonresident for Federal Tax Purposes:

Generally, most international students & scholars who are on F, J, M or Q visas are considered nonresidents for tax purposes. International undergraduate students on J-1 & F-1 visas are automatically considered nonresident for their first five calendar years in the US, whilst Scholars/Researchers on J visas are automatically considered nonresidents for two out of the last six calendar years in the US. If you’ve been in the US for longer than the five or two year periods, the Substantial Presence Test will determine your tax residency.

Questions about CARES Act funding?

Read the Sprintax article: “Everything a nonresident in the US needs to know about the second COVID stimulus payment” for everything you need to know about the stimulus payment for international students.

 

Who is entitled to receive the second stimulus payment?

Similarly to April’s CARES Act, you will be entitled to receive the full stimulus payment if you:

  • are a US citizen or resident
  • have a gross income of up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples)
  • can not be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer
  • have a valid Social Security Number (SSN) – this was also a required for the CARES Act payment.

In most cases those who received a payment, will have received it in error, because they filed it as a resident by mistake. So they will need to prepare an amended tax return, as well as returning the check. If this is the case, Sprintax is happy to help via their live chat as in most cases we’ll need to confirm their residency status and most likely help them with an amended return.

 

For additional information on the CARES Act Stimulus Payments:

Nonresident aliens: Your guide to navigating the COVID-19 CARES Act Stimulus Payments

COVID-specific tax information

This video on How COVID-19 Has Effected US NRA Tax Compliance & How You Can Further Support Your Nonresidents includes the addresses where to send payment.

Tax software

NOTE: There are other options for filing taxes.

We have teamed up with Sprintax to provide you with an easy-to-use tax preparation software designed for nonresident students and scholars in the US. We (and all other university staff) are not qualified or allowed to provide individual tax advice.

After you login to Sprintax, you will be asked a series of questions about the time you have spent in the US over recent years. Sprintax will then determine your tax status. If it determines that you are a “nonresident alien” (NRA) for federal tax purposes, you can continue to use the software to respond to a series of guided questions. Sprintax will then complete and generate the tax forms you need to send to the tax authorities.

However, if Sprintax determines that you are a resident alien for federal tax purposes, you won’t be able to continue using the software.

Step by Step guide on How to File Your Nonresident Tax Forms (F and J)

 

  • Gather the documents you may need for Sprintax
Document Description
Passport
Visa/Immigration information, including form I-20 (F status) or form DS-2019 (J status)
Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (if you have one) This is not needed if you had no income and the 8843 is the only form you have to file.
✔* W-2 This form reports your wage earnings if you worked. If you had more than one employer you should get a W-2 from each employer. It is issued by the end of January for the previous year. Make sure all employers from last year have an up-to-date address for you.
✔* 1042-S This form is used to report:

  1. stipend, scholarship, fellowship income and travel grants (not tuition reduction or exemption)
  2. income covered by a tax treaty
  3. payment for other types of services (eg by the semester as a note-taker)

If you received this type of income, the 1042-S will be mailed to you by 15 March by the payer.

Note: Only Nonresident Aliens receive this form. If your tax status changes to a Resident Alien you will not get a 1042-S. Login to Sprintax to check your tax status if you’re not sure.

US entry and exit dates for current and past visits to the US In addition to passport stamps, you can review or print your US travel history here
✔* 1099 This form reports miscellaneous income. Can be interest on bank accounts, stocks, bonds, dividends, earning through freelance employment
1098-T This form is NOT needed and can NOT be used for a nonresident tax return because NRAs are not eligible to claim education expense tax credits.

 

  • Create a Sprintax Account:

You can use this link to Sprintax to set up your account. You will receive an email from The Office of Global Services with a unique code that you can use. This unique code will cover the costs of the federal tax return and 8843 at no cost to you. Open your new Sprintax account by creating a UserID and password or if you have an existing account on Sprintax you can login using your existing credentials.

If you did not earn any US Income: Sprintax will generate a completed Form 8843 for you and each of your dependents (if you have any).

If you did earn US Income: Sprintax will generate your “tax return documents”, including either a 1040NR-EZ or a longer form 1040NR, depending on your circumstances.

  • (With U.S. income only) If required, complete your state tax return

After you finish your federal return, Sprintax will inform you if you need to complete a state tax return. If so, you will have the option to use Sprintax for an additional fee. However, it is your choice to use them or to do the state tax return on your own.

  • Read the instructions for filing/mailing your returns

Remember to read the instructions that Sprintax provides.

You will be required to download, print and sign your federal tax return and mail it to the IRS. If you have a state filing requirement, you must also mail this to the tax authorities.

Finally, if you only need to file Form 8843, this will also need to be mailed to the IRS.

Need Sprintax Support?

If you need help while using Sprintax, you can contact their support team using the options below

Email – [email protected]

24/7 Live Chat Help

Refer to their FAQs

Sprintax Educational Tax Videos and Blog:

You also have access to the Sprintax YouTube account where there are a number of educational videos on nonresident taxes. These will provide further clarity on nonresident tax and how to use Sprintax. Sprintax also offer a range of useful content on their blog to help you file your return.

DISCLAIMER: The Office of Global Services and Northeastern are NOT permitted to assist any student/scholar with any IRS tax form preparation or tax related questions. The information provided is intended for your benefit. Any questions or concerns should be directed to Sprintax, a certified tax preparer or a local IRS field office.

Video: Tax Information Session February 2020

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.

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.

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)

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

Key Resources

List of Personal Immigration Attorneys »

This document is for students who are interested in consulting a personal immigration attorney.