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Who must file tax forms for 2018 tax season?

If you were physically in the U.S. in F or J status anytime between January 1 - December 31, 2018 you're obligated to send one form, Form 8843, to the U.S. tax agency IRS (Internal Revenue Service), even if you had no income. For the 2018 tax season, if you earn $1 of US source income or greater, 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

April 15th, 2019 is the last day for residents and non-residents who earned U.S. income to file Federal tax returns for 2018.

Resident or Non-Resident for Federal Tax Purposes

Generally, most international students & scholars who are on F, J, M or Q visas are considered non-residents for tax purposes. International undergraduate students on J1 & F1 visas are automatically considered non-resident for their first 5 calendar years in the US, whilst Scholars/Researchers on J visas are automatically considered non-residents for 2 out of the last 6 calendar years in the US. If you’ve been in the US for longer than the 5 or 2 year periods, the Substantial Presence Test will determine your tax residency. 

How to File

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

After you login to Sprintax, it will ask you a series of questions about the time you have spent in the United States and in which immigration status, looking back over a period of 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 it to respond to a series of guided questions. Sprintax will complete and generate the forms you need to print, sign, and mail to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). If it determines 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 Non-Resident Tax Forms (F and J)

1. 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 (e.g. by the semester as a note-taker)

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

Note: Only Non-Resident 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. 

U.S entry and exit dates for current and past visits to the U.S.  In addition to passport stamps, you can review or print your U.S. travel history
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 non-resident tax return because NRAs are not eligible to claim education expense tax credits.

2. Create a Sprintax Account

You will receive an email from the international student office providing you with a link to Sprintax to set up your account as well as your unique code to use on Sprintax. 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 log in using your existing credentials.

3. Follow the Sprintax Instructions

If you had No U.S. Income: Sprintax will generate a completed Form 8843 for you and each of your dependents (if you have any).

With U.S. Income: Sprintax will generate your "tax return documents", including either a 1040NR-EZ or a longer form 1040NR, depending on your circumstances. 

4. (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, they will give you the option to use Sprintax for an individual fee. However, it is your choice to use them or to do the state tax return on your own.

5. Mail your completed federal and/or state forms to the IRS and/or state tax authorities

Remember to read the mailing instructions that Sprintax provides. If you have dependents, each one must mail their 8843 in a separate envelope.

Need Sprintax Support?

If you need help while using Sprintax, contact them 

Sprintax Educational Tax Videos and Blog:

You also have access to the Sprintax YouTube account where there are a number of educational videos on non-resident taxes to provide further clarity on the subject of using Sprintax and non-resident tax. There is also a Sprintax Blog which goes through tax-related topics and can be of use to you.

DISCLAIMER: International Office and the school 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.