2016 Tax Filing Resources for International Scholars-Office of International Education - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

2016 Tax Filing Resources for International Scholars

All J scholars and their dependents who are nonresidents for tax purposes are required to file at least one tax form each year they are in the US.  Tax forms for 2016 are due April 18, 2017. 

NOTE: The information regarding federal taxes in this email is primarily for J-1 scholars who are NONRESIDENTS FOR TAX PURPOSES.  Visitors in H-1B, TN, or O-1 status and J-1 scholars who are RESIDENTS FOR TAX PURPOSES should specifically reference the sections B, D, E, G, and H below.

The following topics are covered herein:

A) Federal tax: who must file?

B) Forms you receive to help file tax returns (if applicable)

C) Federal forms/obligations; Resident or nonresident?

D) State tax information

E) Local (Pittsburgh) tax information

F) Resources:

  • GLACIER Tax Prep (tax preparation software)
  • Sprintax for state tax returns (tax preparation software for a fee)
  • CMU  information session

G) Other important Information

  • Tax treaties
  • W-2 forms from employers and 1042-S forms from CMU
  • Social Security and FICA withholding
  • Where to file
  • Hiring a Tax Preparer/Accountant

H) Help for international persons who are "residents for tax purposes"

A) Federal tax: who must file?

All foreign scholars and their dependents who are nonresidents for tax purposes are required to file at least one form every year they are in the US regardless of whether or not they earned any money.  This does NOT NECESSARILY mean you have to pay taxes.  However, you DO need to complete and submit the forms.  Most federal NONRESIDENT tax forms and instructions for 2016 can be downloaded from government websites.   See Sections C, D, and E for information about specific forms.

For federal tax form preparation, use the software mentioned below – GLACIER Tax Prep – in Section F of this communication. 

B) Forms you receive to help file tax returns

In January and February, employers and financial institutions send out important tax forms in the mail.   You will use these forms when you complete your tax forms.

Common forms are:

  • W-2      from your employer (if any) which summarizes your earnings in 2016 and taxes which were withheld from your pay.  If  you were employed by CMU in 2016 and did not receive your W-2, contact the CMUWorks Service Center, University Technology Development Center (UTDC) at 4516 Henry Street, 412-268-4600 or cmu-works@andrew.cmu.edu    
  • 1099-INT      form from your bank outlines earned interest (if any).  
  • 1099-DIV      outlines dividend interest on investments (if any). 
  • 1042-S         shows stipends or  earnings that were excluded under a tax treaty benefit.

C) Federal forms/obligations:  Resident or nonresident for tax purposes?

1.  To know which federal tax forms to use, you must first determine whether you are a resident or nonresident for tax purposes.  The information below can guide you, but also read the 1040NR instruction booklet and IRS Publication 519.  (The tax definitions of "resident" and "nonresident" are not the same as the immigration definitions of these terms.)

- If 2016 was the 3rd calendar year out of the last 6 years you were in the US as a scholar (i.e. you arrived on 12/31/2014 or before), or you have been in the US for more than 2 tax years during 2011-2016, then you are probably a "resident for tax purposes." In this case, you will need to complete a 1040 or 1040EZ RESIDENT tax form. (The information in this email will not help you, in this case.) NOTE: even one day spent in the US “counts” as a year for determining nonresident tax status.

-  If you have been physically present in the US for fewer than 2 years in the last 6 years as a scholar (i.e. you arrived on 1/1/2015 or after), then you are probably a "nonresident for tax purposes." In this case, you must file the 8843 form at the least (even if you have no earned income) and also form 1040NR-EZ or 1040NR (if you have US income). NOTE: even one day spent in the US “counts” as a year for determining nonresident tax status.

2.   IF YOU ARE A "NONRESIDENT FOR TAX PURPOSES,” COMPLETE FORMS:

  •  8843   (Every nonresident for tax purposes fills this form, including  dependents.)  Scholars who DID NOT earn any US source income or those whose “income” was bank interest on a checking or savings account only need to file form 8843.  All F-2 and J-2 dependents MUST file the 8843 form.  I
  • 1040NR-EZ  or 1040NR (for nonresident students with  US income).  Nonresidents CANNOT  use the regular 1040 or 1040EZ form that residents use.  NOTE:  nonresidents cannot electronically file federal tax returns.  If you are trying to file your federal tax form electronically or are using Turbotax, it’s the wrong form.
  • Scholars  with US source income (stipends, fellowships, salary, investments) MUST  have W-2 or 1042-S forms from Carnegie Mellon, or a 1099-DIV or 1099-INT  from the investment company before you can complete the tax forms.

3.   The following federal tax forms can be viewed and downloaded from www.irs.gov

  • Form 8843
  • Form 1040NR-EZ - US Income Tax Return for Nonresidents with no Dependents
  • Instructions  for form 1040NR-EZ
  • Form 1040NR - US Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return
  • Instructions for Form 1040NR
  • Publication 901 - US Tax Treaties
  • Publication 519 - US Tax Guide for Aliens

D) State Tax Information

To assist with state tax filing, Carnegie Mellon University has arranged the online tax preparation software tool Sprintax to guide you through the state tax filing process and avoid late filing and/or late payment penalties and fines.

Sprintax  is an easy-to-use, step-by-step tool that helps international students prepare taxes online. Just follow the simple instructions, answer a few questions, and Sprintax will do the rest.

NOTE: This is not a free service.  You will be responsible for any filing fees associated with using the Sprintax software for state tax filing. See the OIE tax email for a CMU discount code.  You may use the link through GLACIER tax prep (see section F below) or you may use the link above—either way, you will need your Federal return and all of your documents in order to enter it into Sprintax or you can upload your 1040NR/EZ into Sprintax by saving it first then uploading.

Using Sprintax is not required.  If you do not wish to use Sprintax for your state tax filing, you can visit the PA Department of Revenue website to file your PA tax forms: www.revenue.state.pa.us  

Click  on “Forms and Publications”, then “Forms for Individuals”, then “Personal Income Tax”

You may be able to file PA tax forms online.  Information about PA taxes and online filing can be found on the PA Department of Revenue’s website.

You may also call (888) 728-2937 to order a form or listen to automated responses to common questions. 

For more information, read PA publications, such as:

REV-611 "Determining Residency for PA Personal Income Tax Purposes"

If you worked in another state in 2016, you will probably have to file a tax return for that state also.  Check for forms and information from that state’s revenue department:  http://www.taxadmin.org/state-tax-agencies and/or consider using Sprintax to assist you both all your state returns.

 

E) Local (Pittsburgh) Tax Information

If you lived or worked in Pittsburgh (or elsewhere in Pennsylvania) and have earned income in 2016, you must complete and submit the local tax form, 2016 Taxpayer Annual Local Earned Income Tax (EIT) Return.

For local returns, go to http://www.jordantax.com/Act32/EmployerForms.html and use the form for Allegheny County Central (70) if you live in the city.  Include a copy of your visa documents with the return and mail to the address at the top of the form. The PSD for nonresidents is 880000 and the nonresident tax rate is 1%.

Questions about the city/local form should be directed to Jordan Tax Services or the City Department of Finance.

Generally, those with no US income do not need to file this form. If city (local) tax was withheld from your pay, you will file this form. If you have earned income (other than a stipend), you will probably need to file both local (city) and state tax forms.

If you worked in another city in 2016, you may have to file a tax return for that city as well.

F) Where to get help for Tax Nonresidents:  CMU and other resources

Tax filing in the US is complicated.   You should obtain the correct tax forms (see above), read them, and use tax support services suggested by OIE.  Staff members of OIE are not able to provide you with any specific advice about your individual tax situation. 

1.  Use GLACIER Tax Prep to prepare your federal tax forms

For federal tax forms, use GLACIER Tax Prep.  Carnegie Mellon University is providing this web-based tax preparation service to you for free.  This is the easiest way to do these forms.  (Remember, “nonresident” as defined by the IRS is different than the immigration definition of nonresident.)  To use this service, visit the web site below and use a CMU-specific password.  Do not share the password as access is limited to current CMU students and scholars and the number of licenses is limited.

To learn the password, read the OIE email sent to all students and scholars in February, or email OIE at oie@andrew.cmu.edu.

Expect to spend at least 30 minutes, and have your information ready when you begin to use the software:

  • current and prior US visit dates
  • entry and exit dates
  • I-20 forms (for F-1 students) or DS-2019 forms (for J-1 students)
  • I-94 record (white card stapled into your passport or printed from www.cbp.gov/i94)
  • Passport
  • All pay documents (1042-S, W-2, 1099, etc.)

 The software provides access to two video tutorials:  the “2016 GTP Tutorial Video” and “2016 Welcome to the US Tax System Informational Video” which we encourage you to view.

2.  For State taxes, consider using the online tax preparation software tool Sprintax to guide you through the state tax filing process and avoid late filing and/or late payment penalties and fines.

Sprintax  is an easy-to-use, step-by-step tool that helps international students prepare taxes online. Just follow the simple instructions, answer a few questions, and Sprintax  will do the rest.

NOTE: This is not a free service.  You will be responsible for any filing fees associated with using the Sprintax software for state tax filing. See the OIE tax email for a CMU discount code.  You may use the link through GLACIER tax prep (see #1 above) or you may use the Sprintax link—either way, you will need your Federal return and all of your documents in order to enter it into Sprintax or you can upload your 1040NR/EZ into Sprintax by saving it first then uploading.  If you prefer to fill out the forms yourself and file without paying a fee, see section D for state filing contact information & resources.

3.  OIE’s General Tax Information Session

  • Tuesday, March 7th, 5:00 to 6:00 PM
  • Cohon University Center, McConomy Auditorium

 This session will provide general information about nonresident tax issues and the forms international students/scholars must submit to comply with US tax laws.

4. Contact the IRS Taxpayer assistance number with specific questions at (215) 516-2000  or (800) 829-1040.  Let the representative know that you are a "nonresident for tax purposes.”  Or visit their website at www.irs.gov or http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/article/0,,id=96431,00.html.

G) Other important Information

1.  Tax Treaties.  There are tax treaties between the US and some foreign countries.  This may mean that you can earn a certain amount of money without having to pay tax if your country has a treaty with the US.   For more information about these treaties, read IRS Publication 901 (www.irs.gov).  If you are working for Carnegie Mellon, you can also contact the CMUWorks Service Center to complete a Foreign National Information form to help determine treaty eligibility.  When you look at Publication 901, be SURE to go to the relevant section for “Students and Apprentices.”   You need to complete an 8233 form at the CMUWorks Service Center in order to benefit from these treaties in advance (i.e., keep the money from being withheld from your pay), and you must complete a new form each year in order to continue to benefit.

2.  W-2 forms from employer(s) and 1042-S from CMU.  If you earned money in the US each employer must send you a W-2 form (or in the case of scholarships or treaty-exempted income a 1042-S.)  When you complete your tax returns/forms, you must attach the correct section of these original documents to your tax forms (for both federal and state tax returns).   Maintain a copy for your records.   DO NOT SEND IN YOUR TAX RETURNS WITHOUT ATTACHING THESE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS!!

If you worked for Carnegie Mellon University in 2016 and did not receive your W-2, contact the CMUWorks Service Center for instructions on how to obtain your tax documents.  CMUWorks Service Center: University Technology Development Center (UTDC), 4516 Henry Street, 412-268-4600 or cmu-works@andrew.cmu.edu

3Keep a copy of your tax return for future reference.  The government can, and sometimes does, audit returns and contact taxpayers a year or more after the return was original filed. 

4. Social Security and FICA Withholding.    If you are a foreign student in F-1 or J-1 status and you are a nonresident for tax purposes, you are exempt from social security taxes (including Medicare tax.)  If your employer has withheld social security taxes from you (check on your pay stub and the W-2 form), you should ask the employer to refund the taxes to you.  If the employer can not, you can apply for a refund from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS.)  This process, which is separate from the annual tax filing requirement, can take up to 6 months through the IRS.  OIE has a handout on this topic.

5. Where to File?   You will mail your federal, state and local tax returns to different US addresses.   All tax forms (completed returns, W-2s and one or more 1042-S forms) are to be mailed together to the addresses listed in the instruction booklets.  The correct address for each filing is listed under the section entitled "Where to File" in the instruction booklets.

6.  Hiring a Tax Preparer/Accountant.    If you want to hire a tax accountant, you can contact one of the commercial tax accounting firms listed in the phone book, or look on line.  If you are a nonresident for tax purposes, make sure the person is familiar with nonresident tax issues.

H)  Help for international persons who are "residents for tax purposes” 

1.   Use FreeFile on the IRS website or purchase commercial tax preparation software (TurboTax, TaxCut).

2.   Call the IRS Taxpayer assistance number with specific questions: 1-800-829-1040 or 215-516-2000 or visit their website at www.irs.gov.

3.  Seek out VITA volunteers.  Help is also available from RESIDENT tax volunteers (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), BY APPOINTMENT ONLY at local libraries; contact your local library for dates and times. 

4.  Hire a Tax Preparer/Accountant.    If you want to hire a tax accountant, you can contact one of the commercial tax accounting firms listed in the phone book, or look on line.