All posts in Sprintax

  • Moving to the US to study? Here’s 10 things to expect

    From your daunting first day to excelling in the classroom – top tips to make the most of college life

    Are you planning a move to the US for study? You’re not alone.

    In fact, the US attracts 1,000,000 international students to its colleges and universities every year. And it’s very easy to see why.

    American universities are amongst the best in the world and offer truly high-class education opportunities to their students. Away from the campus, the US boasts a large mix of cultures which makes it a really interesting place to study and live.

    But moving to a new country is always a big deal for any international student. And it can be hard to know what to expect.

    With this in mind, here’s 10 things to expect when you arrive in the US to study.

    1 – You might freak out at first!

    Let’s face it. There’s a lot to do at first when you move to a new country.

    You’ve got to move into your accommodation and unpack. Next you have to familiarize yourself with the local area. And then you’ve got to get set up with supplies, college necessities, a new phone, a bank account ……..

    And then it hits you. ‘I’m an international student in America. And I’m a long way from home.’

    But don’t freak out! This is when the exciting stuff starts to happen. Go out and meet new people.

    It’s likely there’ll be lots of international students that are going through the same things you are. Talk to them. Pretty soon you’ll be feeling right at home in your new surroundings!

    2 – You can hit the ground running

    ‘Orientation Week’ or ‘Welcome Week’ can be a really useful time to help you get used to your new surroundings. During this week you’ll have a great opportunity to explore your new campus and find your bearings. You’ll also be properly introduced to your course, tutors, and peers.

    Make sure you use this time to sign up for lots of on-campus clubs and societies as these are a good way to meet people.

    3 – There are top-notch student support facilitates available on campus

    Studying in the US is no doubt a rewarding experience, but navigating your way through day-to-day issues can sometimes be tough. The aim of an international student office is to assist students, just like you, to adapt to their new environment.

    That’s why they offer a wide range of student services such as:

    • English-language practice courses
    • Orientations, and trainings
    • Financial aid
    • Career advice
    • On-campus psychiatry and counselling

    They can also help to answer any questions you may have regarding your visa status, housing, employment possibilities, health concerns and more.

    4 – You’ll find cutting-edge technology

    American universities pride themselves on being at the forefront of technology and research techniques.

    If you’re chosen discipline doesn’t directly involve science or engineering, don’t worry. You’ll still have tonnes of opportunity to become skilled in using the latest technology to conduct research, as well as obtain and process information.

    5 – Life in college is relaxed…. until the grading begins!

    Life on campus is usually pretty relaxed and flexible. In fact, it’s normal for US students to work classes into their own schedules.

    Most students are not obliged to show up at every single class, or even to stay for an entire lecture. But, just because you can avoid and skip classes, doesn’t mean you should!

    Remember, the importance of your grades and Grade Point Average (GPA – an average score based on the grades and results of every class you’ve taken during your studies) can’t be overstated.

    The key is to find the right balance between your studies and enjoying campus life.

    6 – You’ll acclimatize to the culture sooner than you think!

    If you like sports, you’re going to feel right at home in the US. Between all of the professional sports like basketball, American football, ice hockey, baseball and soccer, there is something on pretty much every night of the week!

    And Americans take their college sports pretty seriously too. In fact, some of the biggest stadiums in the world were built for US college teams.

    Rooting for your college team is a great way to feel part of the community. Not only will this help you to have conversations with native students, it will also provide you with an authentic experience of American culture.

    Away from the sports field, you’ll find no shortage of options to keep you entertained. America is at the cutting edge of the music, film and literary worlds. So it won’t take you too long to find something you like.

    If you like going out on the town, remember that the legal drinking age in the US is 21. And you’ll need a proper ID to get into most bars and clubs.

    7 – Opening a bank account may take some time

    You’ll find a US bank account to be very useful, especially if you plan to work part-time, pay bills or keep savings. Setting up a bank account can take some time, as there a number of steps to complete. So it’s a good idea to start this process soon after you arrive in the US.

    Here’s further information on how to set-up a US bank account and some more tips for international students in America.

    8 – You shouldn’t work too hard!

    You may be intending to search for employment in your spare time and earn some extra cash. But be careful, as not all types of employment are eligible under the conditions of an F-1 (student) visa.

    For instance, F-1 students who want to work off campus can only do so in roles that are related to their studies. Most of the other off campus roles are not authorized under F-1 and you will need permission by a DSO (Designated School Official) in special circumstances to do this work.

    F-1 students are entitled, however, to find employment on campus.

    But it’s important to note that while school is in regular session, a student can’t work for more than 20 hours per week. During extended holidays, breaks and summer sessions, you can work full time (up to 40 hours per week).  If you are confused whether a job is considered on-campus employment, ask the employer before you accept the role.

    9 – You’re going to have to file a tax return

    You may find this a bit strange if you are normally resident in a country where you don’t have a tax filing obligation.

    Yes, every international student is required to file a tax return (federal and state, if required) for each year present in the US, and pay tax if they earn income. In fact, it’s one of the terms of the student visa.

    And even if you don’t earn money during your time in the US, you will still need to file with the IRS by the April 17 deadline.

    Many international students find the prospect of filing a tax return to be quite daunting and this is completely understandable. Fortunately help is on hand!

    Sprintax can file your fully compliant Federal, State and FICA tax return. We can also help you to retrieve your maximum legal tax refund. And, if you’re confused about your US tax obligations, Sprintax can answer any questions you have. Get in contact with us today!

    We’ll take care of the complex tax requirements so all you have to do is enjoy your time studying in America!

    10 – You’ll have a blast

    You’re studying in the United States after all!

    Each day you will have opportunities, not only to broaden your knowledge in top academic institutions, but also to collect countless life experiences that will stay with you forever.

    Most universities offer a variety of student clubs and organizations to meet every interest. You’ll also have the chance to immerse yourself in American culture, meet new people and make new friends.

    What could be more exciting? Enjoy!

  • Here’s everything you need to know about the W-2 tax form

    Your questions answered!

    The tax filing deadline is on the horizon and quickly approaching! And most employees are now on the lookout for their W-2 tax form. But why is this little form so important?

    Here’s everything you need to know.

    What is a W-2 Form and why do I need it?

    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires every employer that is engaged in a trade or business, and that pays remuneration for services performed by an employee, to file a Form W-2 for each employee.

    You will find the W-2 Form to be very useful when you are filing your end of year tax return. The form includes  important details regarding your total gross earnings including wages, tips and taxable fringe benefits, Social Security earnings, Medicare earnings, and the Federal and State tax that is withheld.

    How do I read a W-2?

    The information is divided into different sections on the form.

    For example, in Box 1 you will find information about your annual wage and salary payments, together with the amount of federal tax withheld from it in Box 2. Other boxes on the W-2 form such as 3, 4, 5 and 6 include your wages subject to Medicare tax, Social Security tax and the amount of these taxes withheld from your income. Boxes 15 to 20 provide information about each state you worked in, state income subject to tax in this state, and the amounts of state and local taxes withheld, if applicable.

    Important elements like your name, surname, address and SSN or ITIN (social security number or individual taxpayer identification number) as well as your employer’s EIN (employer’s identification number) are also included on the form.

    Note: While you read your W-2, always double check that the information is correct. If you find any errors, inform your employer immediately about the mistakes so they can amend them before you start your yearly tax return.

    When is the deadline?

    Your employer must provide you with your W-2 form by 31 January after the end of the tax year to which it relates (for example, you must receive your W-2 form by 31 January 2018 for the year ending on 31 December 2017).

    What if I still haven’t received my W-2?

    If this deadline has passed and you still have not received your W-2 form from your employer, you should contact them immediately to confirm that it was sent and that it was dispatched to the right address. Your employer may also provide your copy via a secure link online.

    Alternatively, you can contact the IRS or use Sprintax offline services provided by our team of tax professionals.

    Got all your income documents?

    Good for you!

    If you have received your W-2 Form, as well as any other required income documents (such as 1042-S or 1099’s) you can use Sprintax to prepare your tax returns online. Last year Sprintax assisted approximately 100,000 international students, scholars and non-resident professionals with their tax returns. What’s more, 90% of those that had a Federal filing requirement were also due a refund!

    Get started with Sprintax today and our live chat team will guide you through your tax return!



  • GOP Tax Reform and its effects on the taxation of foreign students and other non-resident aliens

    We examine how the bill effects the tax obligations of US non-residents

    In November 2017, President Donald Trump introduced a GOP tax reform bill that will have wide ranging consequences for all US tax payers.

    There has been much confusion surrounding the new bill and tax payers have been keen to work out what the changes will mean for their pockets.

    Below we take a look at how the bill will affect the future tax obligations of US non-residents. Most of the changes have taken effect from January, 2018 and will change methods of withholding and the way non-residents will be taxed throughout 2018.

    It’s important to note that these amendments do not affect the 2017 tax return filing season.

    Changes to the current tax law:

    1) Personal exemption will be waived in full

    Permanent amendment

    Effective date: 31 December 2017

    This change means that the personal exemption available for all non-residents to decrease taxable income is reduced from $4,050 in 2017 to $0 in 2018 for all individuals (residents and non-residents).

    In other words, overall taxable income has increased for all non-residents

    2) Standard deductions increase from $6,350 to $12,000

    Permanent amendment

    Effective date: 31 December 2017

    This change will only effect students and trainees from India who are covered by an income tax treaty between the US and India. From the 2018 tax year onwards, they will be able to claim higher standard deductions on their non-resident form.

    All other non-residents are not entitled to avail of standard deductions.

    3) Tuition waivers for tuition and books under Section 529(c) for university students (education next to secondary) will be taxable in full

    Permanent amendment

    Effective date: 31 December 2017

    In previous tax years, tuition waivers under 529(c) were considered non-taxable and non-reportable. They were treated in a similar fashion as scholarships under Section 117.

    However, this will no longer be the case. The Tuition waiver is now taxable as of the 2018 tax year. Scholarships under section 117 will remain non-taxable and non-reportable.

    4) SALT (State and Local Taxes) will be retained for the tax years 2018 to 2025 (inclusive), but they are capped at $10,000 ($5,000 for married people who file separately)

    Temporary amendment for tax years 2018 to 2025 (inclusive)

    Effective date: 31 December 2016

    Most non-residents (including students and other exchange visitors) can only use SALT as an itemized deduction on their Schedule A, 1040NR form or line 11, 1040NR-EZ form. The State and Local Taxes (SALT) deduction decreases taxable income by the amount paid to state and local tax government during the tax year.

    This change sets a cap on SALT deductions to $10,000 which may not affect the deduction most of the students and scholars are eligible for. However, some non-residents paying larger state and local taxes may be unable to use all of them as a deduction.

    5) State taxes paid for previous tax years during the current tax year are no longer allowed

    Permanent amendment

    Effective date: 31 December 2016

    Under the former terms of SALT, individuals could claim state taxes for previous years that they were paying for in the current tax year. In other words, if a student paid their 2015 and 2016 state taxes during the 2017 tax year, they could claim that this added to SALT.

    However, this will no longer be allowed from the 2018 tax year.

    6) Miscellaneous itemized deductions are not allowed

    Temporary amendment for tax years 2018 to 2025 (inclusive)

    Effective date: 31 December 2017

    Expenses under section – Job Expenses and Certain Miscellaneous Deductions, at Schedule A include:

    • Unreimbursed employee expenses (2106 form)
    • Tax preparation fees
    • Other expenses (investment expenses, deposit box and etc)

    Most students are not allowed to use itemized deductions (except for tax preparation fees and SALT). Additionally, some teachers, researchers and other cultural exchange visitors are eligible in some cases to use business expenses and expenses for professional equipment.

    But from 2018 onwards, all of these expenses – tax preparation and business expenses – are not allowed for all resident and non-resident individuals.

    7) Moving expenses are not allowed, except if a taxpayer is an employee of the US Armed Forces

    Temporary amendment for tax years 2018 to 2025 (inclusive)

    Effective date: 31 December 2017

    Moving expenses (which are not covered by the employer) for starting a new job in the US, used to be allowed as a deduction. Usually, this deduction could not be granted to a student, however many teachers and researchers were entitled to avail of it.

    But from the 2018 tax year, this deduction is suspended.

    8) Expenses for personal casualty loss and theft are not allowed, except if they are under disaster area rules

    Temporary amendment for tax years 2018 to 2025 (inclusive)

    Effective date: 31 December 2017

    While expenses for personal casualty loss and theft are very rare among students and exchange visitors, this cohort had been entitled to them. This will no longer be the case from the 2018 tax year onwards.

    9) Change of the treatment of effectively connected income for non-residents: “effectively connected with the conduct of a trade or business within the United States (within the meaning of section 864(c), determined by substituting ‘qualified trade or business (within the meaning of section 199A)’ for ‘non-resident alien individual”

    Permanent amendment

    Effective date: 31 December 2017

    From the 2018 tax year onwards, ‘qualified trade or business’ will not include ‘trade or business of performing services as a non-resident employee’.

    This change is likely to have a noticeable effect on most non-residents income in regards to the option to treat FDAP (Fixed, Determinable, Annual or Periodic) income as affectively connected. This change will mainly affect Procedure 88-24, however it may also effect the tax rates for employment income.

    The IRS will be supplying further details on this change in the near future.

    10) Withholding on employee income by the employer

    Permanent amendment

    Effective date: 31 December 2017

    While the certificate of allowance (currently W-4) will remain the same for 2018, the calculation of the amount to be withheld was changed from 1 January 2018.

    The changes surrounds ‘Notice 1036’. The main change detailed (so far) is that standard deductions allowable will be the only eligible deduction considered before the monthly (periodical) tax withholding is calculated.

    As non-resident aliens do not have the right to avail of standard deductions, they will now be taxed on their whole income.

    The changes must be implemented by employers before 15 February 2018.

    11) Tax rates are changed into 4 brackets

    Permanent amendment

    Effective date: 31 December 2017

    New tax brackets for a single individual:

    Not over $9,525                        –                              10% of taxable income.

    Over $9,525 but not over $38,700         –           $952.50, plus 12% of the excess over $9,525.

    Over $38,700 but not over $82,500            –      $4,453.50, plus 22% of the excess over $38,700.

    Over $82,500 but not over $157,500      –         $14,089.50, plus 24% of the excess over $82,500.

    Over $157,500 but not over $200,000    –         $32,089.50, plus 32% of the excess over $157,500.

    Tax tables for resident and non-residents currently in use will be waived.

    Procedure 88-24

    As a result of the changes in points 3, 4, 7 and 8, it is not yet clear whether Procedure 88-24 (for the treatment of scholarship as wages on W-2 form) will be waived or simply be non-beneficial anymore (except for India students and trainees who can use standard deductions under their tax treaty agreement).

    Procedure 88-24 is an alternative procedure for the calculation of withholding amounts on scholarships that enable the use of personal allowances (and itemized or standard deductions) as a tax deduction, leading to a decrease in the taxable scholarship. As all of these items will no longer be available, the Procedure 88-24 will not be applicable next year.

    It might also be waived by the change of the treatment of the term “trade and business” in relation to non-residents. This treatment may cause the scholarship to be ineligible and treated as effectively connected income (wages) in future.

    Confused about your tax obligations?

    Sprintax can prepare your Federal and State tax returns for you. And we guarantee to maximize your tax refund too. Last year, 9 out of 10 Sprintax users with a Federal filing requirement were due a tax refund. What’s more, the average Federal refund was over $1,000.

    So what are you waiting for? Get started today!

  • 5 ways to maintain a valid F-1 visa status

    Can I leave and return to the US on an F-1 visa?

    Am I entitled to work during the semester?

    How long can I stay in the country after my program is finished?

    All your F-1 visa questions answered!


    Dreaming of American college life?

    Getting your hands on an all-important F-1 visa is a big step towards turning that dream into a reality. But getting an F-1 visa is one thing, maintaining it is another.

    As a student, there are a number of important rules and regulations that you must follow in order to maintain your F-1 visa status. If you don’t do so, you will not be allowed to re-enter the US if you leave, and you won’t be eligible for practical training (OPT or CPT) or on-campus employment.

    So, with this in mind, here are our top 5 tips for maintaining a valid F-1 visa status


    (1) Arriving in the US

    Once you receive your F-1 status, you’ll without a doubt be eager to hit the ground running with your studies.

    But don’t be too eager!

    One of the requirements of the F-1 visa is that you don’t arrive in the US more than 30 days before the first day of classes.

    You’ll also need to link in with your institution’s international office within 30 days of your arrival. Be sure to provide them with your local address in order to keep your SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) record up-to-date. And if you change your local address at any time while in the US, you will need to notify them of this.

    Once you have completed your program, you will have 60 days to leave the US.

    But what if you want to stay extend your American college dream?! To stay in the US you will need to pursue one of the following options:

    • Re-enrol in a higher program
    • Transfer to another school to receive a new Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status)
    • Apply to change your visa status


    (2) Attendance and grades

    All F-1 visa holders are required to be enrolled full time, go to class and maintain passing grades.

    Students who are having difficulty in classes, should notify their international advisor. And if it’s not possible to complete your program by the date stated on your Form I-20, your international advisor can help you request an extension.

    Full-time enrolment can differ depending on your student status. For example, undergraduate programs require students to enrol in at least 12 credit hours each semester during the academic year.

    Meanwhile, each graduate program defines their own unique combination of credit hours and research time to be considered ‘full-time enrolment’. To uphold your F-1 visa status, it’s best to confirm the enrolment requirements with your college.


    (3) Working

    It’s common for students to seek full or part-time employment while they study in the US. But be careful, not all types of employment are eligible under the conditions of an F-1 visa.

    For instance, F-1 students who want to work off campus can only do so in roles that are related to their studies (more on this below). Most of the other off campus roles are not authorised under F-1 and you will need permission by a DSO (Designated School Official) in special circumstances to do this work.

    It’s important to note that, if you choose to work without the proper authorization, your visa can be revoked and you may have to leave the US.

    F-1 students are entitled to find employment on campus.

    However, while school is in regular session, a student can’t work for more than 20 hours per week. During extended holidays, breaks and summer sessions, you can work full time (up to 40 hours per week).  If you are confused whether a job is considered on-campus employment, ask the employer before you accept the role.

    Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    F-1 students are permitted to work off-campus in Optional Practical Training (OPT) status both during and after completion of their degree. You can apply for OPT after being enrolled for at least 9 months, but you can’t begin employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and you have been enrolled at the college for at least a year.

    To qualify as OPT:

    • The employment must be directly related to your major
    • You must apply for OPT before completion of all work towards a degree
    • OPT is permitted for up to 12 months (full-time) in total
    • You can complete 12 months of OPT for each successive level of degree achieved – for instance 12 months of OPT after receiving your undergraduate degree, and a further 12 months after receiving your graduate degree.

    OPT before completing a degree:

    • You must be enrolled in school full-time
    • You can only work 20 hours per week while school is in session
    • But you may work full-time during summer and other breaks (as long as you will return to school after the break)
    • You may work full-time after completion of all coursework, if a thesis or dissertation is still required and student is making normal progress towards the degree

    OPT after completing a degree:

    • After completion of your degree, OPT work must be full time (40 hours/week)
    • All OPT must be completed within 14 months after completion of your degree
    • Applications for post-completion OPT must be submitted before the completion of your degree

    Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

    Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is another off-campus employment option for F-1 students where practical training is an integral part of their curriculum or academic program. CPT employment is defined as ‘alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school’.

    To be eligible for CPT employment:

    • You must have been enrolled in school full-time for one year on valid F-1 status (except for graduate students where the program requires immediate CPT)
    • The CPT employment must be an integral part of your degree program or requirement for a course for which you receive academic credit
    • You must have received an eligible job offer before you submit your CPT authorization request
    • Your job offer must be in your major or field of study

    Note: All OPT and CPT employment requires prior authorization from your school’s International Student Office. And if you work for 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) you will not be eligible for OPT.


    (4) Leaving and re-entering the US

    Thinking of heading home for a holiday during a break in semester?

    As long as your absence from the US is for no less than 5 months, you will have no problem leaving and re-entering the US on an F-1 visa.

    However, you will need to have some important documents in order to ensure your re-entry to the US is successful. These include:

    • a valid Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status) with a current DSO signature (valid for one year) from the school that you attend in the US
    • a valid F-1 student visa stamp
    • a valid passport or travel document

    To maintain your F-1 visa status you will need a passport that is valid for at least six months into the future. Your country’s consulate or embassy can help you extend your passport if needed.

    Note: If you have completed your program you will not be able to re-enter the US as an F-

    1 student unless you have been admitted to a new program of study and have a new Form I-20, or you are returning to an authorized OPT job.


    (5) Don’t forget your taxes!

    To maintain a valid F-1 visa, you are required by law to file a tax return if you were in the US during the previous calendar year. Filing a tax return is probably the last thing you’ll want to do when you’re enjoying an exciting time in the US. Fortunately help is on hand!

    Sprintax can prepare your Federal and State tax returns for you. And we guarantee to maximize your tax refund too! Last year 9 out of 10 Sprintax users with a Federal filing requirement were due a tax refund. What’s more, the average Federal refund was over $1,000.

    So what are you waiting for? Get started today!


  • Do I need an ITIN?

    As an international student in the US, it is important that you understand the tax requirements of your visa.  Here we explain everything you need to know about ITIN and how we can assist you.

    What is an ITIN?

    An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you expect to receive taxable Scholarship, Fellowship or Grant Income and you do not qualify for a Social Security Number (SSN) you must apply for an ITIN. ITINs are issued regardless of immigration status because both resident and nonresident aliens may have a US filing or reporting requirement under the Internal Revenue Code.

    Why do I need an ITIN?

    There are a number of circumstances why someone may require an ITIN.  Individuals falling under the following categories that do not have, have never had, or are ineligible for, a US Social Security Number may require an ITIN:

    • A Nonresident alien expecting to receive taxable Scholarship, Fellowship or Grant Income and who is not eligible for an SSN
    • A Nonresident alien required to obtain an ITIN to claim a tax treaty benefit;
    • A Nonresident alien filing a US tax return and who is not eligible for an SSN;
    • A Nonresident alien filing a US tax return only to claim a refund;
    • A US resident alien (based on days present in the United States) filing a US tax return and not eligible for an SSN

    What documents do I need?

    The IRS has streamlined the number of documents it will accept as proof of identity to obtain an ITIN. There are now 13 acceptable documents. An original, or a certified copy, of an unexpired passport is the only document that is accepted for both identity and foreign status. If you do not have a passport, you must provide a combination of current documents that contain expiration dates.

    The IRS will accept documents issued within 12 months of the application if no expiration date is normally available. The documents must also show your name and photograph if they support your identity, and your permanent domicile (place of birth, permanent foreign address), to support your claim of foreign status. The IRS will accept certified copies of a combination (two or more) of the following documents, in lieu of a passport:

    • National identification card (must show photo, name, current address, date of birth, and expiration date)
    • US driver’s license
    • Civil birth certificate
    • Foreign driver’s license
    • US state identification card
    • Foreign voter’s registration card
    • US military identification card
    • Foreign military identification card Visa
    • US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) photo identification
    • Medical records (dependents – under 14 years old – only)
    • School records (dependents and/or students – under 25 years old – only)

    It’s important to note that, if you are sending your ITIN application with a tax return, all documents will need to be certified by a Designated School Official (DSO) or by a certifying acceptance agent.

    Sprintax will help you to select the proper set of documents for your application.

    When can I expect to receive my ITIN?

    It can take 6 to 8 weeks and sometimes longer to obtain an ITIN. And it’s important to be aware that it can often take more than one application before you successfully receive an ITIN. The IRS is generally efficient in informing applicants of any issues with the process. Once your application is complete you will receive a letter from the IRS assigning your tax identification number.

    How Sprintax can help!

    Sprintax will guide you through the process of applying for your ITIN.

    There are two options for applying for an ITIN with Sprintax.

    If you have received income in the US without an ITIN or SSN, the Sprintax NR service will help you to obtain an ITIN and to file a federal tax return.

    Meanwhile, the Sprintax ITIN service is for students who need an ITIN before the end of the tax year so that they can receive their scholarship.

    To get started, you can register at:

  • My state residency differs to my federal residency. How is this possible?

    We’re here to clear your residency confusion!

    All Foreign Nationals living, working or studying in the US are responsible for their personal compliance with the United States Federal and State tax laws and regulations.

    But what are these laws and regulations?

    Well, for starters, every foreign national living in the US is required to submit an annual income tax return. But the type of tax return you will need to file depends largely on where you live and work.

    In the US, Federal income tax is collected by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Most States (42 States plus the District of Columbia to be exact!) also have additional State income tax which is collected separately by the various state authorities. People that live in one of these 42 States may be required to submit a State return in addition to the Federal return.

    To file correct tax returns, it is important for a foreign national to recognize how the IRS and the different State tax offices determine tax residency.

    File your US tax returns with Sprintax

    Federal residency

    The IRS tax code provides two separate tax reporting requirements – one for US citizens and resident aliens and another one for non-resident aliens.

    Before a non-citizen of the US prepares and submits a tax return to the IRS, they must determine their correct residency status.

    But how can you do this?

    Well, the IRS has two tests for determining residency status: the ‘green card’ test and the ‘substantial presence’ test (SPT).

    Substantial presence test

    The substantial presence test (SPT) identifies foreign individuals who spend substantial periods of time within the United States as resident aliens.

    You will be considered a ‘resident for tax purposes‘ if you meet the SPT for the previous calendar year. To meet this test, you must be physically present in the United States for at least:

    • 31 days during the current year, and
    • 183 days during the 3-year period that includes the current year and the 2 years immediately before that, counting:
      • All the days you were present in the current year, and
      • 1/3 of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, and
      • 1/6 of the days you were present in the second year before the current year.

    Students on F-1 and J-1 status are typically considered non-resident aliens for Federal tax purposes for the first 5 years in student status.

    On their 6th year they can begin counting days of presence for the SPT. If they pass the test – their status changes from non-resident to resident for tax purposes.

    Scholars, interns and trainees, teachers, researchers and research-scholars on J-1 status are considered non-resident aliens for Federal tax purposes for their first 2 years in the US.

    However, on their 3rd year, they can also begin counting days for the SPT. And if they pass the test – their status changes from non-resident to residents for tax purposes.

     Other non-immigrant statuses are also dependent on the substantial presence test.

    Green card

    A green card is simply an informal term for a United States Permanent Resident Card. But how can you get one? In reality, the green card test is actually pretty straight forward.

    A non-resident alien can become a US resident for tax purposes at any time if they have been given the privilege, according to immigration laws, of residing permanently as an immigrant. This status usually exists when the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services issue an Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-551), or green card, to an individual.

    Should you qualify for a green card, you will automatically become a US tax resident, starting from the year you first qualified.

    State residency

    It’s important to note that, State and Federal residency are not the same thing.

    Each State follows an entirely different set of rules and regulations when determining state residency status.

    So even if you are a non-resident for federal tax purposes you may be a resident for state tax purposes.

    Because the rules and regulations vary by state, determining state residency is more complicated than it seems.

    Each state has a complex and differing definition of what constitutes a resident. Most states will look at a list of residency ‘factors’ that have been long established like domicile (permanent residency), or the day counting rule. Owning a home, family location, and financial interests are other factors which help some of the states determine residency.

    In other words – a person may be considered a resident of the state in which he or she currently lives because of the state residency factors, but still be considered a non-resident for federal tax purposes because they didn’t pass the SPT or the green card test.

    Sprintax can help you determine your residency status

    To make things even more complicated, some States have a third residency status (in addition to ‘resident’ and ‘non-resident’) which is called ‘part-year resident’.

    And, for people who live or study in one state and work in another, things can quickly become tricky as they might need to file more than one State tax return and they will need to determine their State residency for both States!

    Preparing your tax return

    Sill confused? Don’t worry! Sprintax will figure out both your Federal and State residency statuses so that you don’t have to. We will also prepare your Federal and State tax returns, regardless of your State residency status!

    Sounds great! Get me started!

  • Can I claim tax exemptions for my family members?

    Everything you need to know about tax exemptions and deductions for families

    If you’re studying or working in America with your family as a non-resident alien, and if you meet certain criteria, you may be able to save money on your tax bill that you normally couldn’t if you were living as a single person.

    You can do this by claiming what are known as tax ‘exemptions’. Exemptions are similar to tax deductions and allow you to lower your taxable income. Each exemption is worth $4,050 (for tax year 2017). In other words, if you’re a student, scholar, teacher or researcher, you may be allowed to deduct $4,050 for each person you claim as a dependent.

    When you are preparing your income tax return there are two different types of exemptions that you may be allowed to claim:

    • Personal exemptions for yourself and your spouse, if applicable
    • Exemptions for dependents (usually family members)

    The general IRS rule states that a non-resident alien, whether single or married, may claim only one personal exemption, as long as they are not claimed as a dependent on any other US tax return (in which case their personal exemption was already used).

    There are some exceptions to the general rule which allow specific groups of taxpayers to claim dependent exemptions for their family members:

    • Residents of Canada or Mexico, or US Nationals, may claim additional exemptions for a spouse and dependents if:

    o the spouse had no gross income;
    o the spouse was not the dependent of another US taxpayer; and
    o the dependents otherwise qualify as dependents under the normal rules.

    • Residents of the Republic of Korea may claim additional exemptions for a spouse and children if:

    o they meet the same 3 conditions shown above for residents of Canada or Mexico, and US Nationals;
    o the spouse and all children included in the claim have lived with the taxpayer for at least 6 months during the tax year;
    o the additional deductions for the spouse and children are distributed based on the ratio of the alien’s US income (from a US trade or business) and worldwide income (from all sources). Sprintax will estimate this ratio for you.

    • Residents of India who are students and business apprentices may claim exemptions for a spouse and children under US-India tax treaty agreement if:

    o the spouse had no income and can’t be claimed by another taxpayer; and
    o the children meet ALL dependency tests, including the citizenship/residency test.
    That is, a non-resident alien Indian Student can’t claim a dependency exemption for his child unless the child is a US citizen or a resident.


    The additional deductions for the spouse and children in all cases are limited to the extent of the alien’s taxable income.

    To determine if your child is a qualifying child for tax exemption, you’ll need to answer the following questions.

    Are they related to you? The child can be your son, daughter, stepchild, eligible foster child, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, stepsister, adopted child or an offspring of any of them.
    Are they a citizen or resident? The person must be a US citizen, a US national, a US resident, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
    Note: children and spouse of a citizen of India or Korea must be either US national, Green Card holder or must meet Substantial Presence Test in order to qualify.
    Do they meet the age requirement? Your child must be under the age of 19 or, if they are a full-time student, under age 24. There is no age limit if your child is permanently and totally disabled.
    Do they live with you? Your child must live with you for more than half the year.
    Do you financially support them? Your child may have a job, but that job can’t provide more than half of their support.
    Are you the only person claiming them as a dependent? You can’t claim someone who takes a personal exemption for themselves or claims the same dependent on another tax form.
    Are they filing a joint return? You cannot claim someone who is married and files a joint tax return.
    For example, if your son is married and he files a joint return with his spouse, you will not be able to claim him as a dependent on your tax return.

    If you’re unsure of whether you can claim a loved one as a dependent, Sprintax can help you to ascertain if you have an eligible dependent.

    And no matter whether you’re a student, scholar, teacher or researcher, Sprintax can help you to:
    – Prepare your non-resident US tax return
    – Select every deduction you are entitled to
    – Identify all applicable tax treaty benefits you are able to claim, so you can get your maximum US tax refund!

    Apply today!



  • Sprintax at NAFSA 2017 Annual Conference & Expo

    Our Sprintax team is thrilled to be attending the 2017 NAFSA conference!

    This year the annual conference & expo is taking place in Los Angeles, California and is attended by international education professionals from more than 150 countries.

    NAFSA’s annual conference provides unique opportunity for those interested in international education to develop their knowledge, skills, and ideas and engage effectively with colleagues from around the globe. Furthermore, visitors can gain valuable insights on all areas of international education, student services, and research from a global perspective.

    We are delighted to meet many of our partners and discuss new strategies on working together in the future, as well as exchange experience and information with experts and innovators in the sphere of education.

    The whole Sprintax team are looking forward to working together to help even more international students and scholars with their US tax affairs.

    Our booth is 1849, so please stop by and say hello if you are in the area! 


  • Massachusetts state tax module for 2016 tax preparation is live!

    We are happy to announce that the Massachusetts state tax module is live!

    MA modules for non-resident, part-year residents and full-year residents are now available for use.

    In addition to the MA module, we have 9 more state modules available. You can prepare and download your 2016 tax returns for New York, California, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana and Missouri.

    International students and scholars and non-resident professionals can prepare their tax returns by entering their existing account or creating a new one for new users of Sprintax.

    You may or may not be obliged to file a state tax return for 2016 – Sprintax will help you to identify your state tax filing obligations and prepare your state tax return if required.

    The tax deadline for most states is April 18, so don’t delay!

    Sprintax offers 24 hour support to students via our Live Chat facility to answer any questions you may have here.

    Have a question? Ask our virtual assistant Stacy here.