All posts in Tax Tips

  • Your Tax Questions Answered

    Tax questions answered

    Here are the answers to some of the most common questions we get asked about U.S. taxes.

     

    1. Do I need to file a tax return?

    If you are a non-resident in the U.S. you must file a tax return to stay compliant with your visa’s tax obligations.

    If you are any of the following, you must file a return:

    • Non-resident alien individual not engaged in a trade or business in the U.S. and has U.S. income on which the tax liability was not satisfied by the withholding of tax at the source.
    • Even if you had no income, you must still file Form 8843

    As well as federal tax, there are also state taxes and local taxes. The basis on which you must file a state tax return will depend on the tax rules of the state in which you lived and/or worked. Sprintax can prepare your federal tax return and if required, will also prepare your state tax return.

     

    2. Can I avail of a tax treaty?

    You may be able to claim a tax refund under international ‘tax treaties’. Tax treaties are agreements between the U.S. and other countries allowing you to claim back whole or part of tax paid while working in the U.S.

    Sprintax will check if you’re eligible for a tax treaty when preparing your U.S. tax return. You can check for tax treaties here.

     

    3. What’s a W-2 form?

    You’ll need a W2 form to file your tax return if you worked on or off-campus. Your employer will give you a W-2 by the deadline and it will detail your income from the previous year. This form is divided into state and federal sections and there are fields with employer information and details of income.

     

    4. What is a 1042-S form?

    If you received a scholarship, fellowship, grant, or any other source of U.S. income subject to tax, you’ll need Form 1042-S in order to complete your tax return. This form can also be used for other income types such as teaching, research, and investment income. You should receive Form 1042-S from your university’s payroll department or whatever party provided the income.

     

    5. What is a Form 8843?

    Form 8843 it is not an income tax return. It is a statement for exempt individuals and individuals with a medical condition for the U.S. Government. You will need to file Form 8843 if you are a non-resident alien in the U.S. under F-1, F-2, J-1, or J-2 non-immigrant status and you are exempt for a certain period from substantial presence test. This applies whether you received U.S. income or not.

    Non-resident aliens who are not required to file an income tax return (Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ), but  are required to file Form 8843, do not need to get a Social Security number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). But if an SSN has been assigned, the number must be included on Form 8843.

     

    6. What is Form 1098-T?

    Form 1098-T (Tuition Statement) is for U.S. nationals and residents in order to figure out their educational credits which are not available to non-residents. Sprintax is specifically for non-residents, so you do not need this form in order to complete your income and tax details in our system.

     

    7. What is the April 15 (18 in 2016) deadline for?

    The April 15 (18 for 2016 tax season) deadline is the date by which all tax returns must be filed for the previous year. If you owe money to the tax office and don’t file your 2015 tax return by April 18, 2016 the U.S. tax authorities will impose late filing penalties and interest on the amount you owe.

     

    8. What happens if I miss the April 15 (18 in 2016) deadline?

    You should not worry about penalties and fines if you have no tax liability, the IRS will not penalize you if you do not file a return although you must still file Form 8843. If you owe anything to the tax office, however, you may incur late filing fees and/or penalties.

    Non-residents can apply for their tax refunds even after the April 18 deadline, but a return has to be filed no more than 3 years after the original deadline in order for the IRS to issue a refund

     

    9. Can I file electronically?

    No, you must print and mail your forms to the IRS as Sprintax will not mail your forms to the IRS on your behalf. Follow the detailed instructions provided enclosed with your tax forms.

     

    10. I don’t have an SSN or ITIN

    If you don’t have a Social Security Number (SSN) you will need to get a temporary number instead. This is called an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Sprintax can organise this for you.

    An ITIN must be provided on tax returns, statements, and other tax related documents.

     

    11. What documents/information might I need to prepare my tax return?

    • Passport
    • U.S. entry and exit dates for current and all previous visits
    • All tax forms you’ve received (including Forms W-2, 1042-S and/or 1099, etc.)
    • Visa/immigration status information, including Form DS-2019 (for J visa holders) or Form I-20 (for F visa holders) Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
    • If you are using Sprintax to prepare your state tax return(s) you will need a copy of your already prepared federal tax return

     

    12. What are the benefits of using Sprintax?

    • IRS compliance
    • Step by step guidance
    • ITIN applications
    • User-friendly system
    • 24/7 Live Help

     

    13. I’m not a student, can I use Sprintax?

    If you’re a temporary visitor to the U.S. on a H1B, H2B, L or B-1 working visa, Sprintax can prepare your U.S. income tax return. However, you must be classified as non-resident for the entire tax year. If you’re unsure, Sprintax can review your status.

     

    14. Who can use Sprintax?

    Sprintax was created for international students, scholars, teachers and researchers in the U.S. on F, J, M and Q visas.

     

    15. Where do I start?

    To get started with your U.S. tax return, click here to create an account.

    If we haven’t answered all your questions, then please ask our tax guru, Stacy!

     

  • Filing Your U.S. Tax Return: 5 Things You Should Know

    filing your taxes

    As an international student in the U.S., you are obliged to file a federal and state tax return for each year you are present in the U.S. Even if you have earned no U.S. sourced income, you still need to file a form 8843. All non-resident aliens in the U.S. under F-1, F-2, J-1, or J-2 and other non-immigrant exchange program status must file form 8843.

    Generally in the U.S., you will be taxed on:

    • Income earned on or off campus
    • Stipend, fellowship, grant
    • Any other income from US sources

    Here are 5 things you should know before filing your U.S. tax return:

    1. Deadlines

    Don’t miss the tax filing deadline as you may get penalized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)! This date usually lands on April 15 each year unless it happens to be on a weekend or holiday. This year, the deadline is Monday, April 18.

    2. Get your documents in order

    It’s very important that you have the correct documents required to prepare and file your tax return.

    These include:

    • Passport
    • U.S. entry and exit dates for current and all previous visits
    • All tax forms you’ve received (including Forms W-2, 1042-S and/or 1099, etc.)
    • Visa/Immigration Status information, including Form DS-2019 (for J visa holders) or Form I-20 (for F visa holders) Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
    • If you are using Sprintax for State Tax Return(s) preparation only you will need a copy of your already prepared Federal Tax return

    • W2 Form:
    You’ll need a W2 form to file your tax return if you worked on or off-campus. Your employer will provide you with a W-2 by the deadline and it will reflect your income from the previous year. The form is divided into state and federal sections and there are fields with employer information and details of your income.

    • 1042-S
    Typically, if you received a scholarship, fellowship, grant, or any other source of U.S. income subject to tax, you’ll need a form 1042-S to complete your tax return although this form may be used for many other income types as teaching, research, and investment income. You should receive form 1042-S from your university’s payroll department or the party that provided the income.

    3. ITIN

    You’ll need your ITIN for your federal tax return if you do not have and are not eligible for a social security number. If you don’t have one, Sprintax can help organize this for you. You don’t need one if you are just filing a form 8843, but if you have been supplied with one, you must include it on the form.

    4. Residency status

    The first thing you need to know when filing a tax return in the U.S. is if you are a resident or non-resident alien for tax purposes. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you are considered a non-resident alien unless you meet one of two tests. You are a typically deemed a resident for tax purposes if you meet either the green card test or substantial presence test. Sprintax can determine your status for you when preparing your tax return.

    5. Tax treaties

    If you’re an international student in the U.S., you may be able to benefit from a tax treaty with your home country. Generally, under these tax treaties, residents of foreign countries are taxed at a reduced rate or sometimes even exempt. The IRS has a list of tax treaty countries here. Sprintax can check if you’re eligible for a tax treaty when preparing your tax return.

    Sprintax was created specifically for international students, scholars, teachers and researchers in the U.S. on F, J, M and Q visas, to make tax prep easy.

    Watch our video demo to see how it works:

    To begin filing your U.S. non-resident tax return, get started by creating an account here. 

  • The 2015 Tax Year is Live!

    U.S. tax return

    International students and scholars-you can now use Sprintax for your 2015 U.S. tax returns!

    We’re delighted to announce that the 2015 tax filing season is now open and you can use Sprintax to file your non-resident tax returns. Sprintax is for international students and scholars in the U.S. and will help you prepare your Federal, State, and FICA tax returns to ensure you stay fully compliant with the IRS and obligations of your visa.

    When you use Sprintax, we’ll check for income tax deductions, tax treaty benefits, personal allowances, and tax credits to make sure you get the highest refund possible.

    How Sprintax works

    To begin, you simply create an account here and answer a few simple questions. Sprintax will give you a step-by-step guide to the whole process. Once you’re done, Sprintax will generate your tax return/s and all you need to do is send it to the tax office!

    Once complete, we’ll store your details for any future tax returns. You can also prepare tax returns for previous years using the same account.

    Here’s a short video demo:

    Get started!

    You can get started now by creating an account here. Don’t miss out on your tax refund and stay compliant by using Sprintax-the sooner you file your tax return the better.

    Have a question? Ask our virtual assistant Stacy  here.

  • Getting a Job in the US

    Every student comes to the US with dreams and ambitions. Here are some tips to turn your dream job into a career:

     

    Plan your Career

    Be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day! Get networking–it will help you gain useful contacts. Most importantly, do what you love– choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!

     

    Start Your Search

    Focus on what you want to get from your career. Set goals and patiently execute them one by one and aim high. Search for jobs in the newspapers, employment centres, and on websites such as college.monster.com, specifically for recent graduates.

     

    Resume Vs CV

    A US CV is usually called a ‘resume’, and is different to the CV that you’re used to.

    Here’s why:

    A CV showcases your experience and is a ‘story’ about your academic and professional life, while a resume is a much shorter document with highlights of your academic life and career.

    Resumes should be one page long, and include a short, chronological list of previous experience and education. Get some good references from within the US if you can.

     

    Going for an interview

    Once you get the interview, remember these tips:

    • Don’t be late!
    • Research the company thoroughly
    • Practice your answers
    • Ask some questions
    • Look clean and professional

     

    And lastly, don’t forget to show your enthusiasm and let them know you really want the job!

     

     

     

  • US Taxes for International Students

    Regardless of the fact that you probably don’t classify as a US citizen, you’re required by US taxation law to file a tax return.

    Filing a tax return

    You should complete and submit your tax documents to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) by the 15th of April for any income earned in the previous year.

    Even if you haven’t earned any income and therefore don’t owe any money to IRS, not filing your taxes could still influence your future plans. Not complying with the law may affect your future visa applications.

     

    Tax refund

    If you received any income during the tax year, you could be entitled to get some of the taxes you paid back. If you don’t file your tax return, you lose the opportunity to apply for your tax refund and get some extra money. Not to mention the penalties the IRS could impose on you.

     

    Tax Treaties

    You may be eligible to take advantage of ‘tax treaties’ signed between the US and your home country, so make sure you check this.

    Sprintax has all credits and tax treaties for non-resident international students built-in which makes Sprintax a super easy option for tax filing for non-residents.

     

    How to file your taxes

    Unlike US residents, non-residents for tax purposes can’t file tax returns electronically. By “electronically” we mean you can’t submit your documents to IRS electronically.

     

    Sprintax has the answer

    You can use our online tax preparation tool to help you with the complicated tax documents and process, then print and simply post them to IRS.

     

    Get started at Sprintax.com

  • Don’t Miss the US Tax Return Deadline on April 15th

    The US tax deadline is April 15th; use Sprintax to file your US tax return.

    International students and scholars are legally obliged to file a US non-resident tax return by April 15th. We know that tax laws can be confusing, so this is where Sprintax can help. You can sign up here to start using with our easy-to-use online tool now.

    Sprintax will help you prepare an accurate return, meet your tax obligations for your visa, and maximize your refund. And even if you miss the forthcoming deadline, we can still help.

    As an international student, you must submit your tax documents to the IRS for any income earned in 2014 by April 15th this year. Even if you haven’t earned any income, you’re required by law to file a tax return to meet your visa obligations.

    You must file a US tax return by April 15th if:

    • You received a stipend, grant or allowance in 2014
    • You received income/salary/pay from working on or off campus in 2014
    • You didn’t receive any income in the US during 2014 (you must still file 8843 form to declare this)

    Many international students and scholars can benefit from reduced rates and exemptions due to tax treaties between the US and their home countries. Sprintax has the built-in expertise to check if you’re eligible for these treaty benefits.

    If you don’t have an account already, then sign up to Sprintax here as soon as possible to meet your tax obligations.

    Remember, if your university has given you a special access or discount code, don’t forget to use it just before the payment step!

    Missed the Deadline?Don’t worry, if you miss the deadline, Sprintax can still help.

    Don’t have a Sprintax account? Simply create your account here now to start.

    Got any questions? Chat with our tax experts now; we’re happy to help!

  • Tax Tip: Tax treaties and how they can help you save money at tax time

    The 2014 US tax season is OPEN, and you as an international student are also obliged to file a tax return.

    For most people, except for those who prefer U.S. taxation laws as a Sunday read, tax matters are so overwhelming and hard to understand that even the thought of tax return filing can deepen the usual tax time blues.

    It might be hard to believe it but tax return preparation can actually be stress-free and even easy. Below we have unveiled the power of tax treaties for non-resident international students and how they help you save some money at the tough tax times.

    The power of Tax treaties

    Many international students in U.S. can benefit from tax treaties between the United States and their home countries. If you have never heard of this, do not worry we are here to tell you!

    Tax treaties are specific agreements between USA and other countries. Currently the U.S. tax treaty network covers approximately 66 countries all over the world. Generally, under these tax treaties residents of foreign countries, including foreign students and scholars are taxed at a reduced tax rate and can benefit from exemptions on many different types and items of income. That is a great opportunity to save some money so make sure that you claim the treaty benefits you are eligible for.

    If you are wondering whether there is a tax treaty signed between your home country and the United States, why don’t you take a look at the map below to find out?

    new1Of course, there are a lot of requirements you should meet to be eligible to claim treaty exemptions. In general, they can be summarized in the following:

    • You should meet the treaty eligibility requirements. They vary among countries and specific items of income. For more info, check this:  IRS Publication 901 (pdf)
    •  You should have Social Security number or ITIN number
    •  You should complete the correct tax treaty exemption forms properly.

    If all this sounds too confusing for you – no worries, we can help you. If you use Sprintax software, you do not need to unravel the complicated provisions of the tax treaty – we do that for you! We will provide you with all the necessary (and correct!) tax treaty exemption forms that you have to fill in. Quick and easy.

    Register here to get started!

  • Top 5 Tax Myths International Students believe in – DEBUNKED!

    George Orwell once said: “Myths that are believed in tend to become true”.

    Well, there might be a grain of truth in what he said but not when it comes to taxes and the U.S. taxation laws.

    As an international student you are not supposed to know the US tax procedures concerning tax return filing by heart but at least you should be aware of the Top 5 tax myths that most international students tend to believe in. So do not walk around believing in “old wives’ tax tales and check the most common tax myths DEBUNKED here!

    Myth 1: Students are not obliged to file US tax return
    Busted: Regardless of the fact that you probably do not classify as an U.S. citizen or you have received no income throughout the previous year, you are required by the U.S. taxation law to file a tax return. Remember this!

    Myth 2: You can file your taxes any time during the year
    Busted: You should complete and submit your tax documents to the IRS by 15th of April for any income earned in the previous year. That means that tax returns for 2014 must be postmarked by 15th of April 2015.

    Myth 3: Not filing your tax return will not have any consequence for you
    Busted: Even if you haven’t earned any income and therefore you do not owe any money to IRS, not filing your taxes can still influence your future plans. You are obliged to file your tax return by the U.S. law and not complying with the law may affect your future visa applications. So why risk your visa status or even your permanent residency? Be sure to FILE your taxes!

    What’s more, if you have received any income during the tax year you could be entitled to get some of the taxes you paid back. If you do not file your tax return, you lose the opportunity to apply for your tax refund and get some extra money. Not to mention the penalties that IRS can impose on you.

    Myth 4: Non-resident students can avail of same tax credits and deductions as the residents
    Busted:Unlike resident aliens who avail of the same tax benefits which are available to the U.S. citizens, non-resident aliens cannot claim the same tax credits and deductions; such as filing a tax return online or education credits, for instance.

    But you can still be eligible to take advantage of ‘tax treaties’ signed between the United States and your home country, so make sure you check this. Sprintax has all credits and tax treaties relevant to non-resident international students already built in making Sprintax the easy option for tax filing for non-residents.

    Myth 5: You can file electronically
    Busted: Unlike the U.S. residents, the non-residents for tax purposes cannot file their tax return electronically. And by “electronically” we mean that you cannot submit your documents to IRS electronically. You can however rely on the help of an online tax preparation tool as Sprintax to help you with the complicated tax documents (and you better do!) but once done, you should print and post them to IRS.

    You have more burning questions for taxes? No worries, contact our great team- they got all the answers!

  • Dangers of not filing a tax return

    If you have worked or studied in USA, do you know that you are obliged for tax filing?

    Maybe you don’t because you are no longer living there or just forgot to file due to your busy lifestyle. Whatever the case may be, not filing your taxes has very serious consequences.

    If you are non resident and still live in USA, continuing avoiding your responsibility can result in automatic wage seizure by the courts, asset seizures like your car and may even lead to arrest and jail time for tax evasion. And if you do not pay the taxes you owe by the tax deadline, even if you got an extension of time to file, you will incur different penalties. If you have unpaid taxes, you will owe the IRS interest in addition to any penalties. Interest rates are determined quarterly, and interest is generally compounded daily until full payment is made.

    Another case is when you are non-residents who is no longer living in USA with an unpaid federal tax liability, whom the IRS has been unable to contact. So, maybe you are unaware of your tax debt until you come through U.S. Customs and you got detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE agents will start asking you different questions i.e. “Do you have any assets in the United States?” ,”What is the purpose and duration of your trip?”, “Where are you going to stay? “etc. Then the ICE agents will alert an IRS coordinator and transmit this information through a referral program. Typically, an investigation request is sent to an IRS agent in the region in which the taxpayer is traveling to.

    So, if you have an unpaid tax liability, you will become a subject to Notice of Federal Tax Lien. IRS may file it on your real or personal property. A properly filed federal tax lien publicly alerts creditors that the IRS has a priority claim against your real or personal property. A federal tax lien is filed in the office designated by the state where any real property owned by you is located and is a public record. For personal property, the federal tax lien ordinarily is filed in the county in which the taxpayer resides or in any other office designated by state law.

     So, next time when you think about not filing, just take into account the fact that it is even more dangerous than not paying your taxes and have lots of negative consequences.

  • International students and scholars – file your tax return before the April 15th deadline!

    International students and scholars – file your tax return before the April 15th deadline