All posts tagged tips

  • What happens if I miss the April 18th, 2017 deadline?

    Don’t panic! This is IRS’ advice for you. Nearly 30% of the taxpayers are unable to organize their documents before the deadline. You still have the chance to solve your situation; however there are a few important things you need to consider if you expect to miss the deadline.

    If you are due back a refund or your tax return shows no tax liability

    If you are due back a refund or your tax return shows no tax liability, you may not be fined for filing late. If you’re due a refund, you should file as soon as possible to get it. Even if you are not required to do so, you may still get a refund. This could apply if you had taxes withheld from your wages or you qualify for certain tax credits.

    Sprintax will help you determine if you are due back a refund.

    Note that there is time limitation for you to file and receive your federal tax refund, so if you don’t file within three years from the due date of your tax return (18th of April, 2017 for 2016 tax year), you may not receive your refund.

    In addition, there are some tax refund policy changes for late filing taxpayers, that IRS is implementing, that may affect how quickly you will receive your refund.

    If you owe any money in tax

    If you owe any money in tax, keep in mind that both late filing and late payment penalties may be charged on top of your tax liability. The failure-to-file penalty is the bigger portion of your penalty,and after 60 days of delay its minimum amount will be $205, so if you have not filed form 4868 – Extension to file, you may need to submit your tax return to the IRS as soon as possible in order to avoid further increase of your fine.

    Your failure-to-pay penalty depends on the amount of tax you owe. The percentage of the penalty increases over time, so even if you are not ready with your documents, the more you pay on time, before the deadline, the less interest and penalty charges you will accrue.

    If you are unable to pay your tax on time, you have the choice to enter into installment agreement with the IRS. There are certain conditions you should meet and Sprintax tax experts will be able to help you if you choose to request installment agreement from the IRS.

    In conclusion, if you missed the deadline, the best thing you can do is to prepare your tax documents and file your tax return as soon as possible!

    Do not delay your tax return further! Sprintax can help you to prepare  it, and estimate if you owe tax to the IRS.

     

  • Sprintax Tax Workshop: Non-resident taxes explained (video playlist)

    Preparing your non-resident tax returns can seem like a daunting task! Sprintax has helped many international students and scholars through the process and is always striving to make their experience as stress-free as possible.

    Check out our Tax Workshop playlist – we explain the most important things you need to know about US taxes and using Sprintax:

    The tax deadline is April 18th, so don’t delay and create an account!

    If you still have questions, Sprintax offers 24 hour support to students via our Live Chat facility here.

    Have a question? Ask our virtual assistant Stacy here.

     

  • Tax Treaties: What’s The Deal?

    US Flag

    If you’re an international student in the US, a tax treaty could mean excellent news!

    Under these treaties, residents of foreign countries are:

    • Taxed at a reduced rate
    • Exempt from US on income derived from specific sources earned within the US

     

    Is your country in blue? Then it has a tax treaty with the US:

    tax Treaty

    If your country does not have a tax treaty with the US or the treaty doesn’t cover they type of income you earn, then you must pay tax on this income.

     

    Saving Clause

    Most tax treaties have a clause that preserves the right of each country to tax its own residents, so once you become a resident of the US, you will lose most of the tax treaty benefits. However, many treaties still allow you to claim certain benefits even if you become a US citizen or resident.

     

    Non-Resident Aliens

    If you are a non-resident alien, like most international students, a tax treaty will eliminate or reduce taxes on certain income and services, including; pensions, interest, dividends, royalties, and capital gains. For students, apprentices, and trainees, the limit to the benefits of the tax treaties is 4-5 years. For teachers and professors, the limit is around 2-3 years.

     

    Requirements

    You must meet certain requirements to avail of the benefits of a tax treaty:

    • Requirements as laid out in IRS Publication 901 (pdf)
    • You should have Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
    • Complete the correct tax treaty exemption forms

     

    You can view the text of each treaty on the IRS website here.

     

    How Sprintax can help?

    When you do your online tax return with Sprintax, we will automatically check if you can avail of any tax treaty benefits, thus increasing your chances of a higher tax refund!

     

    Find out more here.

  • Getting a Scholarship for the US

    Getting a scholarship to the US can make a fairy-tale come true. Here are some tips on getting one:

    Research

    Apply for as many scholarships as you can! Start researching early and meet deadlines. Contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend, use the public library or research online. Double check everything and make sure the offers you receive are legitimate.

    Keep a record

    Retain all your documents. This is very important and can be applied to all paperwork involved with becoming an international student in the US.  Make a photocopy of your application before mailing it and send the application by certified mail.

    Meet the terms and conditions

    Usually you can’t apply for a scholarship until you’ve been accepted on a course. You can pay your tuition fees and travel expenses without a scholarship first. That way, if you win a grant, you can pay back your bank loan or have a bit of extra spending money.

    Be yourself

    Personalize your essay or letters to the principal – don’t let someone else write them. Don’t rush yourself, just take your time, and be positive and clear. Don’t forget to list all your awards, community work, and career experience.

    Your online profile

    Use a professional email address (for example firstname.lastname@gmail.com). And don’t forget to clean up the contents of your online accounts, removing any inappropriate or immature material.

    Have a back-up plan

    The scholarship amount will not cover all your expenses. Even if you’re lucky enough to get a full scholarship, you’ll still have a lot of expenses (food, travel, books, etc).

    Don’t forget to apply for as many scholarships as you’re eligible for and provide as much relevant detail as possible.

    Good luck!

     

  • Tips for Carnegie Mellon University

    carnegie mellon

    Situated near Downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University was originally ‘’Carnegie Technical Schools’’, founded by Scottish American industrialist Andrew Carnegie back in 1900.

    In 1912, the school became the Carnegie Institute of Technology and eventually merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research to become Carnegie Mellon University. 90% of new students choose to live on campus and once you get there, there are various ways to get around the area.

     

    Accommodation

    1. Living on campus

    As a first year student, you’ll be required to live on campus and will be guaranteed housing for at least four years. Housing services at Carnegie Mellon will help you find accommodation on campus and there are many benefits to college residential living. The pros of living on-site include 24 hour support, secure, comfortable accommodation, easy access to all the college amenities, and all-inclusive living.

    You can choose to live in a residence hall right on campus, in an apartment 5 minutes away or even a full house. A university shuttle bus will take you all around campus and back to your accommodation after classes. You should apply for housing by May 31st of the year you’re starting.

     

    2. Off-campus

    August and September mark the start of the academic year so it can be difficult to find accommodation off campus as there is a lot more competition for housing. It may be worth arriving early to stay in a guesthouse or hostel while you conduct your search.

    If you have a Carnegie Mellon email address, you can search their Off-Campus Housing listings for rental accommodation.

     

    3. Homestay

    There are plenty of options for homestays in Pittsburgh that you’ll find on homestay.com. Living in a homestay can be a great option to save money and help you learn the ways and customs of an American family. If English isn’t your native language, then you’ll get great practice too!

     

    Getting around

    1. Bus

    If you’re eligible, you can get a Carnegie Mellon ID card, which you can use to go on any Port Authority Transit bus for free. The buses will take you in and out of campus and plenty of them stop in the Oakland area in front of Carnegie Mellon’s campus. You’ll find details of schedules and stops on the Port Authority’s website.

    The Carnegie Mellon University Police run a shuttle service on campus with two routes operating throughout the academic year. You can find more info about the current shuttle routes here.

     

    2. Bike

    The people of Pittsburgh love to bike it, and so should you, with plenty of secure bike racks, bike trails, and handy lockers available on campus to make use of. There are plenty of events, workshops, and meet-ups that take place for bike-lovers throughout the year. Check out bikepgh.org for regular events, and register your bike with the Campus Police department for free.

     

    3. Car-sharing

    Save on the cost of fuel and repair bills by registering to carpool as part of the Carnegie members’ carpool matching system. You can register as a driver, shared driver, or passenger, so if you’re interested, you can contact Commute Information here.

     

    Where to eat

    1. On campus 

    There are over 34 locations on campus where you can grab a bite to eat with flexible hours so you can find food any time of the day. You’ll find everything from bagels and burritos to a stir fry or pizza, with plenty of choice for vegans and vegetarians and anyone with special dietary requirements.

     

    2. Cheap eats

    You’ll find lots of places to eat nearby the university and many of the diners offer great deals on meals. Go to Pamela’s for the pancakes and Deluca’s for the breakfast burritos. You’ll get a cheap burger at Hello Bistro and if you like Johnny Cash and pub food, you should try The Squirrel Café.  Have a look on Urbanspoon for more options.

     

    Free Travel Guide

    Are you going to the US to study? Then download our free travel guide for international students in the US below.

  • Essential Tips for Studying in the U.S.

    Heading to the U.S. to study? You’re about to embark on an amazing adventure, with big campuses, sunny summer days, and lots of new friends.

    Here are some quick tips to take the stress out of preparing for the big trip:

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    1.    Most important is, of course – The Passport – a “Must’’ when you plan on studying or travelling abroad. Remember to check the expiry date well in advance of your travel date.

    2.    Obtain a Visa – before applying for a visa, students must be accepted and approved by their school or program. Once accepted, educational institutions will provide each applicant with the necessary approval documentation to apply for a student visa. You can research what types of US student visas you can apply for here.

    3.    Health Condition – visit a doctor before you leave to get a clean bill of health. If you need to pack medication, make sure it’s in the original container, clearly labelled, or with a doctor’s prescription.

    4.    Take care of your Banking Needs – get the latest currency exchange rates from sites like xe.com, and make sure you take enough US Dollars and/or travel checks with you.

    5.    Airline Tickets – purchase airline tickets early to avoid high airfares, and plan how you’re going to get from the airport to your destination, especially if your flight arrives in at night.

    6.    International Students ID Card – this could save you a lot of money. The ISIC card is the most internationally recognized student card and will get you discounts on sights, accommodation, shops, transport and more.

    7.    Make a list of Emergency Contacts – keep a list of emergency contacts and provide them to your roommate, host institution or someone close by, just in case.

    8.    Make Photocopies of Important Documents – copies of all your essential documents are never useless. Keep copies of your passport, visa, other forms of identification, and important phone numbers and email addresses.

    9.    Keep in mind the Electrical Voltage System – electrical sockets in the US supply between 110 and 120 volts, so remember that your electrical devices might need voltage converters and adaptors to work. You can even purchase adaptors with in-built voltage converters, which could come in very handy.

    And last but not least:

    10.  Housing Options – It’s very risky leaving your country and travelling thousands of miles from home without securing accommodation.

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    Consider the following options:

    Dorms – no doubt your university has dorms and this is the most common and popular housing option for newly admitted students. It’s also the most convenient, as it means living right on campus. Dorms also supply meal plans so you don’t have to worry about organizing your breakfast, lunch or dinner.

    Off-Campus Housing – it may sound strange, but renting an apartment off campus costs less. You can choose your roommates, the area, and have more control over who you meet and when. Remember, when choosing this option over a dorm, you will have to cover any additional expenses – utilities, transportation, food, etc.

    Homestay – this is quickly becoming a popular option among international students. Staying in someone’s home will make it easier to interact with native English speakers and experience their culture more closely.

    If you need help arranging accommodation, there are Housing Offices at your University you can turn to. You can also contact your International Student Advisor for information regarding on-campus and off-campus housing.

    In addition, many universities provide resources on housing and apartment rentals on their websites.

    So far so good! You’ve done everything to make your transition to the US easier, but now what?

     Firstly, don’t forget to call home – make sure your phone is loaded with enough credit to make a quick call. This will make you feel better and reassure your friends and family.

    Take a walk – after you’ve settled into your new home take some time to explore your new campus or neighbourhood. Getting some fresh air and exploring your surroundings will help you feel human again after a long trip.

    Don’t fall asleep – after a long flight you will feel the urge to fall asleep and your body clock will be totally messed up. Try to stay awake ‘till at least 10 or 11 p.m. to beat the jet lag.

    Lastly, have fun, enjoy US student life, and who knows? You could make some great new friends to last a lifetime.

    Make your life as a student even easier by signing up to Sprintax for a simple solution to preparing your tax return.

  • 3 Smarter Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

    save-or-spend-your tax-refund

    Wondering how to spend your IRS tax refund?

    A big refund might feel like you’ve hit the jackpot, but it’s not always wise to spend it all at once. We’ve given you three awesome ideas for amazing life experiences, but if you’re not the ‘adventurous type’ or don’t feel like spending it all in on go, you might consider a more practical plan for your cash.

    Here are some tips on how to spend your tax refund wisely:

    Make a plan

    Firstly, think about your current financial situation and how your tax refund could influence your short and long-term financial needs. Having a clear plan on how to spend your tax refund can greatly improve your future financial health and help you develop financial management skills.

    Pay off your credit card debt

    This might be the first and probably smartest idea that comes to the practical mind when it comes to getting a tax refund. And yes, paying off your high-interest credit card debt should be number 1 on your “smart-ways to-spend-your-refund” list. It might not be ‘fun’, but it will be such a relief to start afresh financially and when you finally have the money you need, you should definitely get your debt matters in order.

    Start your emergency fund

    Maybe this idea sounds better suited to someone in their forties? Well, you might think this way until the ‘emergency’ arises and you realize there isn’t a penny left in the piggy bank. Emergencies don’t just happen to people in their forties, and often occur suddenly, so an emergency fund will give you that welcome cushion to land on when you need it. That’s why putting aside part of your tax refund money (not necessary all of it) will prevent you from getting off-guard.

    Finance your education

    Using your tax refund to buy college or university textbooks, to start additional qualifications courses or sign up for an eBook subscription service, is a really smart way to spend it. The price of textbooks is constantly rising and next semester these could burn a hole in your pocket unless you’ve set some money aside. This could save you the usual money troubles you’ll likely encounter at the beginning of the semester and what’s more, will pay you out hundred times in future.

    Save or spend your tax refund? The final say is yours. Sprintax can only help you get your refund. Sign up here!

  • The Fall semester is here! Get a head start with some great tips

    The Fall is knocking at our door. Some of us are still enjoying the last days of the Summer on last minute trips and adventures. For others, the summer vacation  finished long ago and they have already come back to reality with a bang.

    At Sprintax, we’re busy preparing for the Fall semester. We always think that a new semester is always exciting and full of new opportunities. It provides a fresh chance to achieve excellent class performance, step into new academic fields and take up new challenges.  If you are planning to make out the best of the upcoming Fall semester- check out some handy tips below which will definitely help you.

    1. Shift into studying mode

    Benjamin Franklin said: “You may delay, but time will not”. Neither does time, nor do your university assignments. That’s why to avoid pressure and panic around finals time, you should switch into study mode as soon as the Fall semester starts. If you plan carefully, you will have a much better chance of getting the results you want. Create a calendar for your tasks and assignments and make every effort to meet the deadlines you outlined. Start your papers ahead of schedule – they usually take more time and effort than you expect.  Manage your time and be proactive – once you’ve cracked these two things, you have found the secret to great academic success.

    2. Try new things

    Don’t become a slave of your daily routine. Make a to-do list and try to keep up with the activities till the end of the semester. Join a study group, poetry or a sport club, learn a new language or host the party of the century. Even better, find the internship of your dreams – most companies accept applications for next year’s Summer internships at the end of the Fall semester. Don’t wait for opportunities to come, create them!

    3. Make time for fun

    Having fun is an important part of your student life –so don’t miss out. If you’re overloaded with too many assignments and you feel very stressed and tired, leave the textbooks for a while and have some fun with your friends. Go out with them; plan a fun activity or a weekend getaway.  There will be so many interesting events on campus – be a part of them as they’re a great way to meet new friends and de-stress.

     

    Happy Fall Semester everyone!

  • Sports

    The end of the school year is approaching and you will have a lot of free time in your hands. This means that this is the perfect time to find something new and exciting to do in your spare time. Why not try sports?

    Sport has historically played an important role in all societies, be it in the form of competitive sport, physical activity or play.

    Most American universities host athletic camps during the summer. These camps are a great opportunity for a college coach to see what you can do – and you will get invaluable, unbiased guidance about your ability level compared with student – athletes.

    This can be the perfect opportunity for you to be active during the summer and continue this valuable activity during the winter as well.

    Here are some general tips on why sports are good and how to choose the best one for you:

    Why play sport?

    1. It keeps you healthy – Physical activity is the most obvious benefit of sports. Sports practices and games provide an opportunity for exercise that can keep you in shape and healthy.
    2. It builds character – One of the most popular sports philosophies is to valuing sports because they are seen as having a positive impact on your personality, character and makeup. Sports build belief in one’s own abilities, which leads to being more confident in everyday life.
    3. It improves your social skills – Sports are a great way to build friendships and form new connections, which can create a support system that leads to future opportunities and life-long bonds.
    4. It helps you be more successful – Students who play sports learn they are rewarded for their efforts. This often drives academic success, which leads to better college and career opportunities.
    5. It has positive impact on your attitude – Exercise elevates mood and relieves stress so that people can channel their energy towards something positive, like improving strength and endurance.
    6. It teaches you to set your goals – Achieving and setting goals are a big part of sports. This involves hard work and discipline which helps you attain skills you need to score, to win, or to finish strong.

    How to choose the perfect sport for you?

    1. Select a few sports, which seem interesting to you and try them all – this way you will see what you enjoy to do and what you are good at
    2. Compare the sports you like to your body type – for example if you are tall you might want to try basketball; if you have strong hands – you could try wrestling. Don’t push yourself to do more than your body can endure.
    3. Try both individual and team sports – decide for yourself  how you feel better – to practice with a team or just by yourself. If you’re not a team player you might want to try karate, tennis, swimming or cycling. If you enjoy playing in a team you could try football, soccer, baseball or dancing.
    4. Decide how much time you would have for practice – try one you can find time for in your full schedule, so you don’t have to miss your other activities
    5. Examine how you feel after a work-out – above all you should feel relaxed and more energetic. Don’t feel bad if you have muscle cramps – they’re normal when you haven’t practiced any sports recently
    6. Learn more about the sport which you are interested in – there might be many interesting facts you had no idea about. You can learn a lot about the history of the sport and it’s best players. Read about their achievements and goals – you can feel more motivated during practice

    Once you find a sport that you love start practicing it on a regular basis. You will feel much better when the sport you have chosen takes a place in your schedule.

    Sports also provide a positive learning experience – perhaps the greatest life lessons are learned in sports. Winning does not come easy; you’ve got to work for it. “Winners never quit and quitters never win”

  • How to write an article for the universities newspaper

    Whether you are interested in writing for a small school newspaper or you’re fulfilling a requirement for school, you will want to write like a professional if you intend to write a good article.

    Here are a few simple steps and tips on how to write the best article!

     What makes a good story

    First you must decide what to write about. Sometimes an editor (or instructor) will give you specific assignments, but other times you’ll have to find your own stories to write about. Anything that could interest or affect your classmates, teachers, school or family will make a good story. Make sure the news report is suitable for everyone to read and is easy for everyone to understand. Encyclopedias, dictionaries or other reference materials, and internet research will help you get the facts you need. You can also interview people — such as a professor or coach — who know the facts. This way you will collect quotes that reflect the public’s opinion on the story.

    You need a strong lead

    Almost all newspaper stories start off by answering the most important questions – Who – What – When – Where – Why – How. This will be the opening paragraph of the article and it needs to be strong so it will grab the readers and make them want to read more. The lead tells the reader why he should read the story. Make sure that your lead includes only one main idea. It’s good to make the reader smile or be surprised sometimes. Some leads can be lifeless, and need some tension or something that pushes the reader to read on. Another crucial point here is the length of the opening sentence. The word count needs to be no more than twenty words for your grab line. This in itself is a challenge.

     The Story

    Once you’ve set the stage with a good lead, you follow up with a well-written story that contains facts from your research and quotes from people you’ve interviewed. The second paragraph should contain quotes, built on the information from the lead. The third graph is a “nut” graph – it tells why this story is important to the reader. It should include the where and when. In the next paragraphs which will complete your story, fill in other information. These graphs should include at least one more quote, which usually goes in the final paragraph – “the kicker”. It usually sums up the point of the story. It should also refer back to the first paragraph, which ties everything up nicely for the reader.

    Here are a few additional tips for writing that apply to writing in general. These will help your writing be clearer and easier to understand.

     

    •  Accuracy-  Make sure everything you say is true. A writer has a responsibility to make sure his facts are accurate.
    •  Once the article is completed, professional writers will always proof read the article to find and fix any errors.
    • Avoid jargon – If a technical detail is not essential to your argument, don’t use it.
    • Use the active voice – it is always better than passive voice. It’s easier to read, and it leaves no doubt about who is doing the hoping, recommending or other action.
    • Add to the amazing text you’ve written with videos, pictures, charts, and any other visual or audio material which you found or made in the course of your research. This will make your information more engaging and easier to understand.
    • Practice your writing as much as you can – we all know, that practice makes perfect!

    And why not start practicing now? Tell your personal story or most exciting adventure through the Sprintax blog –  http://blog.sprintax.com/share-your-story-for-being-an-international-student-in-the-usa-now/

     Just send it at hello@sprintax.com