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2009 Tax Bulletin
(Information about completing and submitting

tax forms for calendar year 2008)

It is tax filing season again and we are sure that many of you are questioning whether you must file tax forms, how to complete the forms and much more.  This update has been designed to provide students and scholars with basic information and resources about your tax filing obligations, how to complete and submit the correct tax forms on time and how to pay the proper tax or, better yet, receive a tax refund.


All international scholars and students in F-1 or J-1 status as well as dependents in F-2 and J-2 status who were physically present in the US any time between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008 must complete and submit some type of 2008 federal tax form.  International students and scholars in other immigration classifications may also be required to complete and submit tax forms. The number and type of form you must complete depend on whether you earned income during 2008, the type of income you received, the length of time you have been physically present in the US and other factors.


Taxes are often complicated, even for those native to the United States. There are many different kinds of taxes in the US and different agencies are responsible for collecting these taxes. Please be advised that the staff of the International Students and Scholars Office does not specialize in international tax law and can not answer specific questions regarding your individual tax filing requirements.


What is a Tax Return?

In the US, federal and state income taxes are prepaid by each employer based on the “estimate” of tax liability indicated at the start of employment by the employee on the Form W-4. Since the withholding is only an estimate, employees are given a yearly opportunity to reconcile the amount of tax withheld with how much was owed. The name of the form on which the reconciliation is made is called the “Tax Return”. The federal tax return must be completed and submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). State tax returns must be submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) and/or to the state agency in any other US state where you have received income in 2008. In some cases, filing the tax return results in a refund because the tax withholding was higher than necessary. However, sometimes a taxpayer does not have enough tax withheld throughout the year so you may need to send a payment to the IRS with your tax return. Occasionally, the total taxes withheld match the amount due, so no money is due by either the taxpayer or the IRS.


When must I complete and submit my tax return?

If you have earned income in 2008, all federal and state tax forms must be postmarked by April 15, 2009.

If you have not earned income in 2008 or you are filing from outside the US, your forms must be postmarked by June 15, 2009.


Who Must File a Tax Return?

Generally, anyone who has earned income while in the US must file a tax return. In addition, all F-1 and J-1 students and scholars and their F-2 and J-2 dependents are required to complete and submit at least one tax form. Taxpayers are divided into two general categories for tax purposes regardless of income: residents and nonresidents.


How do I determine my tax residence category?

It is important not to confuse immigration terms of resident and nonresident with taxpayer categories that have the same name. Residence for tax purposes is defined based on the Substantial Presence Test (SPT) which is independent from your immigration classification. The SPT is the calculation that the federal government uses to determine when nonresident aliens for immigration purposes have been in the United States long enough to be considered residents for tax purposes. The CINTAX system described below should help you determine your tax residence status.


Nonresidents (for tax purposes) are taxed only on their US income and usually complete Forms 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. While nonresidents are not required to file a federal or state tax return if their earned income amount is below the stated personal exemption amount, they are encouraged to file a return if taxes were withheld from their pay check as they will likely receive a refund.

In addition, all individuals in F-1 and J-1 immigration status (including F-2 and J-2 dependents - spouses and children under the age of 21) filing as nonresidents for tax purposes are required to file a Form 8843 - Statement for Exempt Individuals. Filing this form does not mean you are exempt from taxes, but rather that you are exempt from counting days of physical presence in the US to determine if you are to be taxed as a resident or a nonresident. Keep in mind that even if you have not earned any income, you are still required to complete and submit the Form 8843. This form requires information about immigration status and tax treaty claims. For additional information regarding completing Form 8843, see the CINTAX instructions below or link directly to Form 8843.

During the time individuals in F-1 and J-1 immigration status are “exempt individuals,” they will remain nonresidents for tax purposes even though they are present in the United States for 183 days or more. Once they exceed “exempt individual” status, days of physical presence will be counted and they may become residents for tax purposes.

Residents (for tax purposes) are taxed by the US on their worldwide income and generally complete the Form 1040-EZ or the 1040 and required schedule forms. Some examples of a resident for tax purposes are:

- F and J students (and their dependents) who no longer qualify as “exempt individuals” as they have been physically present in the US over five tax years

- J scholars (and their dependents) who no longer qualify as “exempt individuals” as they have been physically present in the US for more than two out of every six tax years

- foreign nationals in any other immigration classification who are physically present in the US for 183 days or more in any three year period

What documentation do I need to collect before I begin?

If you earned or received income in the US, you are required to gather official documentation from various sources in order to complete the tax forms.  Sources of US income may include on-campus employment, scholarships, fellowships, graduate assistantships, stipends, practical or academic training, and any compensation received for labor. “Income” is not limited to wages paid to the nonresident in cash, but also includes that portion of a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship that is applied to housing and meal expenses. Some examples of this official documentation are a Form W-2 from your employer, Form 1042-S from Boston University and/or another academic institution you attended in 2008, Form 1099 from your bank or any other forms showing income etc. A complete list of the required documentation can be found at: _help .html


Form W-2

Students and scholars who received taxable income during 2008 from Boston University should have already received a Form W-2 which shows the wages you earned and taxes Boston University withheld. The W-2 forms were mailed by the Office of Payroll on January 31, 2009. If you have any questions regarding your Form W-2, please contact the Boston University Office of Payroll directly.

Form 1042-S 

Students who received a scholarship or fellowship from Boston University or students who are claiming a tax treaty in 2008 will be sent a Form 1042-S which shows the amounts paid to foreign students, trainees, teachers and researchers. In addition, students who have claimed a tax treaty exemption for their wages or stipends will also receive a Form 1042-S which will show the federal wages covered by the tax treaty.  The Office of Payroll at Boston University will mail all Forms 1042-S after March 6, 2009.  If you expect to receive a Form 1042-S, you will not be able to begin completing your tax forms until after you have received the form. If you have any questions regarding your Form 1042-S, please contact the Boston University Office of Payroll directly.


How do I get started on completing my tax return?

In order to facilitate the filing of your federal tax returns, the ISSO has purchased licenses to CINTAX, a web-based tax return preparation system designed exclusively for nonresident international students, scholars and their dependents.  Please note that the CINTAX password you will need to create your individual CINTAX login will be sent to you in a private email from the ISSO. Once you have the password and the required documentation, click on the following link to create your login to CINTAX and start to prepare your federal tax return:

CINTAX will assist you in determining whether you are considered a nonresident or a resident for tax purposes.

If you are considered to be a nonresident for tax purposes, it will then help you complete the required federal forms which you must print, sign and mail, with supporting documentation. If the CINTAX system determines that you are a resident for tax purposes, then you are required to complete resident tax forms on your own.


In addition, if you have earned income in Massachusetts (or any other state) in the 2008 calendar year, then you will also be required to complete and submit a 2008 Massachusetts State tax form (or other state forms) separately. If you are a nonresident for tax purposes, then you should find that the federal forms you prepare through CINTAX will help you complete most of the state tax return as well.

While CINTAX is not an option for all of our students and scholars as some are determined to be residents for tax purposes, it will assist the majority of our international community as most students file nonresidents tax returns. Furthermore, it will definitively confirm if you are a resident or nonresident for tax purposes which is generally the most complicated step in deciding which tax returns to complete and submit.


Can I hire someone to prepare my tax forms for me?

Absolutely! Students and scholars who have more complicated tax cases or simply want assistance in completing their tax forms can pay a tax service provider or a tax consultant.

Tax service provider
H&R Block, a tax service specialist, is offering Boston University clients a special $20 discount in the completion of their state and federal tax forms. The estimated price to complete both forms as a nonresident is $200.  The exact fees for tax form completion may vary according to the type of tax forms you may need to complete.  In addition, if you use CINTAX to complete your federal tax forms and you wish to complete your state tax return through H&R Block, the discount will not apply and you will be charged approximately $65.  In order to take advantage of the $20 discount, you must show your Boston University ID at:  

H&R Block

535 Commonwealth Avenue

Kenmore Square

Boston, MA 02215

Telephone: (617) 536-2048

Nonresident Tax Specialists:

Allen Bress

Jane Codman

Greg Nelson

H&R Block

205 Massachusetts Avenue

Church Park

Boston, MA 02115

Telephone: (617) 262-4939

Nonresident Tax Specialists:

Peter Coleron

Zenaida Faller


Tax consultants and tax attorneys
You also have the option of hiring a lawyer to assist you in reporting your taxes and to file your forms. A listing can be found in a phone directory or at under a category such as “tax returns, consultants, & representatives.” If you choose to hire a private agency or lawyer, we strongly recommend that you make certain they specialize in tax issues unique to foreign nationals.


What do I do if I don't have a Social Security Number?

Students who have earned income should have a Social Security Number. If you do not have a Social Security Number, please visit the following ISSO web page regarding how to apply for a Social Security Numbers.


Where can I obtain the forms directly if I do not use CINTAX?

You can prepare tax forms on your own by downloading the forms at the following links:

Federal tax forms   

Massachusetts state tax forms

Tax forms for other states

Where can I get more information?

The IRS has designed a section of their official website specifically to assist international students and scholars in completing tax returns at the following link:,,id=96431,00.html


Federal tax returns: You can visit the Boston Office of the IRS from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Federal Building in Government Center on the 7th floor. This office can be reached by telephone at (617) 316-2850 or via their website at:,,id=98286,00.html


Massachusetts State Forms: You can telephone the Boston Office of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR), at (617) 887-6367 between 8:45 am to 5 pm.

US Tax Guide for Aliens

IRS Publication 519

US Tax Treaty Tables and descriptions

IRS Publication 901

Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Corporations  

IRS Publication 515

NAFSA: Association of International Educators


Information presented in this handout is for general information and is not intended to be nor should it be construed as legal tax advice. While the ISSO has arranged for the services of CINTAX and H&R Block, and a professional tax provider at a workshop, international students and scholars can choose how they wish to complete and submit tax forms as it is the individual's sole responsibility to meet all tax filing obligations.  International students and scholars are encouraged to follow CINTAX instructions to prepare federal forms online and/or consult the US Internal Revenue Service (
IRS), local and state tax agencies and tax professionals for advice and guidance regarding their individual tax situations.


Boston University
February 28, 2005

Boston University International Students & Scholars Office March 5, 2009