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2014 Tax Bulletin
(Information about completing and submitting

tax forms for calendar year 2013)

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 U.S. any time between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013 must complete and submit some type of 2013 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 2013, the type of income you received, the length of time you have been physically present in the U.S. and other factors.

 

Please be advised that the staff of the International Students & Scholars Office does not specialize in international tax law and can not answer specific questions regarding your individual tax filing requirement; however, we have prepared the following information to help get you started.

In order to facilitate the filing of tax forms, the ISSO has again purchased a web-based tax return preparation system that is designed exclusively for international students, scholars and their dependents. The Windstar Foreign National Tax Resource (FNTR) is an online tax preparation software that will help you understand your nonresident alien tax obligations and to complete many of the forms including federal 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ forms and the Massachusetts State Form1NR/PY (if required depending on your individual tax status and income earned). The product will also offer you an extensive online searchable, content library to give you general information about U.S. tax withholdings, tax filing obligations, tax treaties and detailed information if you are required to file a tax return as a dual status filer or resident for tax purposes.  An overview of Windstar FNTR can be found on their website. 

What is a Tax Return?

In the U.S., 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 an annual 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 U.S. state where you have received income in 2013. 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.

 

Must I file a federal tax return AND a state tax return?

The federal government imposes income tax obligations on all individuals who earn income in the U.S.  In addition, most state governments impose income tax obligations on individuals who reside and/or work in their states.  Therefore, in most cases, individuals must file a federal tax form submitted the U.S. Internal Revenue Serivce plus a second tax form submitted to the tax office of the state in which they reside.  If you worked in a state other than the state in which you reside, you may be required to submit an additional tax form tax office of that state.

When must I complete and submit my tax return?

If you have earned income in 2013, all federal and state tax forms must be postmarked by April 15, 2014.

If you have not earned income in 2013 or you are filing from outside the U.S., your forms must be postmarked by June 16, 2014.

 

Who Must File a Tax Return?

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. In addition, anyone who has earned income while in the U.S. must file a tax return. Taxpayers are divided into three general categories for tax purposes, regardless of income: residents, nonresidents, and dual status aliens.

What documentation do I need to collect before I begin?

If you earned or received income in the U.S., you are required to gather official documentation from various sources in order to complete the tax forms.  Sources of U.S. 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 individual 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 2013, Form 1099 from your bank or any other forms showing income.

 

Form W-2

Students and scholars who received taxable income during 2013 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, 2014. If you have any questions regarding your Form W-2, please contact the Boston University Office of Payroll directly at 617-353-2270.

Form 1042-S 

Students who received a scholarship or fellowship from Boston University or students or scholarswho are claiming a tax treaty in 2013 will receive a Form 1042-S from the BU Payroll Office on March 15, 2014 which shows the amounts paid to foreign students nationals which shows the federal wages covered by the tax treaty. 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 Windstar's Foreign National Tax Resource (Windstar FNTR), an online system for completing tax forms.  Please note that the Windstar FNTR access code you will need to create your individual Windstar FNTR login will be sent to you in a private email from the ISSO. Please contact the ISSO (isso@bu.edu) if you do not receive the instructional email.

Windstar FNTR will assist most international students and scholars with the preparation of their federal and Massachusetts State nonresident tax forms.  However, there may be circumstances in which individuals will not be able to use Windstar FNTR.  Consulting the information on the Windstar FNTR site and entering basic information into the system will help determine if you are eligible to use Windstar FNTR.

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 Foreign National Tax Resource (Windstar FNTR) system, a web-based tax return preparation system designed exclusively for international students, scholars and their dependents, should help you determine your tax residence status.

Nonresidents (for tax purposes) are taxed only on their U.S. 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) 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 U.S. 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, please consult the Windstar FNTR content library.

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.

If you qualify to file as a nonresident, it is likely tha
t Windstar FNTR will be able to help you prepare all of your tax forms.

Residents (for tax purposes) are taxed by the U.S. 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 U.S. over five tax years

  • J scholars (and their dependents) who no longer qualify as "exempt individuals" as they have been physically present in the U.S. for more than two out of every six tax years

  • foreign nationals in any other immigration classification who are physically present in the U.S. for 183 days or more in any three year period.


While Windstar FNTR will be able to offer you detailed information about your tax status and filing obligations as a resident for tax purposes in their content library, Windstar FNTR will likely not be able to assist you in preparing your actual tax forms.

Dual Status Aliens are nonresidents for tax purposes for part of the year and residents for tax purposes for the rest of the year. 

A change in immigration status may affect an individual's resident status changing them from a nonresident (for tax purposes) to a resident (for tax purposes).

While Windstar FNTR will be able to offer you detailed information about your tax status and filing obligations as a dual status alien in their content library, Windstar FNTR will likely not be able to assist you in preparing your actual tax forms.

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

There are three tax-filing alternatives related to identification numbers, depending on the type of earnings you received and your tax filing requirements.

 

If you worked in the U.S. and received taxable employment compensation, you must have a Social Security Number (SSN) for tax filing purposes. If you have ever been previously-assigned a SSN, you may use this to file your tax forms. Please refer to the ISSO web page regarding how to apply for a Social Security Number.

If you have received taxable stipends or scholarships that are not considered employment compensation and you are not eligible to apply for an SSN, then you will need to apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). If you have a previously-assigned ITIN, you do not need to apply again. If this is the first time you are submitting tax returns and an ITIN will be required in your case, Windstar FNTR will assist you in preparing the W-7 Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number in addition to any other required tax forms so that you can apply for the ITIN and file your tax return at the same time. Once you have prepared the W-7, you will then need to bring your original immigration documents to the ISSO so that an ISSO official can certify your “foreign status” or “identity” as required by W-7 instructions.

 

If you have not earned any income, nor received any taxable stipends or scholarships, and are only required to file IRS Form 8843, then neither a SSN nor an ITIN is required to file this tax form alone.

 

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 providers
There are many tax service providers who market to individuals who need help completing their tax forms.  If you decide to use a tax provider to help complete your forms, make sure to ask if they have foreign national tax expertise.  If they do not, then you should find another provider.  Also, make sure to ask if they will give you a discount as a student or scholar of Boston University.

H&R Block, a tax service specialist, is offering Boston University clients a special $15 discount in the completion of their state and federal tax forms. Nonresident Tax Specialists are available to assist you at the location listed below.

 

H&R Block

535 Commonwealth Avenue

Kenmore Square

Boston, MA 02215

Telephone: (617) 536-2048

 

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 http://www.superpages.com 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.

CINTAX Tax Preparation Software
If you have used the CINTAX
tax preparation software provided by the ISSO in past years for nonresident tax forms and prefer to continue using this product, you can purchase an individual license for $39 at https://www.arcticintl.com/gtp_usage.asp.

 


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

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


Where can I get more information?

There are a number of resources available specifically for international students and scholars to assist them in understanding their tax obligations and to help in filing tax forms.

 

Foreign Student & Scholar information
This site is a clearinghouse of various topics that relate to foreign student and scholar tax issues and ITIN issues.

Three links on the Student's page of the IRS Website may be of particular interest:

Can I talk to someone?

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: http://www.irs.gov/localcontacts/article/0,,id=98286,00.html

 

Massachusetts State Forms: You can telephone the Boston Office of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR), at (617) 887-6367 from 10 am - 1 pm and 1:30 pm - 4 pm.

 

Publications

The following publications may also be helpful.

U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens

IRS Publication 519

U.S. Tax Treaty Tables and descriptions

IRS Publication 901

Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Corporations  

IRS Publication 515


Disclaimer
Information presented on this web page 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 Windstar FNTR, 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 Windstar FNTR instructions to prepare federal forms online and/or consult the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), local and state tax agencies and tax professionals for advice and guidance regarding their individual tax situations.

ISSO
Boston University
April 7, 2014

Boston University International Students & Scholars Office April 7, 2014