Who Must File Tax Forms for the 2020 Tax Season?
Even if you did not earn any income, if you were physically in the US on F or J status anytime between 1 January – 31 December of the previous year, you're obligated to file a Form 8843 with the IRS (the Internal Revenue Service, or ‘IRS’, are the US tax authorities).
Meanwhile, if you earned more than $0 of taxable US source income, you may need to file a federal tax return with the IRS. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may also need to file a state tax return(s).
Failure to file can lead to complications when applying for US visas or immigration benefits in the future.
Tax Filing Deadline
15 April is normally the last day for residents and nonresidents who earned US income to file Federal tax returns for the previous year.
What if I Missed the Tax Deadline?
Please see the Sprintax FAQs website here.
Resident or Non-Resident for Federal Tax Purposes:
Generally, most international students and scholars who are on F or J visas are considered non-residents for tax purposes. International undergraduate students on F-1 and J-1 visas are automatically considered non-resident for their first 5 calendar years in the US. Scholars/Researchers on J visas are automatically considered non-residents for two out of the last six calendar years in the US. If you’ve been in the US for longer than the five or two year periods, the Substantial Presence Test will determine your tax residency.
COVID-19 Stimulus Payments:
Regarding your eligibility for the COVID-19 Stimulus Payments from the IRS, please read the following: Eligibility for the third stimulus check is the same as the previous stimulus checks, which covered in the previous blog posts above.
How to File:
We have teamed up with Sprintax to provide you with an easy-to-use tax preparation software designed for nonresident students and scholars in the US. We (and all other university staff) are not qualified or allowed to provide individual tax advice.
After you login to Sprintax, you will be asked a series of questions about the time you have spent in the US over recent years. Sprintax will then determine your tax status. If it determines that you are a "nonresident alien" (NRA) for federal tax purposes, you can continue to use the software to respond to a series of guided questions. Sprintax will then complete and generate the tax forms you need to send to the tax authorities.
However, if Sprintax determines that you are a resident alien for federal tax purposes, you won't be able to continue using the software.
Step by Step Guide on How to File Your Nonresident Tax Forms (F and J):
- Gather the documents you may need for Sprintax
- Create a Sprintax Account
You will receive an email from the international student office providing you with a link to Sprintax to set up your account as well as your unique code to use on Sprintax. This unique code will cover the costs of the federal tax return and 8843 at no cost to you. Open your new Sprintax account by creating a UserID and password or if you have an existing account on Sprintax you can login using your existing credentials.
- Follow the Sprintax instructions
If you did not earn any US Income: Sprintax will generate a completed Form 8843 for you and each of your dependents (if you have any).
If you did earn US Income: Sprintax will generate your "tax return documents", including either a 1040NR-EZ or a longer form 1040NR, depending on your circumstances.
- (With U.S. income only) If required, complete your state tax return
After you finish your federal return, Sprintax will inform you if you need to complete a state tax return. This will only apply to you if you earned income in a state with an income tax in 2020; the State of Florida has no state income tax. If so, you will have the option to use Sprintax for an additional fee. However, it is your choice to use them or to do the state tax return on your own.
- Read the instructions for filing/mailing your returns
Remember to carefully read the instructions that Sprintax provides.
As of March 31, 2021, Sprintax is live for federal e-filing. To find out more, read the Overview to see who is eligible under the IRS rules and who is not.
If you need help while using Sprintax, you can:
- Use their 24/7 live chat
- Refer to their FAQs
- Email at email@example.com
- Sprintax YouTube Channel
- Sprintax Blog Account
IMPORTANT: Avoid Scams!
- File your tax return as early as possible.
- Mail your tax return directly from the post office.
- Know the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) won’t contact you by email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will contact you by mail.
Non-Residents: Don't Use TurboTax or Other Resident Tax Software
TurboTax is a tax preparation software for students and scholars who are RESIDENTS for tax purposes, they help residents to prepare their tax returns.
Non-resident International Students and Scholars should NOT use TurboTax to prepare their returns as they will be filing incorrectly. Sprintax is the non-resident partner of TurboTax.
If you use other software like TurboTax, then you are claiming credits that you are not entitled to claim (such as the the educational tax credit) and this is why you may be receiving bigger refunds. Any non-resident who has filed through TurboTax will need to complete an amended tax return to correct this mistake. If the IRS discover that you have claimed this credit which you are not entitled to, not only will they look for the credit back but they could also apply fees and penalties, and interest could accrue on this.
It is important to understand that, if you are a non-resident for tax purposes, you are filing a fraudulent tax return if your are doing it through TurboTax and claiming credits that you are not entitled to claim. Sprintax can help you file an amended tax return to right these incorrect tax returns if needed.
Missing a Form?
If you were notified you would receive the following tax form but did not, please contact the following:
- W-2. Your employer will issue this for you. If you are a current student who worked or is working for UT, you can elect ahead of time to obtain this form electronically in Workday, otherwise it will be mailed to you. If you have graduated from UT you will no longer have access to Workday and it will be mailed to you. If you did not receive this in the mail, please contact the Payroll Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 1098-T. This form is not needed if you are a non-resident and can NOT be used on a non-resident tax return because non-residents are not eligible to claim education expense tax credits. However, if you have become a resident for federal tax purposes, or need your 1098-T from previous years, you can contact the Bursar Office at email@example.com to request a copy. If you are not sure of your tax status, log in to Sprintax to check.
- 1042-S. This form is used to report: stipend, scholarship, fellowship income and travel grants (not tuition reduction or exemption), income covered by a tax treaty, payment for other types of services (eg by the semester as a note-taker). If you received this type of income, the 1042-S will be mailed to you by 15 March by the payer. Note: Only Nonresident Aliens receive this form. If your tax status changes to a Resident Alien you will not get a 1042-S. Login to Sprintax to check your tax status if you're not sure.
- 1099. This form reports miscellaneous income. Can be interest on bank accounts, stocks, bonds, dividends, earning through freelance employment.
Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
International students and their dependents who are not eligible for a Social Security Number may be eligible to apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).
Students who have approved on- or off-campus employment authorization and are being paid should apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). Do not apply for an ITIN if you already have a SSN.
The IRS issues ITINs to foreign nationals who do not qualify for a Social Security Number, but who have federal tax reporting or filing requirements. A non-resident alien who is not eligible for a Social Security Number, but is required to file a tax return to claim a refund under a U.S. tax treaty needs an ITIN. If you expect to receive a taxable scholarship, fellowship or grant income and you do not qualify for a Social Security Number (SSN) you must apply for an ITIN.
If an ITIN is needed, Sprintax can help prepare your ITIN application at the same time you prepare your federal tax return.
An ITIN does not authorize you to work in the U.S., it is for federal tax filing purposes only.
The IPO staff and the University of Tampa are NOT permitted nor qualified to assist any student or scholar with any IRS tax form preparation or tax related questions. U.S. and state income tax laws are complex and each individual's situation is different. Any questions or concerns should be directed to Sprintax, a qualified tax specialist or CPA firm.