Please note: For legal reasons, the International Programs Office staff is not permitted to advise you about taxes and cannot answer questions about your personal tax situation.
Understanding your Tax Obligations
ALL International Students and Scholars in the U.S. are required to file a U.S. tax form each year, even if you do not have any U.S. source income.
Tax Filing obligations are determined based upon your Tax Residency Status. For this, a person is considered a Non-Resident Alien or Resident Alien. This is not to be confused with your immigration status. Tax filings are done each year based upon the previous year and filed to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Income is taxable, the IRS defines “income” as: Employment, Scholarships covering costs other than tuition and tuition related expenses, Unearned Income (i.e. investment income in the U.S). Income is not money earned and received in your home country.
- UMass Office of the President Tax and Compliance
- UMass Isenberg School of Management Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program
- UMass Smart About Money
Who is a Non-Resident Alien?
Many, although not all, of our international students and researchers at UMASS are non-resident aliens for tax purposes. Persons who are non-resident aliens for tax purposes are generally taxed at much higher rates on all U.S. source income than are resident aliens and citizens. Generally, most international students & scholars who are on F, J, M or Q visas are considered non-resident for tax purposes.
- International students on J-1/J-2 & F-1/F-2 visas are automatically considered non-resident for their first 5 calendar years in the US
- Scholars/Researchers on J-1/J-2 are automatically considered non-residents for 2 years.
- If you have been in the US for longer than the 5 or 2 year periods or have had a mix of various visa statuses in the U.S., the Substantial Presence Test will determine your tax residency. ALL visits to the U.S. count towards this test!
Who is a Resident Alien?
Once you have exhausted your non-resident allowance, you should refer to the Substantial Presence Test to determine how your file as a Resident for tax purposes.
Who Must File?
- Everyone must complete Form 8843, irrespective of income or days present if you are a Non-Resident for tax purposes. This includes ALL dependents regardless of age.
- If you received taxable income earnings or income over $1 (2019 no personal exemption amount)
- Received a taxable stipend, grant, or allowance
What is Tax Withholding?
- As a nonresident, ‘withholding tax’ may be applied to some or all payments made to you at a rate of 30%
- 66 countries have tax treaties in place to reduce this or to exempt that income
What are Tax Treaties?
The United States currently has tax treaties with more than 50 countries. These treaties are designed to decrease the likelihood that the non-resident will be taxed on the same income both in the U.S. and the country of tax residency. Treaty benefits will not be honored unless appropriate treaty forms are completed and on file with the UMass Payroll Office in the 325 Whitmore.
- Tax treaty benefits for students receiving compensation for employment are generally limited to a specific amount of income for each tax year (usually between $2,000 and $5,000 per year). Most treaty benefits will end once the student becomes a resident alien for tax purposes, so most treaty benefits will last no more than five years, with only a few exceptions. Tax treaty benefits for scholarship income may also be available for students, even if there is not a corresponding treaty for compensation income.
- Tax treaties for non-students are generally not limited to a specific amount of income, but are limited by a specific number of years. In some cases, if a non-student remains in the U.S. beyond the period covered by the treaty (usually two years from the date of entry), a "retroactive clause" in the treaty requires payment of all taxes that were previously exempt. It is, therefore, important to monitor these dates and treaty benefits carefully. Recipients of a research grant may be eligible for tax treaty benefits on the maintenance allowance provided in the grant, and should initiate a tax review immediately upon receipt of the grant.
For more information regarding Tax Treaties, please see IRS Publication 901
Most Common tax Forms you may Receive
- All employees who have taxable income in the previous year from employment in the United States will receive a Form W-2, which is a statement of earnings. This includes wages, salary, compensation (employment earnings). This form will arrive at the home address of the employee in mid-January. The Form W-2 is essential for filing a tax return. If you do not receive this form, please contact your employer to have it sent to you.
- All non-residents who have scholarships that are greater than the amount of their fees or have tax treaty exempt wages will receive a Form 1042-S, which is a statement of that type of income received during the year. Persons who have ONLY a TA or RA fee waiver or a scholarship less than their semester fee charges will NOT be issued a Form 1042-S. The non-resident will receive this Form 1042 S mid-March. Therefore, persons with the above types of income may not file a tax return until AFTER they have received Form 1042-S.
- You would receive this form if you have: Scholarship Stipend, Prize/Award/Honoraria, Treaty exempt income.
Most Common tax forms you send to the IRS
- All non-residents must file this form whether or not they received income in the U.S. This form must be submitted by June 15. Please review this lesson from the IRS on how to file the 8843 as well as the link to the form.
- Failure to file this form will not result in a monetary penalty but could impact future tax filings and treaty claims.
- All prior year forms of the 8843 are available on the IRS website and can be submitted at any point.
- All non-resident aliens must file this form if they have received payment in the U.S. and have received either a W-2 or a 1042-S. This form is what determines taxes owed to the non-resident or to the U.S. government.
- All residents for tax purposes file this form if they have received payment in the U.S. and have received either a W-2 or 1042-S. This form is what determines taxes owed to the resident or to the U.S. government.
Tax Assistance at UMass Amherst
Every year student volunteers in the Isenberg School of Management assist UMass international students and scholars with tax return preparation under the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). Volunteers trained to assist with preparation of nonresident alien tax returns.
Each year between mid-January and April 15, persons who have income in the United States (including international students and researchers) are required to file income tax returns. Tax returns provide an opportunity to apply for money withheld in amounts greater than the actual tax liability refunded to the applicant. Please see their website for up to date information on availability.
Internal Revenue Services (IRS) and Massachusetts Department of Revenue Tax Forms and Publications
These IRS and Massachusetts Department of Revenue tax forms are commonly required by average international scholars:
- Form W-2: UMass Amherst or your US employer will generate this year-end summary of your income earned and tax withheld during the tax year. The form is available to paid employees through SPIRE by the end of January for the previous tax year. You must attach a copy of your W-2 to your Federal and State tax returns.
- Form W-4: This form should be completed with the UMass Amherst Payroll Office upon arrival to elect federal and state taxation. Resident or nonresident status for tax purposes should be determined before completing this form. Please note that if you change from nonresident status for tax purposes to resident status, you must inform Payroll, and if you wish to change the number of exemptions for dependents and/or change your marital status, you must file a new Form W-4 (only applicable for "resident aliens" for tax purposes). Form is generally generated by the Glacier Tax Compliance System.
- Form W-7: Used to obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for people who are not eligible for work authorization and therefore not eligible for Social Security Numbers. Visit this website for information on how to obtain this while on appointment or studying at UMass Amherst.
- Form 1040, 1040EZ: U.S. Individual Income Tax Return and Instruction forms used for filing as residents for tax purposes. The 1040EZ is for single and joint filers with no dependents.
- Form 1040 NR and 1040NR-EZ: U.S. Individual Income Tax Return and Instructions. Income tax forms used by those filing as nonresidents for tax purposes. Please review instructions to determine which form you would need to complete. Both forms must be accompanied by Form 8843.
- Form 1042 and 1042S: UMass Amherst or your US fellowship source will generate this year-end summary of grants received.
- Forms 1099 DIV, 1099 INT, and 1099 MISC: Year-end summary you receive for dividends (DIV), interest (INT) or other miscellaneous (MISC) income paid to you. Form 1099 INT generally given by a Bank if any interest is accumulated on that account in the US.
- Form 4868: Used to request an extension (until August 15) for filing your tax return. You can only request an extension for filing your tax return; if you owe any taxes, you must include a check to the IRS when you submit the extension request (with interest).
- Form 8233: Make an appointment to see the Payroll Office to file this form showing you are exempt from withholding of taxes if there is a tax treaty between your country's government and the United States.
- Form 8843: Must be completed by each scholar at UMass Amherst who is in J-1 or F-1 status and who is a nonresident alien for tax purposes.
- Form MA 1099-HC: Sent to you by your U.S. health insurance provider to report your health care coverage for your state tax return.
- Form 1095-B/1095-C - Health Coverage: Sent to you to by your U.S health insurance provider about your health care coverage for your federal tax return.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are scholarships and prize awards taxable?
Scholarships made to non-resident students will be taxable income for any portions of the scholarship greater than the student's educational expenses or any amount provided directly to the student by cash or check. Educational expenses include resident and non-resident fees, student activity fees, information technology fees, and any additional fees required by an academic department. The portion of scholarship or prize award determined to be taxable will be withheld at a minimum of 14% unless there is a tax treaty that exempts the scholarship income from withholding.
When should U.S. income tax forms be sent to the IRS?
- The tax year for individual income tax is January 1 to December 31. You are required to submit (or “file”) your tax return in the following year: by either April 15 or June 15, depending on which tax forms you have to file. Even if you are no longer living in the US when it’s time to file your tax return, you are still required to mail it to the IRS from abroad.
Will I receive any documents from UMass Amherst to help me complete my tax return?
- If you received any salary from UMass Amherst during the tax year, or your fellowship was paid through UMass Payroll, you will receive a summary statement called Form W-2 or Form 1042-S (or both) from the Payroll Office. You must have this/these forms in order to complete your tax return. Form W-2 will be available through HR Direct around the end of January and Form 1042-S, you will receive an email from Glacier once the 1042-S forms are available for downloading from inside GLACIER until April 15. Therefore, if you have not received your form(s) by mid-March, please contact the Payroll Office. If you will leave UMass Amherst before Form W-2 and/or 1042-S are issued, please be sure to notify the Payroll Office of your forwarding address before you leave UMass Amherst so they may mail Form W-2 and/or Form 1042-S to you. If you received any other income from another US source, you may get a Form W-2, Form 1042-S, or Form 1099 (miscellaneous income) from that other source as well.
Am I a resident or non-resident for tax purposes?
If you are unsure if you are a resident or non-resident for tax purposes, please see IRS Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens to refer to the substantial presence test.
A resident alien is subject to the same U.S. taxation withholding and reporting requirements as a U.S. citizen. For federal tax purposes, resident aliens are subject to tax on worldwide income, and tax treaty benefits may or may not apply. Form 1040 is the federal individual income tax return applicable to U.S. citizens and resident aliens.
Your “residency” status for tax purposes is completely separate from your designation for immigration purposes:
- For immigration purposes, a “nonresident alien” is a foreign national who is in the U.S. on a non-immigration visa.
- For U.S. tax purposes, a “nonresident alien” is a foreign national visa holder with certain U.S. tax filing requirements and U.S. tax withholding requirements.
You are a resident alien of the United States for tax purposes if you meet either of these tests for the calendar year (January 1 through December 31):
- The green card test (Lawful Permanent Resident)
- The substantial presence test for the calendar year
Even if you meet the substantial presence test, you can still be treated as a nonresident alien if you meet the closer connection requirements.
Exempt Individual: For the substantial presence test, do not count days for which you are an exempt individual. The term "exempt individual" does not refer to someone exempt from U.S. tax, but to anyone in the following category:
- A teacher or trainee temporarily present in the U.S. under a "J" or "Q" visa, who substantially complies with the requirements of the visa. This exemption generally applies for the individual’s first two calendar years in the U.S.
An exempt individual for purposes of the substantial presence test is considered a nonresident alien.
You are a nonresident alien if you are an alien (non-U.S. citizen) and do not meet either the green card test or substantial presence test. A nonresident alien is subject to tax on income from U.S. sources. Nonresident aliens may be required to file the nonresident alien individual income tax return (Form 1040-NR) and/or Form 8843. H-1B holders will automatically be considered a nonresident for tax purposes.
Form 8843: Even if you did not receive any U.S.-sourced income or a U.S. fellowship, you may be required to file Form 8843 (Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition), if you exclude days of presence in the U.S. for purposes of the substantial presence test because you were an exempt individual or were unable to leave the U.S. because of a medical condition.
A dual-status alien is an individual who is classified as both a U.S. resident alien and a nonresident alien in the same tax year. Dual-status does not refer to your citizenship, only to your resident status for tax purposes in the United States.
Typically, you will be classified as a dual-status alien during the tax year under the following circumstances:
- You arrived in the U.S. during the tax year and received permanent residency status (receive a green card) through your employment status or spouse.
- You entered the U.S. and passed the substantial presence test during the year (see below for more information about the substantial presence test).
- You held a J, F, M, or Q visa the first part of the year and received permanent residency status during the year.
- You left the United States permanently during a year in which you qualified as a tax resident. See IRS Publication 519 for more information on dual status aliens.
How do I file my taxes if I am a resident for tax purposes?
- If you are a resident alien for federal tax purposes, you may refer to the IRS website for information about free tax software.
Can I file my tax return for this year before I leave the U.S.?
- You cannot file your tax forms before the following tax season. If you will depart the U.S. before tax season, you must wait to file until after you have left the US. Unfortunately, the IRS does not release the tax forms and instructions until the tax filing season begins in January of each year.
My J-2 spouse works in the U.S. Can we file the tax return jointly?
- Unfortunately, the federal tax return cannot be filed jointly if you and your J-2 spouse are both nonresident aliens for federal tax purposes. Therefore, you must each file your own tax form (Form 1040NR) and select “married-filing separately” status.
If I cannot file my tax return on time, what do I do?
- If you are unable to file your tax return on time and want to know how to extend the filing deadline, you may consult with VITA or go to the IRS website and download Form 4868 “Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.” However, please note that this will not extend your deadline to pay your taxes. If you believe you owe taxes, you must submit your payment for all or part of the amount with Form 4868 by April 15.
I have not yet received my tax refund, when will I receive it?
- Please go to the Tax Refund FAQ on the IRS website to learn about a refund of tax withheld.
If you will leave the U.S. and not return in the future, but have not yet received your refund by the time you need to leave, you should notify the IRS of a new US address to which your refund can be sent. Perhaps you will tell IRS a new address for you “in care of” of a local friend or colleague. Make sure it is a reliable person to whom your refund will be sent, so it will not be stolen. And then make sure your friend or colleague knows your address overseas so your refund check can be forwarded to you abroad. Please read IRS Topic 157 Change of Address and this resource.
Please note: For legal reasons, the International Programs Office staff is not permitted to advise you about taxes and cannot answer questions about your personal tax situation.