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Introduction to US Taxes

DISCLAIMER: The following information is general guidance for the benefit of Tufts international students, scholars, and employees. The International Center is not authorized to provide specific tax guidance on individual tax situations. Additionally, the information below pertains to US federal government and state income taxes, not other taxes such as sales tax, property tax, or local excise taxes, such as taxes and fees on automobiles.

US Income Tax Basics

All international students, scholars, and employees have US income tax obligations. Knowing and following these tax obligations is essential to maintaining valid immigration status.

Income tax issues come up at two primary times:

  • When starting a job, or when receiving other taxable US income such as a taxable stipend (tax withholding). The US has a "pay-as-you go" tax system (see below), which means that income taxes can be withheld from you part when you start a job (or when receive other types of taxable income, such as a taxable scholarship or fellowship). In these situations, your employer or income provider may be required to withhold some of your income as taxes. See the information below about the "pay as you go" tax system. You may need to complete a Foreign Tax Analysis as well as other paperwork that determines how much taxes are withheld from your pay or stipend.
  • During the annual tax filing season (tax return filing). By April of every year, you may need to file a tax return or other tax form to report your tax situation for the previous tax year. For example, the tax year January 1 - December 31, 2022, the tax filing season starts in 2023 with a tax filing deadline of April 15. During the tax filing, you will report how much income you earned during the tax year, how much in tax was already withheld, and calculate whether you have a tax bill (you owe more tax) or can get a tax refund (you paid more tax than you owe).

Other Key Tax Concepts

Tax Resident versus Tax Non-Resident. The US federal government differentiates between tax residents (who are taxed in the same way as US citizens and permanent residents) and tax non-residents. Most international students and scholars will be non-residents, at least for their initial period of study or stay in the US. For example, F-1 students are usually considered tax non-residents for the first five years of physical presence in F-1 status. Tax residency will affect the definition of what counts as a taxable income, your tax benefits (including eligibility for tax treaty benefits), and how much tax may be withheld from your pay or other taxable income.

  • For Tufts employees (including student, staff, and faculty) who will be working or receiving taxable income from Tufts, click here to complete a Foreign Tax Analysis to¬†determine your tax residency and eligibility for tax treaty benefits

Federal and State Income Taxes: US income taxes can be at both the US federal (national) level as well as the state level. While the US federal government and states usually follow the same tax calendar, there are often different tax rules between the federal government and different states. For example, US federal taxes are managed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) while the Massachusetts Department of Revenue manages Massachusetts state tax requirements.

US Tax ID: Everyone with taxable income must have a tax ID number. For international students and scholars, any income based on employment (e.g., on-campus employment, practical training, H-1B employment) requires a US Social Security Number (SSN), which is a lifetime, permanent number. Persons with taxable scholarships that does not involve employment can apply for an Individual Taxpayer ID Number (ITIN). The ITIN is temporary and can be replaced by a SSN if and when eligible for the SSN.

Additional Information