Important Disclaimer: The following information is general guidance for the benefit of Tufts international students, scholars, and employees. The International Center staff are not qualified tax specialists and we are unable to provide specific tax guidance on individual cases.
Who must file tax forms for the 2020 tax filing season?
If you were physically in the US in F or J status anytime between January 1 - December 31, 2020 you're obligated to send one form, Form 8843, to the US tax agency IRS (Internal Revenue Service), even if you had no income. In addition, for the 2020 tax season, if you earn $1 of US source income or greater, 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).
Tax Filing Deadline
May 17, 2021 is the last day for residents and non-residents who earned US income to file Federal tax returns for 2020.
Resident versus Non-Resident for Federal Tax Purposes
Generally, most international students & scholars who are on F, J, M or Q visas are considered non-residents for tax purposes. International undergraduate students on J1 & F1 visas are automatically considered non-resident for their first 5 calendar years in the US, whilst Scholars/Researchers on J visas are automatically considered non-residents for 2 out of the last 6 calendar years in the US. If you’ve been in the US for longer than the 5 or 2 year periods, the Substantial Presence Test will determine your tax residency.
How to File Your Tax Forms
We have teamed up with Sprintax to provide you with easy-to-use tax preparation software designed for non-resident students and scholars in the U.S. We (and all other university staff) are not qualified or allowed to provide individual tax advice.
After you login to Sprintax, it will ask you a series of questions about the time you have spent in the United States and in which immigration status, looking back over a period of 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 it to respond to a series of guided questions. Sprintax will complete and generate the forms you need to print, sign, and mail to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). If it determines you are a resident alien for federal tax purposes, you won't be able to continue using the software.
Step 1: Gather the documents you may need for Sprintax
Visa/Immigration information, including form I-20 (F status) or form DS-2019 (J status)
Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (if you have one)
This is not needed if you had no income and the 8843 is the only form you have to file.
This form reports your wage earnings if you worked. If you had more than one employer you should get a W-2 from each employer. It is issued by the end of January for the previous year. Make sure all employers from last year have an up-to-date address for you.
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 (e.g. by the semester as a note-taker)
If you received this type of income, the 1042-S will be mailed to you by March 15th.
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.
U.S. entry and exit dates for current and past visits to the U.S.
In addition to passport stamps, you can review or print your U.S.travel history here
This form reports miscellaneous income. Can be interest on bank accounts, stocks, bonds, dividends, earning through freelance employment
This form is NOT needed and can NOT be used for a non-resident tax return because nonresidents are not eligible to claim education expense tax credits.
You will receive an email from the International Center 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 log in using your existing credentials.
After you finish your federal return, Sprintax will inform you if you need to complete a state tax return. If so, they will give you the option to use Sprintax for an individual fee. However, it is your choice to use them or to do the state tax return on your own.
Step 5: Mail Your Completed Federal and/or State Forms to IRS and/or State Tax Authorities