An Introduction to Tax Preparation & Filing in the US
** U.S. Tax Day Deadline Extended to Wed. July 15! Don't wait though - file today and get any refund due NOW **
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. government agency responsible for collecting taxes. Understanding and filing taxes can be challenging, even for most Americans and U.S. residents (including ISO staff!). Many rely on the work of tax specialists or use tax-preparation software to help prepare their tax forms.
To help you through this process, we have provided access to Sprintax, a specialized online software, to help prepare tax documents for international students and scholars. It is important that you understand that ALL international students are responsible for filing taxes each year of stay in the US, regardless of if you earned income or not. It is also important to understand that most tax software systems (like Turbotax) are set up for US residents; if you choose to use a different tax software system other than Sprintax, you must ensure that you are using one that is geared towards non-residents and that takes into account tax treaties across different countries. Similarly, if you hire a tax professional, it is important to make sure that the professional specializes in “non-residents for tax purposes” filings. Otherwise, you may accidentally use tax credits that you do not qualify for - this may lead to severe problems with immigration down the line so it is very important that you avoid this mistake!
Spring 2020 Tax Resources
- Sprintax Software Access - Goes Live on Monday, March 9
- Access is available to current non-resident international students and students currently on OPT. All students may use the system to file a form 8843 for $14.95. If you worked in the US in 2019, you must also file federal taxes and may need to file state taxes. If you earned income in 2019, you may request a Sprintax Access Code Request Form (2019 Tax Year) to file Form 8843 and Federal taxes for just $20 (save $16). Your code will be issued within 3-5 business days after payment is received (see detailed instructions below). The last day to request a code is Wednesday, July 1 by 5 pm.
- Missed the Sprintax Tax Preparation Webinar on Thursday, March 5? Listen to it here!
- This live webinar is highly recommended for all students who worked in the US in 2019. A Sprintax representative will explain the basics of the US tax system and how to maximize your return using Sprintax. There will be time at the end of the session to take your questions. Students on OPT will receive a link to join the live webinar.
Sprintax Videos - Check out helpful videos online at https://www.youtube.com/user/Sprintax/videos
Do you need to file from your home country? Please read Sprintax' blog post on this topic.
Curious about the stimulus package and whether or not you will qualify? Read Sprintax's blog post and video here. It contains instructions on returning the payment if you wrongly received it. You can also watch Sprintax's Special Webinar Recording on the Stimulus Payment and Amended Returns. It is important to return the stimulus if you do not qualify to avoid future tax or immigration issues.
GCC ISO provides access to Sprintax to help you navigate the challenges and complexities of tax preparation. Sprintax Non-Resident Tax Preparation is software designed specifically for international students in the U.S. on F, J, M and Q visas, to make tax preparation easy and to ensure you are fully compliant with the IRS tax rules.
We encourage all international students to take advantage of Sprintax to prepare their taxes. Please note that each person is unique and Sprintax may not be suitable for a small number of our international students who have been in the United States for longer than 5 years. All international students should log-on to Sprintax to determine eligibility.
Eligible international students and scholars may request an access code to file their 2019 taxes by completing the Sprintax Access Code Request Form (2019 Tax Year). See instructions in the section below. Codes will be issued beginning March 9. Your code will be issued within 3-5 business days from the day we start issuing codes or the day you submit the form (whichever is later). The last day to request a code is Wednesday, April 8 at 5 pm.
Using Sprintax is easy! For a general overview of how to use Sprintax, please click here or watch this video. Step 1 will be to request a Sprintax Access Code from GCC ISO if you worked in the US in 2019. Follow the instructions sent in email to complete the purchase of your discount code. If you did not work in 2019, you may proceed to step 2.
Step 2 is to create an account (if you are a new user), or log into your existing Sprintax account at https://www.sprintax.com/glendale. If you are having trouble, please contact Sprintax directly for assistance. ISO staff cannot help with this process.
Once you have logged-on to Sprintax the software will ask you questions to customize your experience, and to help accurately populate the documents that may be produced for you. It will also determine if you are eligible to use Sprintax to prepare your taxes, or if you need to use a different type of software (for those considered “residents-for-tax-purposes”).
Please note that you may also prepare Tax Form 8843 on your own - using Sprintax is not required if you wish to do it on your own. You will find a link to the IRS page in the helpful links section below.
A note on the “Credit Card” payment to Sprintax: For students with a discount code to file Federal Taxes and the Form 8843, there will be a field to enter the Sprintax Access Code, which you must request from GCC ISO. No additional fee will be charged for these filings.
All GCC international students may access Sprintax for the following:
- Determine your “residency for tax purposes”
- Non-resident federal tax preparation
- Built-in knowledge of over 350 different types of tax deductions
- 65 international tax treaty agreements and exemptions covered
- Maximum legal tax refunds for federal, state & medicare (*Please see note regarding state taxes below).
- US tax compliance guaranteed
Students who earned income in 2019: You may request to purchase a code for $20 that will allow you to file form Form 8843 and Federal Taxes for just $20 (save $19.95). IF you did not earn income in 2019, you do not need to request a code and may file Form 8843 for $14.95. Please note that you may also prepare Tax Form 8843 on your own - using Sprintax is not required if you wish to do it on your own. You will find a link to the IRS page in the helpful links section below.
State Tax Preparation: Sprintax can also conduct non-resident state tax preparation, for an additional fee. The majority of GCC international students will not have to file state taxes. Please use Sprintax to determine your State Tax Filing responsibility.
ITIN Application Information: For students who are not eligible for a Social Security Number Sprintax can help prepare the ITIN application, for an additional fee.
GCC ISO provides access to Sprintax Non-Resident Federal Tax Preparation and Form 8843 for current students and for students who completed their program in 2019 and are currently on OPT.
Please complete this form to request an access code to file for $20 if you earned income in 2019. Follow the instructions received in email to complete the purchase of your code. After receiving your code, access the system to file your taxes.
If you did not earn income in 2019, you do not need to request a code and may file the Form 8843 for $14.95 by accessing Sprintax. You may also choose to prepare Tax Form 8843 on your own (without using Sprintax). You will find a link to the IRS page in the helpful links section below.
Please note that the access code from ISO does not cover the cost for filing state taxes. If you are directed to prepare state taxes, you may choose to pay Sprintax to prepare your state taxes at an additional cost.
Sprintax provides extensive, easy to access support* in the following ways:
- Live Chat
- Toll-Free Phone Number Phone Support
- FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions page, addressing Sprintax questions, as well as general tax questions)
- Sprintax Blog (searchable by keyword)
*Please note that it is far easier to contact Sprintax in the early part of tax season, when fewer people may be doing the same. The closer to Tax Day, the more busy their Live Chat and telephone lines. We recommend preparing your taxes as soon as you are able.
This list covers the most commonly needed documents. It does not cover all possible required documents. Additional documents may be needed based on your situation.
- US Entry and Exit Dates for current and all past visits to the US
- All tax forms (if you received any), including Forms W-2, 1042-S and/or 1099
- Visa/Immigration Status information, including Form DS-2019 (for J visa holders) or Form I-20 (for F visa holders)
- Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
- If you do not have an ITIN, Sprintax can help you get one!
- If you are using Sprintax for State Tax Returns(s) preparation only, you will need a copy of your already prepared Federal Tax Return (for the current and previous years, if you filed any)
- Please note that you do not need Form 1098-T in Sprintax.
If Sprintax determines that you are to be classified as a “resident-for-tax-purposes”, and therefore ineligible to use Sprintax, you may consider the following options:
- Use the same tax preparation software that U.S. citizens or permanent residents use (Click here for a comparison of major vendors.)
- Access free assistance through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA).
- Visit a local tax preparation office. (Click here for descriptions of these type of services).
Please note: Only use the options in this section if Sprintax determines that you are a “resident-for-tax-purposes.” Using the options listed in this section as a non-resident may not take your international student status into account, and may incorrectly calculate your tax liability.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – International Tax Payer Page
Sprintax Access Code Request Form – 2019 Tax Year (for students who earned income in 2019) - you will receive your code in 3-5 business days. Codes will begin being issued March 9. The last day to request a code is Wednesday, April 8 at 5 pm. Please follow the instructions in the email you will receive to complete purchase of your code. After receiving your code, please access Sprintax to file your taxes.
Sprintax Non-Resident Tax Preparation Software (for all students)
Sprintax Frequently Asked Questions – International Student Taxes
California State Taxes – Filing Information