International students and scholars physically present in the U.S. for any part of 2019 are legally required to file tax documentation by April 15, 2020. (**The state of North Carolina and the federal government has extended the filing deadline to July 15, 2020 due to COVID-19. However, not all states have extended their deadlines. See below for more information.**) This is true regardless of whether you received any income in 2019.
To help you with your tax filing responsibilities, OIS has arranged free access to Sprintax Tax Preparation software. Sprintax will guide you through the tax preparation process, arrange the necessary tax forms, and check to see if you owe taxes or are due a tax refund. We have also arranged a free webinar that explains your tax filing responsibilities in more detail. You can watch the Sprintax webinar here.
You may access the webinar and request an access code to the Sprintax software here.
(New!) COVID-Related Tax Questions
Q: Is the filing deadline still April 15? A: The federal government has extended the filing deadline to July 15, 2020. The state of North Carolina has also extended their deadline to July 15. However, not all states have extended their deadlines. For example, Virginia state taxes are due on June 1. If you worked in a state other than North Carolina in 2019, you should refer to that state’s Department of Revenue website to see your filing responsibilities.
Q: Am I eligible to receive the stimulus check (officially known as the Economic Impact Payment)? A: Eligibility depends on your resident tax status as explained below:
- If you are a nonresident alien for tax purposes and you filed your 2019 tax return as a nonresident alien, you should not receive this payment as you are not eligible.
- If you are a resident alien for tax purposes and you filed your 2019 tax return as a resident alien, you were not expressly prohibited from receiving the payment; however, if you receive it, you may not want to spend it right away in case the IRS requests this payment back in future. You still have to meet the other eligibility requirements, such as having a Social Security number and earning less than a certain income. If you do receive the stimulus check, you will likely have to report this payment on a future tax return.
Q: How can I claim the Economic Impact Payment if I was a nonresident alien in 2019 but became a resident alien in 2020? A: You can claim this payment on your 2020 tax return and receive it at that time.
Q: How do I know what tax residency status I filed under for 2019? A: Simply review the form you filed and check the name of the form (typically found in the top right or left-hand corner of the form). If you filed a 1040NR form, then you filed as a nonresident alien. If you filed a 1040 or 1040EZ, then you filed as a resident alien.
Q: What should I do if I incorrectly filed as a resident alien for 2019? A: If you filed incorrectly as a resident alien and should have filed as a nonresident alien, you must file an amended return for all incorrect years. This involves filing two forms (1040X and 1040NR), which Sprintax can help with. You may use Sprintax to file your amended return even if you did not originally use Sprintax to file. If you owe any taxes based on your amended return documents, you should pay any back taxes owed. Separately from the amended tax return, you should return the stimulus check (if you received it). The IRS has provided instructions on how to return payment checks here. Be sure you mail it with a trackable service and make copies of any documentation related to returning the stimulus check to keep for your records.
Q: What should I do if I received the stimulus check but do not think I was eligible? A: You should return the check if you were not a resident alien in 2019 or 2020. The IRS has provided instructions on how to return payment checks here. Be sure you mail it with a trackable service and make copies of any documentation related to returning the stimulus check to keep for your records.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I was only physically present for one day in 2019. Do I still need to file a tax return? A: Yes! You at least have to file Form 8843 if you were physically present in the U.S. for any part of 2019.
Q: Am I able to file from my home country? A: Yes, you can mail in your tax return forms from your home country. You will need to mail the hard copies of your forms to the IRS.
Q: Can I get an extension on the deadline to file my tax return? A: Yes, you may apply for an extension. However, the extension application is still due by the original deadline. You may visit the IRS website for more information on extensions.
Q: I am currently on STEM OPT. Can I use Sprintax to file my tax forms? A: Sprintax will determine whether or not you are a Nonresident Alien for tax purposes, and therefore eligible to use their software. If you are not, they will direct you to another tax filing software. You can watch the Sprintax webinar to determine your tax filing responsibilities and whether or not you can use Sprintax.
Q: Sprintax kicked me out and told me I was a Resident Alien (RA) for tax purposes. What do I do now? A: Sprintax should direct you to another tax filing software that can be used by Resident Aliens. This may include TurboTax, H&R Block, or another tax filing software. RAs can use the same tax filing software as U.S. citizens. The federal form you file will be either the 1040 or 1040-EZ. If you are living in North Carolina, you will file the form D-400.
Q: Do I have to use my NC State email address to create a Sprintax account? A: No, it should not matter which email address you use to create your account.
Q: I received a scholarship in 2019. Do I need to file a tax return? A: Most likely yes, if your scholarship was from a U.S. source. Sprintax will help you determine whether or not you need to file a return for this income.
Q: I worked out-of-state on CPT in 2019. Do I need to file a tax return? A: Yes, if you worked anywhere in the U.S. in 2019, you must file. Sprintax will help you determine if you need to file a state(s) tax return.
Q: How do I know if I am a Nonresident Alien for tax purposes? A: Your tax residency status depends on your visa type and how long you’ve been in the U.S. as explained below:
International students on F visas or in the student categories of J visas are typically considered Nonresident Aliens for tax purposes for the first 5 years in the U.S. After this period you will be subject to the Substantial Presence Test, which is used to determine if someone was in the U.S. long enough to be considered a resident for tax purposes. Sprintax will run the Substantial Presence Test for you to determine your tax residency.
International scholars on the J visa in the scholar categories are typically considered Nonresident Aliens for tax purposes for the first 2 years in the U.S. After this period you will be subject to the Substantial Presence Test, which is used to determine if someone was in the U.S. long enough to be considered a resident for tax purposes. Sprintax will run the Substantial Presence Test for you to determine your tax residency.
Q: I only worked for one week in 2019 and never picked up my paycheck. Do I need to file a tax return? A: It may not be necessary to file if you did meet a certain income threshold in 2019, but it may still be in your benefit to file in case you are due a tax refund. Either way, you will need to file Form 8843. Sprintax will help you determine whether or not you need to file a full return.
Q: Do I have to pay taxes on income I received from my home country? A: As long as you are a Nonresident Alien for tax purposes, the U.S. will not tax your income from non-U.S. sources. If you are a Resident Alien for tax purposes, you are taxed on your worldwide income, but you may be eligible for a tax credit on your U.S. federal tax return. Turbo Tax, Tax Act, H&R Block and other similar software programs can help you determine if you are eligible for the foreign tax credit.
Q: Do I need to file separate 8843s for myself and each of my dependents? A: If your dependents are on F-2 or J-2 visas (and not U.S. citizens), then yes, you will need to file a separate Form 8843 for each.
Q: I need an ITIN – how do I apply? A: Sprintax will assist you with completing the ITIN application, which you will mail in with your tax return.