Understanding Your U.S. Tax Obligations

ALL international students and scholars are required to file a U.S. tax return even if you do not have U.S. source income. 

If you receive U.S. source income, including wages, stipend, or scholarship funds, you will have a tax liability for that income. There may be automatic tax withholdings from your paycheck, stipend or financial aid, meaning in some cases your U.S. source income will be reduced by the tax withholdings.

How the ISSO Can Assist You

To make things easier for you, Brandeis University has teamed up with Sprintax, an online tool specifically designed for international students and scholars that helps you prepare your federal and state tax return in less than 20 minutes! 

ISSO staff are not tax experts and therefore cannot help you prepare your return nor provide you with tax advice.

Do you REALLY need to file? Yes, yes you do!

ALL international students and scholars who were in the U.S. for any period of time during any calendar year must file a federal income tax return. And some international students and scholars will need to file a state tax return. If you did not have any U.S. source income, you will ONLY file Form 8843 (PDF). If you have U.S. source income, your next step is to determine your tax filing status.


Filing Your Tax Return

(1) Determine your tax filing status

Before you begin your tax return, you will need to determine your tax filing statusnonresident or resident. Most Brandeis international students and scholars will be nonresident tax filers. However, some of you will be resident tax filers even though you have a nonimmigrant visa status. It is important to file in the correct status. If you do not know your tax filing status, Sprintax will help you determine it. Sprintax is only available for nonresident tax filers, so if Sprintax determines you are a resident for tax purposes, ISSO will refund your Sprintax fee.

(2) Collect your income statements

Before you begin your tax return using Sprintax, you will need to collect your income statements. If you had U.S. source income you will receive one or more forms from the Brandeis Payroll Office indicating the type, source and amount of income received:

  • W-2 form - issued by the end of January for wages earned

  • 1042-S form - issued by March 15th for stipend, scholarship, fellowship income, as well as for income covered by a tax treaty

  • 1099 form - issued for miscellaneous income

  • Schedule H-C - issued by your health insurance company to confirm your health insurance coverage (KEEP this form as you may need it if you file a MA state tax return)

If do not receive these form(s) or have moved away, please request a duplicate form from Brandeis Payroll.

(3) Use Sprintax to complete your tax return(s)

If you received no U.S. source income in 2018, you do not need to use Sprintax; instead, file Form 8843 (PDF) on your own.

If you received any U.S. source income in 2018, wait until you have all your income statements before you begin the filing process.

Purchase Sprintax at the ISSO

Come in person with your Brandeis ID and $4 cash (no checks or credit cards are accepted) to purchase your Sprintax software access code. Codes cannot be purchased via email or over the phone.

The $4 pays for Sprintax software for your federal income tax return. If you need to file a state income tax return, you can pay an additional amount via Sprintax OR you can file your state return using another tax resource of your choice.

Get Started With Sprintax

  1. Register with Sprintax

  2. Complete each section

  3. Sprintax will prepare your tax return

  4. Your return will be available for download in your online account.

(4) Print, sign and mail your return

Sprintax will populate the appropriate federal and state income tax forms for you. This software does not submit your tax filing electronically. You must print and sign the forms, attach the appropriate copies of your income statements and follow the instructions to mail them to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Keep copies of your returns

(5) State Income Tax Filing

Sprintax can help file your MA State Income Tax Return for an additional fee. 

The State of Massachusetts (through the Department of Revenue Services) requires an annual report of income, and assesses tax on the same type of income that is taxed by the federal government. Individuals who earned less than the minimum filing requirement do not have to file. However, if any tax was withheld by the employer, the individual would want to file a return in order to be refunded for the withholding.

(6) Did your employer withhold Social Security or Medicare taxes in error?

All residents and “resident aliens for tax purposes” are required to pay a Social Security tax (FICA and Medicare). “Nonresident aliens for tax purposes” are exempt from this tax. If your employer had Social Security or Medicare taxes withheld in error, you can file a refund request with the IRS.

(7) Protect yourself from IRS scam phone calls & emails

Tax scams take many different forms. Recently, the most common scams are phone calls and emails from thieves who pretend to be from the IRS. They use the IRS name, logo or a fake website to try to steal your money. They may try to steal your identity too. Here are several tips from the IRS to help you avoid being a victim of these tax scams.