More information, including access codes and instructions will be available shortly about the use of web-based software to assist in the preparation of your tax returns. Please remember that international students and scholars may not file the returns electronically, but must print them out and send them through the mail, with the W-2 attached, as the software will direct you.
We have prepared an overview of the U.S. tax system. Please remember that the International Student and Scholar Center staff is NOT qualified to provide any group or individual tax advice or assistance.
The information discusses the basics of the following topics:
- What is a tax?
- Who is required to file income tax paperwork (tax returns)?
- A word about tax treaties
- The Glacier system
- Resources for filing fax returns
- Some examples of tax deductions
- Some examples of income statements and forms
- Massachusetts tax forms for state filing
The U.S. Government, like most governments, collects a tax on money that employees earn. The state in which you work, and sometimes the local city or town in which you live, also collect taxes based on income people earn while employed. The tax pays for the administration and services of government at the federal, state, or local level.
The U.S. income tax structure can be very confusing. The amount taken out of an employee's paycheck by the U.S. Government and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will differ depending on different variables. These matters are explained further in Publication 519 (US Tax Guide for Aliens) and Publication 901 (Tax Treaties.) If you choose to read the lengthy and complex explanations in these publications, please don't become alarmed or discouraged. There are many resources you can use to help you understand and file your annual income tax paperwork (also called tax returns.)
Most people who were legally employed in the United States in a calendar year (Jan-Dec) by a US-based employer are required to file tax forms (or tax returns) both with the U.S. Government's Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the state in which you are employed (Massachusetts, in most cases.) There is a filing deadline of April 15 each year for the previous calendar year's (Jan.-Dec.) tax information.
If you are employed by the University, when you were processed through Student Employment or the University Payroll system, you received information about tax treaties and Form 8233 if you were eligible for tax treaty status. The following page on the Human Resources website has a non-resident alien tax compliance link with information about Form 8233:
The United States has income tax treaties with various countries. Since each treaty is independently negotiated, no general rule applies to all. Each treaty article must be looked at individually. Although a tax treaty may exempt you from paying income tax, you are still required to file an income tax return during tax reporting season (from January 1 - April 15th of every year).
When you are hired by the University, you will receive instructions about logging into the GLACIER system. You will be asked to enter information about your visa type, your home country, how long you have been in the U.S., and so on. The program will determine what payroll and tax forms you need to complete (such as 8433) and what document copies (visa, passport) should be submitted.
More information, including access codes and instructions will be available later in the year about the use of web-based software to assist in the preparation of your tax returns. Please remember that international students and scholars may not file the returns electronically, but must print them out and send them through the mail, with the W-2 attached, as the software will direct you.
Many citizens and permanent residents hire tax experts or use software to assist them in completing their forms, especially if they are filing an itemized form; that is, if they are claiming specific exemptions and deductions on the income tax return rather than just claiming a standard, pre-set, allowance for exemptions and deductions calculated by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. This is a good practice, but please bear in mind that there is no guarantee that the software or the experts take tax treaties into consideration.
Please remember that the International Student and Scholar Center staff is NOT qualified to provide any group or individual tax advice or assistance.
Federal Government income taxes - this program is administered by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Massachusetts State income taxes - you will find a link below for publications and forms.
The W-2 is issued by employers in the US shows your total earnings for 2012, what was deducted for US Federal tax, Massachusetts tax, and any other deductions relevant to filing taxes. The W-2 form is usually issued sometime in January and has multiple copies with the same information. One copy is sent with your US federal tax return and one is sent when you file your Massachusetts state tax return. Usually there is a taxpayer copy you may keep for your own files. Some people have multiple W-2 forms if they had multiple employers. Some people may have been employed as independent contractors, and in this case you will receive a different income statement, a Form 1099, to be used when filing your tax returns.
Students and scholars who have worked at the University in the calendar year (Jan-Dec) and whose earnings were subject to a tax treaty will receive Form 1042-S through the electronic system and software that Student Employment and the Payroll Office use to manage tax treaty information. This form must be completed. Usually a tax treaty works to your benefit and saves you some money, because without a tax treaty, you are taxed as if you were a US citizen. If you do not receive a 1042 S, your country may not have a tax treaty with the US or the tax treaty may have expired. The 1042-S is not available until mid-March and must be sent in with your Federal tax returns.
An example of the kind of income to be reported on the Form 1042-S is income received from scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships, when the amount awarded is higher than the amount charged for tuition and fees you pay to the University. Students who have ONLY a TA or RA fee waiver or a scholarship less than their charges will NOT be issued a Form 1042-S.
ALL students receive a 1098-T form from the Bursar's Office if they were enrolled in courses during any part of the year 2012. It indicates the amount paid to the University as tuition and fees. International students do not use 1098-T for tax purposes. Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents use this form when filing their tax returns.
You may have also received an HC-1099 form from your health insurance company. This indicates that you had health insurance in Massachusetts for at least part of 2012. This form is necessary for your Massachusetts tax submission. The law requires that anyone living in the state must have health insurance. If you file a Massachusetts income tax form you must submit this form with your filing. If you do not receive this form and had either the Student Health Insurance, or some other Massachusetts-based health insurance, please get in touch with the health plan directly: http://www.universityhealthplans.com/contact.cgi. If your health insurance is provided by an out-of-state insurer, you will need to report the name of the company when filing your Massachusetts income tax returns.
Massachusetts (state) Tax Forms
The Massachusetts forms are available at http://www.dor.state.ma.us/. We recommend that you do your US federal taxes first because you can use some of that information to aid you in completing your Massachusetts (MA) forms. Also, the Massachusetts forms cannot be completed using web-based software that will be available for your federal taxes.
The Massachusetts forms require that for the purposes of taxation ONLY, you determine whether you use the Resident or Non-Resident tax form for the Massachusetts filing only.
This is often confusing for international students and scholars, since the word "Resident" has one meaning when talking about immigration status and another meaning when talking about income tax matters. For tax purposes, "Resident" means the number of days you lived (resided) in Massachusetts in 2012. If you spent more than 183 days in Massachusetts, then you should use the "Resident" tax form. Using a "Resident" Massachusetts tax form does not mean you change your immigration status. It means only the amount of time you lived in the state during the year 2012.