Understanding Your U.S. Tax Obligations
All international students and scholars are required to file a U.S. (federal) tax return even if they do not have U.S. source income.
Below are a few things you need to know:
- The U.S. tax system is a pay-as-you go system in that there are usually automatic tax withholdings from your paycheck, stipend or financial aid. Unless you benefit from a U.S. tax treaty, this means that your available income may be reduced by tax withholdings. When you file your annual tax return in April for the preceding year, you will calculate the exact amount due. Some years you may get a refund and in others you may owe additional taxes.
- The tax year is from January 1 to December 31 of any given year. You file your tax return in the spring of the following year. OISS provides more specific tax filing information in the spring of each year, including access to a tax preparation software, Sprintax.
- Filing deadline for tax year 2022: The filing deadline to submit 2022 tax returns will be April 18, 2023.
- Access Codes for Sprintax Tax Preparation Services: OISS collaborates with Sprintax to provide access codes for F-1 and J-1 students and scholars who are considered non-residents for tax filing services to utilize the Sprintax tax preparation services. These codes are generally distributed by late February annually.
Sprintax Tax Preparation Service for International Students & Scholars
- As a courtesy, the OISS purchases access codes for NU international students and scholars to use Sprintax to complete, sign, and mail their required federal tax forms . In late Feb - March the OISS communicates via email with all F-1 and J-1 students and scholars the access code to receive the discount for federal tax filing through Sprintax.
- This code covers the student or scholar only, and only for those determined nonresidents for U.S. tax purposes as defined by the IRS.
- Based on your answers to a series of questions about the time you have spent in the US, immigration status(es) you held, and any U.S. source payments you have received, Sprintax software will determine your federal tax residency status (“nonresident alien” (NRA) or “resident alien”).
- The access code will cover the cost of the federal tax return preparation only. The access code DOES NOT cover the cost of any state tax return.
- If you need to file a state tax return, Sprintax can help you with this for a fee or you can elect to file the state tax return on your own or via another service.
- Review more information on Sprintax
NU Tax Workshops for International Students & Scholars
The OISS will offer online tax workshops with general tax information for international students and scholars. These workshops will be led by Alejandro Young of Young & Associates Tax and Accounting Services.
Upcoming Tax Workshop Dates:
Workshops for the 2022 tax season have concluded.
Zoom links to join the workshops will be published within a week of the workshop date. All times are local Chicago time.
General webinars offered through Sprintax Tax Service
Sprintax offers webinars for international students, scholars and professionals to learn about nonresident tax for the 2022 tax season. Topics will include who must file, tax residency, FICA, State returns, implications of misfiling and how to use Sprintax to file a compliant tax return.
All sprintax webinars for the 2022 tax year have concluded.
Human Resources Foreign Nationals Tax Team
International students and scholars who are employed by Northwestern University or those receiving a scholarship/fellowship from Northwestern will receive tax forms from NU each year. These forms are explained on the HR webpage for foreign nationals as well as information on:
- Determining U.S. Tax Residency
- Taxes and Scholarships, Fellowships & Grants
- Tax Treaty Benefits
- Social Security Numbers and Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN)
Questions for NU's HR Foreign Tax Team?
A representative from the HR Foreign Tax Team will be available for virtual and in person office hours on a FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE basis on following dates and times:
- Connect with the foreign tax team virtually via Zoom or in person; those joining via zoom will be in a virtual "waiting room" until your turn. You will be admitted in order of joining the call.
Upcoming Dates and Times: May 10, May 17, May 24, May 3111:00 AM - 12:00 PM via Zoom
12:00 - 1:00 PM in person at 630 Dartmouth (OISS)
Additional Tax Information
You may find these resources helpful especially if you decide NOT to use the Sprintax service.
- All students should fill out and file Form 8843(PDF), regardless if you had any income.
- Students with any income will also need to file Form 1040NR(PDF). They are the forms for nonresident aliens. Check the front page of the forms to be sure you have the correct form. Note that the form 1040 is NOT the one for a nonresident alien.
- Other information for students and scholars can be found on the Internal Revenue Service website.
- Your country may have a tax treaty with the United States that affects your tax obligations. If that is the case, you must attach a Form 8833 (PDF) to your return stating how the treaty affects you.
- You may also have an obligation to file a return with the State of Illinois if you lived or worked in Illinois in the previous calendar year. Here is the IL-1040(PDF). If you have any questions on filing Illinois state tax forms, you can contact or visit the Illinois Department of Revenue . State tax assistance is available in the department. You may also purchase a service to fill out state tax forms, for instance, IL-1040, from Sprintax. The 2022 Illinois Tax Filing deadline is April 18, 2023.
- If you lived and/or worked in more than one U.S. state during the calendar year you may have to file tax returns in all the states in which you lived or worked that have state income tax. You should check the state revenue website of the other state(s) where you lived and worked to figure out your tax filling obligations. You can find information on other states at the Federation of Tax Administrators