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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.

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 in person office hours OR virtual via zoom Wednesdays from 12:00 - 3:00 PM.

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. 

Workshops for the 2023 tax year will be held in early 2024. Dates and details will be posted here, so please check back in early 2024.

If you need to hire a tax professional:

OISS recommends Alejandro Young of Young & Associates, LLC, an income tax and accounting services firm that specializes in all areas of US tax preparation, compliance, and problem resolution.

Sprintax Webinars

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.

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 

An Important Disclaimer

This information is intended only for international students and scholars with income sources and level typical of students and scholars at Northwestern University. Although the information contained in this site has been reviewed carefully and should be adequate to assist most international students and scholars, it is not a substitute for advice obtained from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or a qualified tax accountant. If your visa status has changed in the past year, or you believe you have a complicated tax issue, please consult the IRS or a qualified tax accountant. 

In addition, while the tax preparation software, Sprintax, is being provided to help you with your tax filing obligations, you are individually responsible for verifying that the correct information has been entered into the tax preparation software and included on all forms and/or other documents printed or derived from the tax preparation software, and ultimately responsible for any errors or omissions.