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Sprintax Tax Preparation Software

For international students and scholars who are considered non-resident filers

About Sprintax

OISS has teamed up with Sprintax to provide F-1 and J-1 international students and scholars with a unique access code for Sprintax, an easy-to-use tax preparation software designed for nonresident students and scholars in the U.S. 

By late February 2024, the unique access code providing a waiver of the  Federal tax filing fee will be sent to qualifying F-1 & J-1 international students and scholars who were part of the Northwestern community during tax year 2023.

There are a limited number of Sprintax codes offered by Northwestern’s OISS for each tax year. Please file as early as possible. We usually have enough codes for all our international students and scholars (who are considered non-resident tax filers); however, we cannot guarantee a Sprintax discount code, especially after the April tax deadline.

The code does NOT cover state tax preparation fees

Sprintax can do your state taxes as well for an additional fee. OISS does not provide discount codes for preparation of state taxes. 

Sprintax is only for non-resident tax filers

After you login to Sprintax, you will be asked a series of questions about the time you have spent in the US over recent years. Sprintax will then determine your tax status. If it determines that you are a “nonresident alien” (NRA) for federal tax purposes, you can continue to use the software and respond to a series of guided questions. Sprintax will then complete and generate the tax forms you need to send to the tax authorities. Watch this Video about Residency Status from Sprintax.

However, if Sprintax determines that you are a resident alien for federal tax purposes, you won’t be able to continue using the software. Read more about Residency for Tax Purposes below.

US Tax filing Obligations for International Students and Scholars

Watch this short video from Sprintax to learn more:

 Read on to learn more:

What will Sprintax help me with?

Sprintax will help you… 

  • determine which tax forms you need to complete. 
  • determine your “residency for tax purposes.” 
  • determine if are eligible for tax treaty benefits or a standard deduction. 
  • assist with completion of the Form 8843 or Form 1040NR as appropriate. 
  • prepare a completed federal tax form for you to print, sign, and mail in and what documents to attach to it. 

How do I get started?

After you receive your Sprintax access code from OISS and have gathered the required documents (see next question below), go to Sprintax, create an account (or login to your account if you have one from last year), and complete the online questionnaire. 

 You will be asked a series of questions about the time  you have spent in the US over recent years. Sprintax will then determine your tax  status. If it determines that you are a “nonresident alien” (NRA) for federal tax purposes, you can continue to use the software and respond to a series of guided  questions. Sprintax will then complete and generate the tax forms you need to send to the tax authorities.

However, if Sprintax determines that you are a resident alien for federal tax purposes, you won’t be able to continue using the software.

What should I do if I've forgotten my password for Sprintax?

You can reset your password by clicking the “Forgot your password?” link in the log-in area. Sprintax will then send you a password reset email to the email address you gave us. If you don't see a password reset email in your inbox, be sure to check your spam folder in case it’s gone there.

Please make sure you use a valid and current email address and the same one that you used to register with Sprintax.

What documents do I need in order to use Sprintax?

 You will need the following… 

  • Sprintax access code available from OISS  (in late Feb/early March)
  • Passport 
  • I-20 or DS-2019 
  • Social Security Number (SSN) or ITIN if you had any US sources of income
    (Note: a SSN or ITIN is not needed if you had not income and the Form 8843 is the only form you have to file.)
  • US entry and exit dates found stamped in your passport or accessed in the travel history portion of your I-94 record on the CBP website 
  • Foreign and US addresses 
  • Tax forms that have been mailed to you or that you have accessed from the University (including, but not limited to W-2, 1042-S, and 1099). Be aware that you may not have any of these, or you may have more than one. For example, the W-2 is used by an employer to report how much salary they paid to an employee during a year, and what taxes were withheld, and a copy of the W-2 is sent to the employee. If you did not work as an employee, you will not receive a W-2. If you worked for 3 different employers in the same tax year, you should receive a W-2 from each of them.  See chart to below to understand various tax forms:

Tax Form



This form reports your wage earnings if you worked.

If you had more than one employer you should get a W-2 from each employer. It is issued by the  end of January for the previous year. Make sure all employers from last year have an up-to-date  address for you.

If you did NOT work, you will not receive a W-2.


This form is used to report:

  1. Stipend, scholarship, fellowship income and travel grants (not tuition reduction or exemption)
  2. Income covered by a tax treaty
  3. Payment for other types of services (eg by the semester as a note-taker)

If you received this type of income, the 1042-S will be mailed to you by 15 March by the payer.

Note: Only Nonresident Aliens receive this form. If your tax status changes to a Resident Alien you will not get a 1042-S. Sprintax can help you check your tax status if you’re not sure.
Form 1099 This form reports miscellaneous income. Can be interest on bank accounts, stocks, bonds, dividends, earning through freelance employment
Form 1098 This form is NOT needed and can NOT be used for a nonresident tax return because Non-resident Aliens are not eligible  to claim education expense tax credits. If you think you MIGHT eligible, see more info on our webpage about the 1098-T.

Understanding "Residency" for tax purposes

There are three main types of residency for tax purposes in the US:

  • residents
  • non-residents
  • dual-status aliens

***Most F-1 visa holders will be considered non-residents for tax purposes.***

Substantial presence test

You’ll be considered a resident for tax purposes if you pass the Substantial Presence Test.

The IRS uses the substantial presence test to determine whether an individual who is not a US citizen or a US permanent resident should be taxed as a resident or a nonresident alien for a specific year. The main difference is that US residents are taxed on their worldwide income while nonresident aliens have to report only their US-sourced income.

With this test, you’ll need to be present in the US on at least:

  • 31 days or more throughout the current year, and
  • 183 days or more in the period of 3 years that includes both the current year and the 2 years before that, this includes:
  • All of the days you were physically in the US within the current year, and
  • 1/3 of the days you were physically present in the US within the first year before the current year, and
  • 1/6 of the days you were physically present in the US within second year before the current year.

What is a nonresident for tax purposes?

If you do not pass the substantial presence test you will be classified as a nonresident alien for tax purposes. This means you will only be taxed on US-sourced income. As well as this, if your country of residence has signed a tax treaty with the US, you may be either partially or completely exempt from tax.

How can I determine my residency status while in the US on an F-1 visa?

In general, international students who are in the US on an F-1 visa are considered nonresident aliens for tax purposes for the first five calendar years of their stay in the US.


Read more: Your US Tax Residency Status Explained

How do I file my taxes using Sprintax?

  1. Gather documents you will need:  see list above.
  2. Create or Log into your Sprintax Account
    You will receive an email from OISS (we anticipate by late February) providing you with a link to Sprintax to set up your account as well as your unique code to use on Sprintax. This unique code will cover the costs of the federal tax return ($51.95) and Form 8843 at no cost to you.

    Open your new Sprintax account by creating a User ID and password or if you have an existing account on Sprintax you can login using your existing credentials. If already have a Sprintax account and you forgot your Sprintax password, use this Forgot Password link to reset your password.

  3.  Answer some simple questions  and follow the Sprintax instructions:

    If you did not earn any US Income:
    Sprintax will generate a completed Form 8843 for you and each of your dependents (if you have any).
    If you did earn US Income:
    Sprintax will generate your “tax return documents”, including form 1040NR, depending on your circumstances. 
  4. Enter the unique code you received via email from OISS in the "review your order" section to the receive the discount for preparation of your FEDERAL tax Forms.
  5.  If required, complete your state tax return
    After you finish your federal return, Sprintax will inform you if you need to complete a state tax return. If so, you will have the option to use Sprintax for an additional fee. However, it is your choice to use them or to do the state tax return on your own. OISS is unable to cover the cost of state tax filing.
  6. Read the instructions for filing/mailing your tax return(s)
    You will be required to download, print and sign your federal tax return and mail it  to the IRS. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to E-file your Federal tax return. However, this will depend on certain eligibility criteria. You can learn more about E-filing in this Sprintax blog -

    If you have a state filing requirement, you must also mail this to the tax authorities.

    Finally, if you only need to file Form 8843, this will also need to be mailed to the IRS.

I'm not an international student, can I use Sprintax?

If you’re a temporary visitor to the US on a H1B, H2B, L or B1 working visa, J1 Exchange visitor or foreign performing artist, athlete or entertainer on a P or O visa, Sprintax can prepare your US income tax return. However, you must be classified as non-resident for the entire tax year. If you’re unsure, Sprintax can review your circumstances and let you know.

What is the difference between Sprintax and TurboTax?

There is a very important difference:

  • Sprintax tax preparation software was designed for and can only be used by individuals who are "nonresident tax filers."
  • TurboTax tax preparation software was design for and can only be used by individuals who are "resident tax filers."
  • Watch this video to learn more:


Need Sprintax support? 

If you need help while using Sprintax, you can contact their support team using the options below 

  • Email 
  • 24/7 Live Chat Help is available. You will need to log-in (or create your account with the unique access code sent via email from OISS) to access the chat help service. 

Sprintax Webinar Schedule 2023/2024

Sprintax Nonresident Tax Webinars (General)

In these free tax webinars, international students, scholars and professionals will be run through
everything they need to know about nonresident tax for the 2023 tax season.
Topics will include who must file, tax residency, FICA, State returns, implications of misfiling as
well as how to use Sprintax to prepare a compliant tax return.


Sprintax Nonresident Tax Overview for OPT/CPT

Topics covered in these webinars will include residency for tax purposes, tax liabilities when
on OPT/CPT and pre-employment tax forms when on OPT/CPT. The Sprintax team will also
provide an overview of Sprintax Forms which can be used to prepare your pre OPT/CPT
employment tax documents.


Sprintax access is provided as a helpful service to international students and scholars. OISS staff are not qualified or allowed to answer any tax-related questions or provide individual tax advice beyond the information provided on our webpage. The information provided is intended as a helpful resource. Any questions or concerns should be directed to Sprintax, a certified tax preparer or the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).