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Tax Assistance for International Students and Scholars

As an international student or scholar in the United States, it’s important that you understand the tax requirements of your visa and your filing obligations with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).

All F- and J- status visitors must file tax forms if they were in the United States during the previous calendar year.   If you arrived for the first time in F or J status before January 1, of a given year you are required to file at least one tax form in that year, and your dependents must also file forms independently. For the first 5 years of your F- status and first 2 years of J- status, you generally remain a "nonresident for tax purposes." If you did not work or receive any income in the US during the previous year, and you are a non-resident for tax purposes, you are legally obliged to file the Form 8843.  If you worked or received a stipend, grant, scholarship covering more than just tuition, or allowance in the USA (over a certain amount) you must also to file the Form 1040-NR or 1040-NR-EZ.  

If you have been here in more than 5 consecutive calendar years in F status or more than 2 years in J- status, you may have become a "resident for tax purposes" -- even if you are still in F or J status for immigration purposes. If you are a resident for tax purposes, you are taxed on your world-wide income, and file your tax forms the same way an American citizen or legal permanent resident would.

While there are many tax forms you can complete and file yourself, the Office of Global Engagement has arranged free access to Sprintax Tax Preparation, which will guide you through the tax preparation process, prepare the necessary documents and even check if you are due a refund.  It can also guide you through the State of Colorado tax process for an additional fee.

Sprintax is used by more than a hundred thousand international students and scholars each year, and the average Federal refund received by eligible students is over $1,000.

All you need to do is:

  1. Register and follow the simple instructions
  2. Complete the online questionnaire
  3. Enter the unique code in the box on the β€˜Review your order’ page. Please contact  UNC International Student & Scholar Services if you need the UNC Sprintax Code. 
  4. Sprintax will prepare your tax return.
  5. Print, sign, and mail the required documents.  Be sure to keep a copy for your records.

Sprintax Link

If you have any questions, please use the live chat function on Sprintax and their team will be happy to help.

Taxable non-service scholarships and Student Employees

Athletes and other students with taxable scholarships or fellowships (those that include living expenses and require no work activities), who have no other employment in the U.S., and students who have on campus employment should complete their Sprintax Calculus profile as soon as the link is sent each year.  Students who have employment will need to update their SSN information in Calculus when available.  Students who do not have employment but do have taxable scholarships must work with ISSS to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) as early as possible (ideally in the fall term).  ITINs are required for tax reporting on those scholarships. 

Students who apply later may wish to visit an ITIN Acceptance Agent with their completed, signed tax return documents (before mailing to the IRS), so that they do not have to send original passports and other documents to the IRS with their applications.  The IRS keeps a list of legitimate ITIN Acceptance Agents , and you should only work with one of these authorized companies.  The ITIN Acceptance Agent can help authenticate copies of documents that can then be attached to your tax return when you send it to the IRS.  Please carefully investigate the fees of an agent you are considering using – they may range from less than $25 to several hundred dollars.

You do not need an ITIN if you have a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN), or are eligible for an SSN or if you are only required to file IRS Form 8843.

Additional resources

The information contained herein is provided as a service to the international students, faculty, staff, employees and/or administrators of the University of Northern Colorado, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax or other matter. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of legal counsel or qualified tax professional. The University of Northern Colorado is not responsible for the results obtained from the use of any information provided herein.