Tax Information for UW International Scholars
Please note that advisors in International Scholars Operations (ISO) are not tax professionals and cannot give tax advice.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. government agency that collects federal income taxes. If you have questions about your tax obligations, we recommend you contact IRS.
As an international scholar at the University of Washington, you must file certain tax forms each year with the IRS even if you earned no income. Tax forms (commonly called “tax returns”) are usually due April 15th based on earnings or presence in the U.S. during the previous calendar year, though there may be exceptions to the April 15th deadline.
If you earned income in the U.S. and your employer deducted money from your paycheck and sent the money to the IRS, the amount deducted may not equal the amount you owe at the end of the year. If too much was deducted, you may be eligible for a refund. Or, if too little was deducted, you may owe still more. Many types of income, not just salary from a job, may be taxable.
U.S. tax laws are complex and confusing, and the laws that apply to international scholars are not the same as those that apply to U.S. citizens. The resources provided below may help you to better understand your tax obligations, learn where to go for more information, and successfully submit your tax forms.
Resident or non-resident for tax purposes
“Alien” is the legal term that refers to a person in the U.S. who is not a U.S. citizen. For tax purposes, there are three categories of aliens: (1) non-resident; (2) dual-status; and (3) resident. (Be aware that these terms are here used only as they apply in a tax context—the terms take on different meanings in an immigration context.) Some international scholars are residents for tax purposes while others are non-residents for tax purposes. Your first step is to determine for tax purposes whether you are classified as a non-resident alien, dual-status alien, or resident alien. To help you make this determination, the University of Washington provides a free on-line tax preparation program called GLACIER Tax Prep.
What is GLACIER Tax Prep?
GLACIER is a web-based tax return preparation system designed to assist international scholars and their dependents in preparing U.S. federal income tax forms. The University of Washington provides GLACIER at no cost. UW scholars will be able to access the GLACIER program with their UW Net ID from anywhere in the world.
GLACIER determines your U.S. residency status for tax purposes. If GLACIER determines that you are a non-resident for tax purposes, it will:
- Verify each type of payment for any applicable income tax treaty exemptions;
- Complete the correct U.S. income tax form—either Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ;
- Prepare additional statements or attachments as applicable, including Form 2106, Form 8843, Schedule C, and/or Scholarship/Fellowship Grant Statement;
- Print the tax return and all attachments (the IRS does not allow international scholars to file a tax return electronically); and
- Provide detailed instructions about how, when and where to submit the tax return, including information about any documents you need to attach to your tax return.
If GLACIER determines you are “dual status” or a “resident” for tax purposes, it will not prepare your tax forms.
Other options for completing the required IRS tax forms
- If you are dual status or a resident for tax purposes (the GLACIER program can help you determine whether you are a resident, dual status or non-resident for tax purposes), you can purchase tax preparation software as Americans often do. Or, depending on your income, you may qualify for free access to certain software through the IRS Free File program. Tax preparation software leads you through a series of questions and completes the required forms for you.
- You may download forms directly from the IRS Website and file by mail. This will require that you know which forms to use.
- Tax professionals and certified tax accountants charge for services but can assist you with your taxes. Choose your tax preparer wisely. Not all tax professionals are familiar with non-resident tax law.
Before you file
The GLACIER program and other tax preparation software can help you identify the items you’ll need to file your tax return. These may include:
- Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement, if applicable. UW employees can print their W-2 from Workday. If you received income from UW but did not receive a W-2 form, contact the Integrated Service Center (ISC).
- Form 1042-S, if applicable. Form 1042-S is used to report (1) payments made to non-resident employees who claim exemption from federal income taxes due to a tax treaty, (2) taxable fellowship/awards/stipends, and (3) non-employee service contracts.
- DS-2019 (if in J-1 or J-2 status).
- Social Security number or Individual Tax Identification number.
- Entry and exit dates for current and past visits to the United States.
- Academic institution or host sponsor information (name, address, phone).
- Scholarship/fellowship grant letter (if any).
- Forms 1099 for Dividends, Retirement, or other income or any Forms 1099 with Income Tax Withholding.
- Receipts and records for other income or expenses.
- A copy of last year’s federal income tax return, if filed.
Other items may also be required.
If you are a non-resident for tax purposes, sharing this fact with individuals assisting you with your taxes can help you get the correct information and forms.
Resources include, among others:
- Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. government agency in charge of federal taxation contact information:
1. Telephone: Toll-Free, 1-800-829-1040
2. Visit IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center, 915 Second Ave., Seattle, WA
- Publication 519 U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens
- Publication 597: Information on the U.S. – Canada Income Tax Treaty
- Publication 901: U.S. Tax Treaties
- Other IRS resources include Foreign Student and Scholar Information (lists various topics), Link and Learn (a training tool), International Taxpayer (links to other resources on the IRS website), and Non-Resident Alien Toolkit (a publication with a PDF slideshow and FAQ’s).
- VITA: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Programs are volunteer-run, community tax assistance groups.
- Seattle Public Library: The Seattle Public Library offers free tax preparation services. Check their website for schedules and locations. Reservations may be needed.
Advisers in UW International Scholars Operations (ISO) are not tax experts and cannot give tax advice.
The U.S. has income tax treaties with many countries. Residents of these countries may be taxed at a reduced rate or be exempt from U.S. income tax withholding on specific kinds of U.S.-source income. Treaties vary among countries.
Some kinds of income are taxed while others are not. Your individual situation determines what is taxable.
Social Security and Medicare
International Scholars on J-1 visas who are non-residents for tax purposes should not have Social Security or Medicare taxes withheld from pay. If these taxes have been withheld, contact the ISC for reimbursement.
Resident for tax purposes
If you have determined that you are a resident for tax purposes, then you will have the same federal income tax requirements as a U.S. citizen. Please note that in this context, the term “resident” applies only to your tax status and is not related to your immigration status. See Publication 17: Your Federal Income Tax Guide.
Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
If you are filing a tax return and are not eligible to apply for a Social Security number, you may obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). A Social Security number or ITIN is necessary only if you are filing a tax return. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Make photocopies of your documents for your records.
- Complete the correct form; it is easy to mix up 1040NR with the 1040, for instance.
- Sign and date all forms.
- Mail your tax return before the deadline.
- Start the process using GLACIER Tax Prep. GLACIER will determine whether you are a resident or non-resident for tax purposes. If you are a non-resident for tax purposes, GLACIER will guide you through the entire tax-filing process.
Beware of fraudulent scams and internet “phishing” that use the IRS name or other tax-related references to gain access to your personal information. Don’t become a victim of identity theft! The IRS does not send unsolicited emails or request personal information by email. It also does not request PIN numbers, passwords, or similar secret access information to individuals’ credit cards, banks or other financial accounts. You can learn more about scams on the IRS website and report phishing scams to the IRS.