Do I need to file a federal tax return?
If you earned money in the US in the last tax year, you will need to file a federal tax return. You may be due a tax refund, in which you receive money back from paying too much income tax throughout the year.
Students that were in the US last year but did not earn any money will need to complete one form, called an 8843, which can be done using the tax software we will provide.
Please note that if you earned any money, you may need to file both a federal and state tax return. Students that did NOT earn any money last year only need to complete the 8843 form.
If you have dependents in the US (your F-2 spouse or children), you will need to file a separate 8843 form for each person.
NOTE: For tax year 2019, you only HAVE to file a tax return if you make over $12,200 in the year. 2020 minimums are not yet available, but are likely to be similar. Please note that if you choose not to file a tax return because you made less than this amount, you forfeit any refund you might be due! You are still welcome to file a tax return if you make less than this amount, but you don’t have to.
Sprintax – NRA Tax Return Software for tax year 2019
UMBC provides a special tax preparation software specifically for international students, at no charge to students, thanks to the generous support of the UMBC Graduate School. For tax year 2019, we will be providing a service called Sprintax.
In January or February 2020, we will contact all currently enrolled students to assign you a free login code to use Sprintax. We will also send a general email to our international student email list, inviting recent graduates that are on OPT to request a login code as well. Please wait for these emails before requesting a code, as we will provide the codes as soon as they become available to us from Sprintax.
Once your login code is available, you can use it to create an account on Sprintax and begin preparing your tax return. The program will ask you a series of questions and will ask you to input data from any tax documents you may have, such as a W-2 or 1099.
Tax returns are due on April 15 each year. Sprintax will prepare the forms you need, which you will print, sign and mail to the IRS along with any required documents that Sprintax indicates. Sprintax will provide directions on what items to include and where to mail your documents.
Please note that NRA tax returns can ONLY be submitted in paper form, and can NOT be submitted electronically!
Sprintax also takes into account any tax treaties that might exist between your country and the US, and will apply them appropriately to make sure you get back any money due to you because of a tax treaty.
NOTE: If you are no longer an “NRA” (non-resident alien) and have become a resident for tax purposes, usually because you have been in the US for 5 years or more, you can NOT use Sprintax! The software is only designed for NRA tax regulations, which are different than those used for residents. If you aren’t sure, you can login to Sprintax and they will have you take the “substantial presence test” to determine if you are a resident or NRA for tax purposes.
What can you do now to prepare for your tax return?
As we get closer to tax time, you can prepare by:
- Gathering your tax documents as you receive them, and keep them in a safe place. If you worked in 2018, you should receive a W-2 form from each employer in January or early February 2020. Sometimes, if you were hired as a contractor, you might receive a 1099 form instead. These documents should summarize your earnings for that company last year.
- If you have changed your address since you last worked for a company, please be sure to contact that company and update your address so you can receive your tax documents.
- You may receive notification from UMBC that you have a 1098-T tax form for your tuition – ONLY students filing as a resident for tax purposes (usually after you have been here for 5 years) can use these forms with their taxes.