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ISSS-BU News 11 March 2013 ISSS-BU News


An electronic news service for international students and scholars, owned by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services at Binghamton University, State University of New York

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Editor’s Note: Did you remember to set your clocks one hour ahead before you went to sleep on Saturday night? Sunday began “Daylight Savings Time” where we will enjoy an additional one hour of daylight each day.

Now that the income tax filing season is upon us, you will continue to see several articles about taxes in each weekly edition of ISSS-BU News through mid-April. Also, helpful information is available in the “Taxes” section of the ISSS website, at the following link: http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/taxes/index.html

CONTENTS:
1. Summer Session 2013 Advance Registration Begins Today
2. Pursuit of Academic Success – “What Are Adjustment Problems?” Wednesday, March 13
3. April 1 is the Deadline for Spring 2013 Health Insurance Adjustments
4. Frequently Asked Income Tax Questions, and Answers
5. Income Tax Information: Important Items to Remember When Completing Income Tax Forms
6. Off Campus Employment Rules
7. The Clock is Ticking on Some Practical Training Applications
8. Income Tax Information: Common Mistakes When Reporting Income
9. Income Tax Information: For F-1 and J-1s in the U.S. for More than Five Years Who are Residents for Tax Purposes
10. Important Notice From Student Accounts Regarding Fall 2013 Pre-Registration

1. Summer Session 2013 Advance Registration Begins Today, Fall 2013 Pre-Registration Time Tickets Available on March 23

Advance registration for the 2013 Summer Session begins today. For more information on summer classes, visit http://summer.binghamton.edu. The schedule can be viewed here:
View schedule >>

2. Pursuit of Academic Success – “What are adjustment problems?” Wednesday, March 13

Pursuit of Academic Success is to assist international students in maximizing their academic achievement. Participants of this group will discuss barriers to academic success and learn how they can better address them. This group is open to ALL international students!

Week 5 - What are adjustment problems?

“I don’t know what’s happening to me. All of a sudden I’m not feeling well. I’m feeling down, sad, frustrated, angry... too many to name. I’m losing motivation for school. I can’t even fall asleep. It takes forever. Can anybody tell me what’s going on with me?”

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, it possibly means that you are experiencing some difficulties adjusting to a new environment/culture. Adjustment problems are very common to many international students and they are significant barriers to academic success. It can happen to you at any time, even if you are a senior! Please join us to talk more about your adjustment problems and learn strategies to address them. If you have already successfully resolved yours, please consider joining us to help other international students.

Facilitator: Sangmoon Kim, Ph.D.
Wednesday: 2:30-4:00pm
Location: ISSS Conference Room, Hinman Commons Building, Room 120-B (come to the ISSS Main Office, for directions)

3. April 1 is the Deadline for Spring 2013 Health Insurance Adjustments

Please note that there is a deadline for requesting a Health Insurance Waiver or adjustment. – International students requesting a waiver or adjustment of their international health insurance fee must do so by April 1, 2013 for the Spring 2013 semester. To file a waiver or adjustment request go to: http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/health-insurance/waiverinfo.html. Filing a request does not guarantee a wavier or adjustment. You must either be a graduate assistant (G.A.), Teaching Assistant (T.A) or Research Assistant (R.A.) funded through Binghamton University and enrolled in employee health insurance, OR meet the standards for comparable coverage outlined on the ISSS Health Insurance web page located through the above link.

If you have questions about the International Student Health Insurance, please contact the International Health Insurance Team at intl.insure@binghamton.edu

4. Frequently Asked Income Tax Questions, and Answers

Here are the top income tax questions being asked this week, we hope you find the questions and answers helpful!

i. I have usedGLACIER Tax Prep for filing my federal income tax return. At the final screen, GLACIER indicates that I should file a NY State income tax form, and provides a link. But, I am not sure I understand what to do next. Can you help me?

The ISSS has income tax webcasts that explain how to complete each of the two required New York State income tax forms line-by-line. The ISSS webcast web page,

http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/taxes/webworkshp.html also includes links to both NYS Forms and the NYS instruction booklet. The forms that need to be completed are IT 203 and IT 203-B. These forms must be printed and mailed together. Full instructions are provided in the webcasts.

ii. Both the Federal and NY State income tax forms allow for my income tax refund to be direct-deposited into my bank account. Is this a good idea?

It’s actually a very good idea. Most U.S. citizens have their income tax refunds direct-deposited into their checking account, rather than have the check mailed to them. You’ll receive your refund more quickly, you don’t have to worry about lost checks, and even if you are traveling, you will know that your funds are safe. It is easy to look at your on-line bank statement or monthly paper bank statement to see when your refund is credited to your account. There is no fee for this service.

iii. GLACIER asks me to enter an “Employer Identification Number” from my W-2 form. I’ve reviewed my W-2 very carefully, but I cannot find the “Employer Identification Number.” Where is it?

The Employer Identification Number is also known as Federal ID Number. You should be able to locate it on the W-2, where the employer name and address have been printed.

iv. GLACIER is indicating that I am a resident for tax purposes, and therefore cannot use it for my tax filings. But I have been F-1 for fewer than five years. Has GLACIER made a mistake?

Perhaps not. If you were in the United States in some other non-immigrant status prior to becoming an F-1 student, federal tax law require that those prior years be counted. GLACIER then computes your income tax status. If it is determined that you are a resident for income tax purposes, follow the instructions for filing as a resident, available at:

http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/taxes/residentaxinfo.html

5. Income Tax Information: Important Items to Remember When Completing Income Tax Forms

A number of students sometimes forget all of the necessary steps when completing their income tax forms. Here is a helpful reminder for ISSS-BU News readers:

· Be sure to sign both your federal and state income tax returns BEFORE mailing them, and be sure to make keep a copy for your records. For information on assembling and mailing your income tax forms, see: http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/taxes/taxaddress.html

6. Income Tax Information: Common Mistakes When Reporting Income

There are some common mistakes that international students frequently make on income tax forms. Here are a few of them.

Mistake 1: Attempting to e-file (electronically file) the federal income tax return.
Non residents for tax purposes (F and J students who have been in that status in the United States for five or fewer years, 2008 or later) and J scholars/faculty who have been in that status in the United States for two or fewer years, 2011 or later) are non-residents for tax purposes and must file non-resident income tax forms. Currently, the federal non-resident forms, 8843, 1040NR and 1040NR EZ, cannot be filed electronically. If you have used an e-filer for your federal income tax returns, and you are a non-resident, you have filed the wrong forms and will need to file an amended income tax return. If you use GLACIER, this mistake will not be made.

Mistake 2: Filing Your Income Tax Forms Too Soon
Do not file your income tax forms too soon! Before you file, make sure you have a unique W-2 Wage and Tax Statement from each employer for whom you worked in 2012. If you have not received a W-2 form from each of your 2012 employers, it is your responsibility to contact the employer and request one.

If you can exempt salary (wages) from tax based on a tax treaty between the United States and your country AND did the necessary tax treaty paperwork with either the State Payroll Office or the Research Foundation Payroll Office, you MUST wait until you receive form 1042-S from your employer before filing your income tax forms. If you are not certain whether you will be issued form 1042-S, check with your employer.

If you received a scholarship, such as an athletic scholarship, dissertation year fellowship, graduate school scholarship or enhancement award during calendar year 2012, you will receive form 1042-S in mid-March. If you are not certain whether you will be issued form 1042-S, check with your scholarship source.

Once you receive form 1042-S, GLACIER will help you correctly file your income tax forms.

Students from India should note that because of the unique nature of the U.S. income tax treaty with India, no form 1042-S is issued for those eligible to claim the tax treaty based on wages (salary). Therefore, unless you have a scholarship or fellowship grant as described above, you may file your income tax forms without form 1042-S.

Mistake 3: Confusing wages with scholarships/fellowships
All wages are reported on form W-2, and should be indicated on line 3 of form 1040NR EZ. All scholarships are generally reported on a form 1042-S, and if coded as a scholarship (code 15 on the 1042-S) is indicated on line 5 of form 1040NR EZ. If you think you have a scholarship, but the earnings were reported on a form W-2, it is NOT a scholarship, and must be reported on line 3 of form 1040NR EZ. If you use GLACIER, this mistake will not be made.

Mistake 4: Putting the wrong amount on line 11 of form 1040NR EZ
Only state or local income tax withheld can be reported on line 11 of form 1040NR EZ. DO NOT list federal income tax withheld on this line, only state and local tax (found on box 17 and box 19 of form W-2 and also on form 1042-S). Students from India eligible to claim the India Tax Treaty must put only the standard deduction amount on line 11. If you use GLACIER, this mistake will not be made.

Mistake 5: Including your tuition scholarship on line 5 of form 1040NR EZ
Graduate students who have received a tuition scholarship from Binghamton University should NOT enter the amount of the scholarship on line 5 of form 1040NR EZ. These tuition scholarships do not fit the IRS definition of "taxable scholarship." If you use GLACIER, this mistake will not be made.

Mistake 6: Excluding the wrong amount on line 8 of form 1040NR EZ
You can only exclude an amount on line 8 if you also had a taxable scholarship/fellowship amount on line 5. Exclusions are limited to the amount you spent on fees and books during the period you had a scholarship/fellowship. There are no exclusions for wages reported on form W-2. If you use GLACIER, this mistake will not be made.

International Student and Scholar Services staff are neither qualified nor permitted to give individual tax advice. Tax assistance is available at:

http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/taxes/taxsem.html

7. Income Tax Information: For F-1 and J-1s in the U.S. for More than Five Years Who are Residents for Tax Purposes

Until now, all of ISSS-BU's income tax articles have focused on F-1 and J-1 students who are non- residents for tax purposes; those who have been in F or J status for five years or less. This information is for those F-1 and J-1 students who entered the U.S. in 2007 or earlier, or J-1 scholars who entered the U.S. in 2010 or earlier, and therefore file as residents for tax purposes.

Need assistance with your resident tax forms? There are a number of resources available to you. If your total earnings for 2012 were less than $57,000, you can file both your Federal and your New York State income tax forms for free using special income tax software. Access Free File at http://www.irs.gov

Resident income tax filers can purchase income tax software such as Turbo Tax or Tax Cut from stores such as Staples, Barnes and Noble, or Walmart, or on the web through Amazon.com.

There are also paid preparers in the local community who can assist you including H & R Block and Jackson Hewett.

If you have been in F-1 or J-1 status for more than five years, you need to file form 1040, or its shorter versions; 1040A or 1040EZ. Residents with income should also file New York State tax form IT-201. Residents for tax purposes must report all world-wide income, including bank interest. However, residents for tax purposes can also list spouses and children as dependents, and therefore claim a greater number of exemptions and deductions.

In addition to the personal exemption of $3800, residents for tax purposes can also claim the standard deduction, which for a single person is $5950 for tax year 2012. Residents may also claim certain tax credits, if they meet the eligibility requirements. These credits include child care, earned income, and education credits. Graduate students who are eligible to file as residents for tax purposes may be especially interested in the lifelong learning education credit.

For more information on education credits, obtain IRS publication 970 "Tax Benefits for Higher Education." It can be found on the World Wide Web at the IRS Forms and Publications site; http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p970.pdf

Remember that these benefits are only available to F-1 and J-1 students who have been in the U.S. in those statuses for MORE than five years.

8. Off Campus Employment Rules

Previously, staff in the Office of International Student and Scholar Services have had to address several issues regarding off campus employment that have not had pleasant consequences for some students. A reminder: A student in F-1 or J-1 status cannot be employed away from the Binghamton University campus unless they have obtained appropriate federal authorization to do so before employment can begin. This includes internships and jobs done “at home” from a computer, such as on-line surveys and forums that offer payment if you participate. The only exception to this rule is F-1 students who are working away from BU but are paid on a Binghamton University state or research foundation payroll.

The U.S. government exacts heavy penalties for students who work without authorization.

Readers may wish to take note of the following two articles on the ISSS website:

Employment Overview
http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/employment/overview.html

Don’t Place Your Immigration Status at Risk: Consequences of Illegal Employment
http://www2.binghamton.edu/isss/employment/illegalemp.html

The ISSS website has many resources on employment. Just visit http://isss.binghamton.edu and click on “Employment.”

If you have questions regarding employment, please do not hesitate to contact our employment advisors at intl.work@binghamton.edu They are happy to assist you.

If you would like to make an appointment to discuss issues of employment, please call the ISSS office at (607) 777-2510. Employment Walk-In hours are Wednesdays from 1:30pm to 3:15pm.

9. The Clock is Ticking on Some Practical Training Applications

F-1 students who will be graduating in May 2013 and plan to apply for post-completion optional practical training are reminded that they must submit their application paperwork to the ISSS, and then send the processed documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) so that it is received at the USCIS lock box address no later than sixty days after their degree conferral date, which this year is May 19, 2013.

F-1 students who have not yet begun the practical training application process are urged to do so soon so that you will have the best possible opportunity to obtain your employment authorization card in a timely manner. Currently, it is taking the USCIS Service Centers approximately 12 weeks to process OPT employment authorization applications. Employment cannot begin unless you have the card "in hand."

10. Important Notice From Student Accounts Regarding Fall 2013 Pre-Registration

Any outstanding balance on your Student Account must be paid or cleared at least 24 hours prior to your Fall 2013 pre-registration time. Please do not wait until the last minute to resolve any outstanding debts in order to ensure that you will be able to register at your priority time. You can view and/or pay any balance due by visiting http://bubrain.binghamton.eduand select “Quick Pay Student Payment.”

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Last Updated: 3/12/13