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 TAX PREP, 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 TAX PREP 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 TAX PREP, 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 TAX PREP, 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 TAX PREP, 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 TAX PREP, 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:
Last Updated: 2/4/13