Frequently Asked Questions about U.S. Taxes

The Questions

Click on the question to jump to the answer below.

  1. Can Berkeley International Office help me file my taxes?
  2. Do I have to file a tax return?
  3. What is the deadline to file tax forms?
  4. What should I do if I am unable to file my tax form by the deadline?
  5. There is a tax treaty between the U.S. and my country. Should I file a tax form?
  6. How can GLACIER Tax Prep help me file taxes?
  7. How do I access GLACIER Tax Prep?
  8. Does GLACIER Tax Prep offer software support?
  9. What are some of the typical forms I may receive for tax filing purposes?
  10. Do I qualify as a resident alien or nonresident alien for federal tax purposes?
  11. I'm an F-1/J-1 student with no U.S. income or scholarships for 2017. Should I file?
  12. I arrived in the U.S. in December 2017 and didn't work. Should I file Form 8843?
  13. Does my F-2 or J-2 dependent need to file a tax form?
  14. Do I need to file a Form 8843 for my US citizen child?
  15. I worked in 2017 but returned to my home country. Should I file taxes in the U.S.?
  16. What should I do if I didn't receive Form W-2 from my employer(s)?
  17. Who will receive the form 1042-S from the University?
  18. What should I do if I didn't receive Form 1042-S from the University?
  19. Can I submit my tax forms electronically through GLACIER Tax Prep?
  20. Do I have to file taxes with the state of California?
  21. Do I have to file taxes in California if I did not earn income?
  22. What are the consequences of not filing?
  23. I filed my tax report and am expecting a refund, but haven't received it.

The Answers

1. Can Berkeley International Office help me file my taxes?
Berkeley International Office staff are not tax experts and cannot provide tax advice. To assist our clients, Berkeley International Office has purchased GLACIER Tax Prep (GTP).  GTP is a user-friendly tax preparation software created specifically for international students and scholars who are nonresident aliens for tax purposes.  GTP will help you navigate U.S. federal tax forms, residency status, tax treaties, exemptions, and deductions.  GTP is accessible from around the world.

2. Do I have to file a tax return?
International students and scholars who have been in the U.S. for any portion of 2017 must file an annual tax report by the following year's tax filing deadline. International students and scholars should access GTP to determine their tax filing requirement. You may be required to file taxes with the State of California as well. Income that is taxed includes wages, scholarships and earnings on investments. (A complete list of taxed income may be found in IRS and state tax guides.) The most common type of income is wages; the money withheld from each paycheck is an estimated payment of the federal and state income tax obligation. This money is sent by the employer to the IRS and Franchise Tax Board in the employee's account (the account number is the Social Security number). Taxable scholarship payments may have some amount withheld similar to wages. Investment income (not including bank interest) rarely has an amount withheld in advance, the applicable tax is paid when filing the tax forms.

3. What is the deadline to file tax forms?
If you received taxable income, the deadline is April 17, 2018. If you had no US income and are only filing IRS Form 8843, the deadline is June 15, 2018.  The deadline refers to the date the envelope is postmarked by the post office.

4. What should I do if I am unable to file my tax form by the deadline?
If you need more time, you can file Form 4868 to request an automatic extension of time until August 15. You will not be notified if the extension request is approved, it is automatic.  If you owe any taxes, you must still mail the estimated tax payment by April 17 or you will be assessed penalties and interest as of April 16 on any payment owed. Be sure to sign and date the forms and keep copies for your records.

5. There is a tax treaty between the U.S. and my country. Should I file a tax form?
Yes, since you were present in the U.S. during 2017 you are required to complete and file a tax form.

6. How can GLACIER Tax Prep help me complete my tax forms?
GLACIER Tax Prep includes a tax resource library AND a comprehensive tax preparation program that:

  • Calculates the substantial presence test to determine the foreign national's U.S. tax residency status
  • Checks each type of payment against any applicable tax treaty to ensure that the individual takes advantage of any tax treaty benefits
  • Completes the correct U.S. federal income tax form - either Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ
  • Prepares any additional statements or attachments, as applicable - Form 2106, Form 8843, Schedule C, and/or Scholarship/Fellowship Grant Statement
  • Prints the federal tax return and all additional attachments (please note, the IRS does not allow nonresident aliens for tax purposes to file a tax return electronically)
  • Provides detailed instructions about how, when and where to submit the tax forms, as well as information about the required documents to attach and complete the tax return filing process.

7. How do I access GLACIER Tax Prep?

  • Current students or scholars who received a 1042-S from UC Berkeley:  
    Follow the instructions in the email sent from glacieradmin@berkeley.edu.
  • Students or scholars Students or scholars who are eligible to use GTP but who did not receive a 1042-S from UC Berkeley OR who are no longer in the U.S.:
    Request an access code. If you do not receive an email with your access code within 3 business days, please check your spam folder. If it is not there, email biohelp@berkeley.edu. Access codes for the 2017 tax year will be available in early 2018. 

  • Students or scholars who never received any income from a U.S. source:  Follow the online presentation.

8. Does GLACIER Tax Prep offer software and tax support?
Yes.

9. What are some of the typical forms I may receive for tax filing purposes?
Some of the forms you may receive from UC Berkeley, your employer or other sources are: 1042-S, W-2, 1099-INT, 1099-MISC, 1098-T. For more information about the specific forms, see Tax Forms

10. Do I qualify as a nonresident or resident alien for federal tax purposes?
The GLACIER Tax Prep program will ask you a series of questions based on the substantial presence test to determine your residence status for federal tax filing purposes. If you qualify as a nonresident alien for tax purposes, you can use the GTP program to assist you with federal tax filing. If you qualify as a resident alien for tax purposes, you cannot use the tax preparation software in GLACIER Tax Prep but you can still use the resource library to navigate filing your taxes as a resident alien. You can also file your taxes with a tax preparation company such as H&R Block or Turbo Tax. Generally, tax treaties do not apply to individuals who qualify as resident aliens for tax purposes, but there are exceptions. For more information on exceptions, consult the GTP library regarding closer connections. Resident aliens for tax purposes file taxes in the same manner as U.S. citizens and residents. See also nonresident vs. resident

11. I'm an F-1/J-1 student with no U.S. income or scholarships for 2017. Do I need to file anything?
All nonresident aliens for tax purposes, in F or J status, are required to complete Form 8843 with the IRS regardless of whether they received income. This also includes dependents in F-2 and J-2 status, regardless of age. For instructions on how to complete this form, follow the presentation here.

12. I arrived in the U.S. in December 2017 and I didn't work. Do I still have to file Form 8843?
All nonresident aliens for tax purposes who spent any portion of 2017 in F or J status are required to complete Form 8843 and send it to the IRS. The deadline is June 15, 2018.

13. Does my F-2 or J-2 dependent need to file a tax form?
Yes, anyone in F or J status present in the U.S. and a nonresident for tax purposes are required to complete a tax form. If your F-2 or J-2 dependent did not earn any income, they would be required to fill out the Form 8843. J-2 dependents who received an EAD, and earned an income, may be required to complete additional tax forms. They would be eligible to gain access to GLACIER Tax Prep to assist in the federal tax form process.

14. Do I need to file a Form 8843 for my US citizen child?
No, if your child is a US citizen and did not earn any income, no tax forms need to be completed.

15. I worked in 2017 but returned to my home country. Must I file taxes in the U.S.?
Yes, all students or scholars who were in F or J status, a nonresident for tax purposes and were present in the United States in 2017 must file a tax report for that year. Ask your employer to mail the Form W-2 to your home country address or explain how you may access it online. If you overpaid federal tax, the IRS can mail a refund check overseas.

16. What should I do if I didn't receive or if I lost the Form W-2?
If you have not received Form W-2 or Form 1099-R, or received an incorrect form or information, contact your employer. You may not have received the form because of an incorrect or incomplete address. Be sure to verify the address used if already mailed. If the form was returned to the employer because of an incorrect address, or never mailed, and the employer intends to issue or re-mail, allow a reasonable amount of time for this action to occur before calling the IRS for help.  Students or scholars who were employed at UC Berkeley should be able to access their W-2 in their At Your Service Online account. If you cannot access your account, email payhelp@berkeley.edu to reset your password.

If you have requested the W-2 from the employer but have not received your Form(s) W-2, the IRS will help you obtain the missing form(s). Call 1-800-829-1040. Be prepared to provide your name, address (including zip code), phone number, Social Security Number, and dates of employment and the name, address (including zip code), and phone number of the employer. For additional information, see Tax Topic 154, "Form W-2 - What To Do if Not Received" on the IRS website.

17. Who will receive the form 1042-S from the University?

  • A student or scholar who was employed and was exempt from tax withholding under a tax treaty.
  • Any nonresident alien student or scholar who received a taxable fellowship/scholarship/grant stipend.
  • Any nonresident alien who received a non-employee service payment.

18. What should I do if I didn't receive Form 1042-S from UC Berkeley?
The UC Berkeley payroll office will distribute Form 1042-S no later than March 15. If you currently have a GLACIER record you should be able to find your 1042-S within the record.  If you expect to receive a Form 1042-S and have not received it by March 15, please contact the Payroll Office by emailing glacieradmin@berkeley.edu. Not all students and scholars will receive a Form 1042-S.

19. Can I submit my tax forms electronically through GLACIER Tax Prep?
No, nonresident aliens for tax purposes cannot file tax reports electronically. Once you provide GLACIER Tax Prep with all of the required information, the system will auto-fill the appropriate tax forms. To complete the tax filing requirement, you must print the forms and mail them to the address provided on the instruction sheet on GLACIER Tax Prep. The address will depend on the form(s) you are filing. California state taxes must be filed with the California Franchise Tax Board.  The address is available on the appropriate California tax form.

20. Do I have to file taxes with the State of California?
The State of California (through the Franchise Tax Board) requires an annual report of income, and assesses tax on the same type of income that is taxed by the federal government. Individuals who earned less than the minimum filing requirement do not have to file; however, if any tax was withheld by the employer the individual would want to file a return in order to be refunded for the withholding.

21. Do I have to file taxes in California if I did not earn income?
Unlike federal rules, California does not require an annual tax report from those who made less than the minimum filing requirement or had no income at all. Visit the Individual Filing Requirements section of the California Franchise Tax Board for more information.  If you do not have a filing requirement but had taxes withheld from your income, the only way you can get your money back is to file a California tax return and get a refund.  Berkeley International Office will host California State Tax workshops in March/April 2018; click here for more information. Students or scholars who are considered nonresidents for California state tax filing will complete and file California Tax Form 540NR; those who are considered residents for California state tax filing will complete and file California Tax Form 540.

22. What are the consequences of not filing?
If you are owed a refund, filing a tax return is the only way to receive it. Furthermore, payment of income tax due is not voluntary, it is required by law. One of the conditions of your visa is to comply with US law. If you owe taxes and don't file, the IRS can assess penalties, interest and seize U.S. bank assets for repayment. Fines and penalties can often amount to more than the original tax debt. There can also be immigration consequences for failing to file taxes. Applicants for permanent residency or "green cards" are frequently asked to show proof of tax filing for previous years in the U.S.

23. I earned U.S. income in a previous year but did not file a tax return for that year. What should I do?
Anyone who failed to file a tax return for a previous year should do so as soon as possible. Nonresident aliens for tax purposes have the following options in GTP (navigate to the appropriate page from the GTP menu page):
  1. Access blank tax forms tax forms from previous years. You can use this option if you would like to complete the tax forms on your own. BIO cannot advise on how to fill out tax forms.
  2. Purchase access to GTP software that will complete your tax forms for previous years.
Please note that access to GTP is only free for the current tax year. To file for a previous year, you will need to purchase an access code.

24. I filed my tax report and am expecting a refund, but haven't received it.
Go to Where's My Refund? to track your refund. Where's My Refund? will usually have information about the refund three to four weeks after filing a paper return. Check weekly, on Wednesdays, for any updates to your refund information.