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March 31 Update: Sprintax is live for e-filing!
This applies to the 1040NR nonresident tax return form only. The 8843 form remains a paper form that has to be mailed to the IRS, and state tax returns also must be mailed. E-filers must have an SSN. Read More.
Online Tax Webinars
Do you have questions about the U.S. tax-filing process or want to know how to use Sprintax for your federal nonresident tax return?
Can't attend one of the webinars for the Columbia community? See the list of general Sprintax student/scholar webinars for additional dates.
Before You File
Have you reviewed the information on our U.S. Tax Basics page?
If you are in F or J status who is a "nonresident alien" (NRA) and you were physically in the U.S. at any time between January 1 – December 31, 2020, you are obligated to send IRS Form 8843, even if you had no U.S. income to the Internal Revenue Service. If you did have U.S. income, your full nonresident tax return will include form 8843.
U.S. and state income tax laws are complex and each individual's situation is unique. Learn more at our U.S. Income Tax Basics. Due to the complexities of U.S. tax law and legal restrictions,university staff are neither qualified nor permitted to advise on taxes.
The ISSO provides access to Sprintax for you to use at no cost for federal forms so you don’t have figure out the forms you need and how to fill them in. Sprintax is a tax preparation software designed for international students, scholars, their dependents and alumni to prepare your required Form 8843 and nonresident federal tax return.
If you are a nonresident for federal tax purposes, you must file a nonresident tax return. Do not commit tax fraud by mistakenly filing a resident tax return. Sprintax helps you determine your federal tax status.
You don’t have to navigate complicated U.S. tax regulations if you use Sprintax. Simply answer a series of questions about the time you have spent in the U.S., the immigration status(es) you held, and any U.S. source payments you have received.
- Determines your federal tax residency status (“nonresident alien” (NRA) or “resident alien”). If it determines you are a resident alien, you cannot continue to use Sprintax and should refer to Resources for Filing a Resident Tax Return page for information.
- Applies all relevant allowances, deductions, and tax treaty provisions.
- Generates your required completed form(s) as PDFs, including an 8843 for each of your dependents, for you to print and sign, along with mailing instructions.
- Informs you if you have a state tax liability and offers the option of completing a state tax return for an individual fee.
If you need help while using Sprintax, you can :
If you choose to complete Form 8843 on your own instead of using Sprintax, be aware that the IRS mailing address is on page 3 and the ISSO cannot answer any questions about how to fill it out.
Read all the steps before logging in to Sprintax in Step 4.
Review Documents and Information You May Need
Determine which forms and documents from the list below that are relevant to you. If you had U.S. source income, you will receive one or more forms (W-2, 1042-S, 1099) indicating the type, source and amount of income received. Learn more about income types at our U.S. Income Tax Basics page.
Follow the Instructions in Sprintax to Complete Federal Tax Forms
If You Did Not Have U.S. Income: Sprintax will generate a completed Form 8843 for you and each of your dependents. (Each dependent must mail their own 8843 in a separate envelope.)
If You Had U.S. Income: Sprintax will generate:
- a completed Form 8843 for you (and each of your dependents.)
- a federal tax return, with either a 1040NR-EZ or form 1040NR, depending on your circumstances.
- a W-7 application for an ITIN if you do not have an SSN or an ITIN. See Special Situations below
Complete Your State Tax Return, If Applicable
After you finish your federal return, Sprintax will inform you if your income necessitates a state tax return as well. If so, you may choose to use Sprintax for an individual fee of $29.95. It is optional, however, and you may want to complete a NY State or other state tax return on your own.
Remember that each state has its own income tax regulations, forms, and definitions of tax status. New York State residency rules are different than those of the Internal Revenue Service. You may be a nonresident alien for federal tax purposes but be a resident for state tax purposes. Learn more about a NY State Tax return at our U.S. Income Tax Basics page.
Log In and Create a Sprintax Account
When you log in through the Columbia Portal below with your UNI and password, it will take you to the Sprintax/Columbia page where you need to create a Sprintax account with a new username and password.
Do not file your 2020 tax return until you have all of your income statements!
Some students and scholars get both a W-2 and a 1042-S. The 1042-S is generally issued in the first two weeks of March.
No longer at Columbia? Find out how to use Sprintax under "Special Situations" below.
Mail Your Completed Tax Forms By the Deadline
Remember to read the detailed mailing instructions that Sprintax provides, and mail by the deadline*:
- May 17, 2021 if you have a tax return reporting income. This is an extension by the IRS from the usual deadline of April 15th;
- June 15, 2021 if you had no income and your 8843 is the only form you are obligated to file.
If you have dependents, each one must mail their own 8843 in a separate envelope.
*Your envelope must be date-stampd by the post office or receipted by a courier service such as FedEx by the deadline.
- Students: if you're a student who graduated, otherwise left a program, or are on a leave of absence, log in to Sprintax in Step 4 with your UNI and password, regardless of whether you are living in the U.S. or abroad.
- Scholars who are no longer at Columbia and no longer have a valid UNI should email their ISSO Scholar Services office linked below to request a Sprintax code.
- After you get the code, you will need to go to https://www.sprintax.com to create a Sprintax account with a username and password. At the end of the process, you will get to a "checkout" page. Enter the code to have the charge for the federal forms removed.
When filing a W-7 with a tax return, IRS requires your passport to be certified (not notarized by a notary public) .
Valid certification: Identification documents must be certified in order to be accepted by the IRS for processing. The acceptable certification methods are:
- An IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) can verify your passport and authenticate your W-7 application. An appointment is required. Take your original tax return and W-7 application and original documents. Read more here. Find a NY TAC here.
- Certification by the issuing agency - the body (governmental office or department) which released the document. Depending on your country of citizenship, it may be possible to have your passport certified at your Consulate in NY
- US consular officer certification
If Social Security/Medicare taxes (referred to as FICA) were withheld in error by Columbia, you can contact HR to request a refund by submitting this ServiceNow Form or by calling the HR Service Center at 212-851-2888.
If another employer withheld this tax, you can ask them to process the refund. If they do not want or are unable to do this, you can file a claim for a refund from the IRS. Sprintax can prepare the forms for you for a fee, or you can file Form 843. You will need to refer to form 843 instructions and page 43 of IRS publication 519. The IRS will refund the money to you.
If you are due a refund, there is no penalty for filing late.
If you owe money you have to file for the 6-month extension by April 15th but you need to pay at the same time. The extension will go through October 15th. The links to e-file an extension are below:
If you realize that you made an error on this year's or a prior year's tax return, or you filed a resident tax return when it should have been a nonresident alien tax return, you can file an amended return. Sprintax can do it for you for a fee. Alternatively, you can try to do it yourself by following IRS instructions for IRS Form 1040-X, in which you compare the amounts in the original form you filed with the new correct form.
The first IRS COVID $1200 stimulus payment for US citizens and "resident alien" tax filers was enacted by Congress in April 2020, and the second $600 payment in December 2020. Learn whether you were eligible to receive and keep them here.