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Before You File
Have you reviewed the information on our U.S. Tax Basics page?
If you were physically in the U.S. in F or J status at any time between January 1 – December 31 2019, 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 payments you have received.
- Determines your federal tax status (“nonresident alien” (NRA) or “resident alien”). If it determines you are a resident alien, you cannot continue to use Sprintax and should consult our 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 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.
Gather Documents and Information You May Need
Gather the 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.
Do not file your 2019 tax return until you have all of your income statements!
We recommend that you wait until the second week of March to use Sprintax to make sure you have all income tax statements. Some students and scholars get both a W-2 and a 1042-S. The W-2 is issued by the end of January but the 1042-S is issued later (end of February/beginning of March.)
Log In and Create a Sprintax Account
Access Sprintax through the Columbia University Portal here using your UNI and password. Open your new Sprintax account by creating a UserID and password. Sprintax will save your information so you can log in and out without starting over. Additionally, if you use Sprintax in subsequent years your information will carry over.
- Student alumni may continue to use Sprintax with their UNI and password regardless of whether you are still in the U.S. or living abroad.
- Scholars who are no longer at Columbia and do not have a valid UNI should contact their ISSO Scholar Services office for a Sprintax code.
Follow the Instructions 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;
If You Had U.S. Income: Sprintax will generate:
- a completed Form 8843 for you and each of your dependents
- a federal tax return, including either a 1040NR-EZ or form 1040NR, depending on your circumstances.
If you need a notary public to certify your documents for a W-7 application for an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer ID), you can use your smart phone to look for a "notary near me" or google "notaries public" in your zip code. Some places near the Morningside campus with a notary are Janoff's, Citibank, Claremont Chemist, and the UPS Stores.
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 choose to use Sprintax for an individual fee of $29.95. However, it is optional and you may choose to do the state tax return on your own.
Remember that each state has its own income tax regulations and forms. 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.
Mail Your Completed Tax Forms By the Deadline
Remember to read the detailed mailing instructions that Sprintax provides, and mail by the deadline:
- April 15, 2020 if you have a tax return reporting income;
- June 15, 2020 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 8843 in a separate envelope.
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? Get your questions answered with a Sprintax representative at one of our tax workshops.