The staff of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs is not trained in tax laws and CANNOT give tax advice or assist with the filing of your return. The information provided below is meant to serve a resource and provide general information.
Immigration & HR Services (IHRS) at CWRU is tasked with determining international treaty eligibility for our international populations. IHRS staff members are not tax professionals and cannot legally advise on tax issues. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for referrals to outside tax preparation services, tax advisors and/or tax attorneys if necessary. Find additional resources for taxation of international scholars on the IHRS website.
The deadline for filing most tax returns is April 15. The tax year you are reporting on is for the previous calendar year (Jan. 1–Dec. 31). Note: When the phrase "tax return" or "return" is used, it is referring to the actual tax return (1040NR, 1040NR EZ) and accompanying form (Form 8843).
Beware of scams! Remember that the IRS will never contact you via email. Any communication from someone who claims to be the IRS should not be opened, as it likely contains some sort of virus or malware. Never provide your Social Security Number/Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to anyone via email.
Postdocs who are residents of the United States can utilize services like TurboTax, H&R Block, or a tax consultant. Tax forms for Non-US residents can be e-filed online through Sprintax or with a tax consultant. Sprintax is a web-based tax return preparation system designed exclusively for foreign students, scholars, teachers, researchers, trainees, and their dependents who are nonresident aliens.
Federal tax forms and publications are available from irs.gov. Ohio state tax forms and publications are available from tax.ohio.gov. For links to the tax authorities of other states, visit the website of the Federation of Tax Administrators. Most states provide downloadable tax forms.
Frequently Asked Questions
In the U.S., federal and state income taxes are withheld from each paycheck by employers based on information provided by the employee on Form W-4 (usually completed by the employee at the time of hire). Because the withholding is only an estimate, employees are given a yearly opportunity to reconcile the amount taken out with how much was owed.
Employers provide year-end forms that give a summary of monies received the previous year and amounts withheld. These year-end forms are then used by the employee to file a tax return with the government. If too much was withheld, you will receive a refund. If not enough was withheld, you will need to pay the government the additional amount. If the amount taken out matches the amount due, no money is owed by you or the government.
A "tax return" is the name of the form used for the conciliation of taxed with the government. Your federal tax return is filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), an agency of the U.S. government. Your state tax return is filed with the Ohio Department of Taxation, and your city/local tax return is filed with your municipality office.
US residents usually complete Forms 1040 or 1040-EZ. Non-residents for tax purposes must complete either Forms 1040NR-EZ or the longer 1040-NR. Additionally, Non-residents must complete the tax return itself and accompanying form (Form 8843).
Sources of income include, but are not limited to:
- on-campus employment,
- any compensation received for labor,
- gifts (including those given for providing services),
- prizes, awards and payments for participating in research studies as human subjects received the previous calendar year (Jan. 1–Dec. 31).
Non-residents, for tax purposes, are taxed only on their US income. With a few exceptions, this means that any income received from outside the US is not considered taxable in the US. Please be aware that though you are a non-resident for immigration purposes, you could be a resident for tax purposes.
Residents, for tax purposes, are taxed by the US on their income from anywhere in the world.
All individuals in the US who have income must file a U.S. tax return, even if no taxes are withheld from the income because of a tax treaty exemption between the US and the country of tax residence for the international visitor.
Non-residents who are married and both work each must file a US tax return. Non-resident aliens are generally not exempt from filing state and city income tax returns. The state of Ohio follows the federal government in requiring a return to be filed by all individuals who received income from within the state of Ohio. In addition to the tax return, all individuals in F, J, M, and Q immigration (including spouse and young children) are required to file a Form 8843 - Statement for Exempt Individuals, as long as they are considered non-resident aliens for tax purposes.
A non-resident for tax purposes is a person who is not a US citizen and who does not meet either the "green card" test or the "substantial presence" test described in Publication 519, US Tax Guide for Aliens. With regard to residency determination for tax purposes:
- J non-students (postdocs) generally are considered non-residents during their first two (2) calendar years in the US.
- F students generally are considered non-residents during their first five (5) calendar years in the US.
A resident for tax purposes is a person who is not a US citizen and who meets either the "green card" test or the "substantial presence" test described in Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens. With regard to residency determination for tax purposes:
- J non-students (postdocs) generally are considered residents after their first two (2) calendar years in the US.
- F student visa holders generally are considered residents after their first five (5) calendar years in the US.
In January and February of every year, employers send out W-2 and/or 1042-S forms. These forms provide information to help people with their tax filing for the previous calendar year.
You may receive more than one of the following forms, depending on your circumstances:
- W-2: For taxable income not covered by a tax treaty. Made available by the employer.
- 1042-S: For tuition covered under a tax treaty; for employment income covered under a tax treaty; and for all nonresident aliens receiving a stipend payment. Made available by the employer.
- 1099: For investment income.
Unfortunately, Postdoctoral Affairs is not able to provide assistance or advice regarding filing taxes.
If you have attempted to use Sprintax and the program says you are a "Resident Alien for Tax Purposes," then you cannot use the program to complete your tax return. We recommend that you consult with the Cuyahoga Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition about its free Tax Preparation Locations.
Check the table below to see if you need to file a return—and, if so, what you need to do so:
|Resident Type||Tax Filing Reference|
|US resident||Yes, you must file a federal, state, and local return.|
|Non-resident Alien with Income||Yes, you must file a return. You are eligible to use Sprintax to file your federal return (Form 1040NR or Form 2040NR-EZ). You also need to file your Ohio state and local returns.|
|Non-resident Alien with No Income||Yes, you should file Form 8843 (available at Sprintax or IRS website).|
|Resident Alien with income||Yes, you should file your federal return (Form 1040 or Form 20104-EZ), but cannot use Sprintax to file. You also need to file your Ohio state and local returns.|
|Resident Alien with No Income||You don't need to file anything.|
If you need to file taxes, gather the following documents:
- Visa/Immigration Status (see Form I-94—the white card in your passport)
- U.S. Entry and Exit Dates for current and past visits to the U.S. (see Form I-94 and Passport);
- Form DS-2019, if J status individual
- Form I-20, if F status individual
- Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
- Address information (i.e. current U.S. and permanent foreign address)
- Academic Institution or Host Sponsor Information (name/address/phone for Academic Advisor or ISS Director)
- Forms W-2, 1042-S and/or 1099 (if you received/will receive any. Please see note below regarding 1042-S Forms issued by CWRU.)
- Any scholarship or fellowship grant letters you may have received from your academic institution or host sponsor instead of Form 1042-S
- A copy of your previous year’s federal income tax return (Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ), if you filed a federal income tax return last year.
Please do not forget that you must also file state and local tax forms. Once you have completed your federal income tax return, the others are relatively easy. Ohio Income Tax Forms are available online at the Ohio Department of Taxation's website. You can pick up state and local tax forms at US Post Offices and public libraries. Local/municipal tax forms also may be obtained from your City Hall.
If you wish to hire an accountant, the following online directories are available:
- The Ohio Society of CPAs
- National Association of Enrolled Agents
- Ohio State Society of Enrolled Agents
If you choose to hire an accountant, ask questions to determine if he/she understands international taxation and non-resident taxes. Be certain to ask about tax treaties, NRA exemption and deductions on tax returns.
Yes! Each employer for whom you worked is required to issue you a W-2 form. You should make certain that your former employer has your current address to ensure you receive your form quickly.
If your employer was Case Western Reserve University, please contact the Payroll Office at Payroll@case.edu. If your employer was not Case Western Reserve, you should contact your employer.
All F-2 and J-2 dependents should file Form 8843. If they had any U.S. income, they also should file Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ.
Yes. In order to claim tax treaty benefits, you must file federal income tax Forms 8843 and either 1040NR-EZ or 1040-NR.
If you worked and earned income from a US source, you will need a Social Security Number (SSN) in order to file your tax return. Dependents, who are being claimed as deductions on a tax return, must have a SSN or ITIN. The Social Security Administration restricts the SSN to individuals who are working, so an ITIN may be required for dependents. If an ITIN is required, the ITIN application (IRS Form W-7) must be sent with the tax return. For more information about the ITIN and how to apply for one, visit the IRS website.
Postdoctoral Scholars (internally funded) pay FICA taxes (Social Security and Medicare). Postdoctoral Fellows (externally funded) do not pay FICA taxes.
The IRS website gives information about social security withholding. Go to the IRS website’s Foreign Students and Scholars page, and select the appropriate link for you, under either "Withholding Taxes on Foreign Students" or "Withholding Taxes on Foreign Teachers, Foreign Researchers, and Other Foreign Professionals"
Generally, non-residents in F or J categories are exempt from these taxes during the time they are "non-resident aliens" for tax purposes if they are in valid immigration status. Resident aliens, in general, have the same liability for Social Security/Medicare Taxes that US citizens have.