Income Tax Basics


Taxes are a financial charge imposed by a governing body upon a taxpayer to collect funds.

Income taxes are a financial charge imposed on the income earned by an individual. Not all income comes from being employed in the U.S. Taxable income can also be from a fellowship, grant, or scholarship. Income can be taxed at the local, state, and federal/national level. Those residing in Texas will not have their income taxed at the local or state level, but their income is subject to taxation by the U.S. federal government.

The Internal Revenue Services (IRS) is the unit of the U.S. federal government responsible for administering and enforcing tax laws.
 
It is the taxpayer’s (that’s YOU!) responsibility to meet their tax obligations to the IRS. Most taxpayers meet their tax obligations through the following process:

  1. A portion of your income is withheld by the employer or organization that is providing the income.
  2. The withheld portion of your income is given directly to the IRS on your behalf.
  3. Each year, you file a tax return to summarize your tax obligations and payments for the prior tax year. If you paid too much in taxes during the tax year, the IRS would owe you a refund. If you paid too little in taxes during the tax year, you would owe the IRS the remainder of your obligation.
 
Paying federal income taxes and filing the appropriate paperwork with the U.S. government is required by law. Failure to comply can result in serious immigration, financial, and legal consequences.
  • Most international students in F-1 and as well as most international students and scholars in J-1 status and their F-2/J-2 dependents are considered NONRESIDENTS for tax purposes and therefore DO have to file a tax form with the U.S. government for each tax year they are in the U.S. even if they earned NO income.
  • Most international students and scholars in F-1 and J-1 status are NOT PERMITTED to electronically file their tax return with any software other than Sprintax.
  • Most international students and scholars in F-1 and J-1 status are NOT PERMITTED to utilize the tax filing software products most advertised in the U.S. because these products typically only apply to residents for tax purposes.
  • Each spring, ISSS purchases tax software called Sprintax to help international students and scholars complete the following: (1) determine their tax residency status and (2) file their tax return.

Check out Sprintax’s Nonresident Taxes Explained
Check out Sprintax’s Ultimate Guide to Nonresident Taxes in the U.S.
Check out Sprintax’s U.S. Tax Season Survival Guide for F-1 Students
Check out Sprintax’s Ultimate Tax Guide for F-1 Students on OPT
Check out Sprintax's Ultimate J-1 Scholar Tax Guide

GLACIER Nonresident Alien Tax Compliance (GLACIER) is a system that allows Texas A&M University to collect information and make decisions regarding how much you may be required to pay in federal income taxes if you receive any taxable income from the University. You do NOT file your tax return through GLACIER. If you receive taxable income from Texas A&M University, the information you input into GLACIER determines how much of your income should be withheld for tax payment purposes. For assistance with how to enter your information into GLACIER Nonresident Alien Tax Compliance (https://www.online-tax.net/glogin.asp), please ask your employing department's payroll office or visit https://uas.tamu.edu/tax/instructions.html. ISSS does not have access to this system and therefore we are not the best resource for advising on how to use it.
 
All international students and scholars receiving taxable income from Texas A&M University will receive an email from support@online.tax.net explaining that they are required to create and maintain an account in GLACIER. If you are receiving taxable income from multiple units at Texas A&M University, you may even be required to set up multiple GLACIER accounts. Taxable income can be from a variety of sources, such as employment, fellowships, grants, scholarships, etc. Prizes, awards, and payment for participating in research can all be considered taxable income as well and will require you to create a GLACIER account. Having taxable income does not necessarily mean you are employed by Texas A&M University. If you are emailed about creating an account in GLACIER, you should do so as soon as possible. It is best to create the GLACIER account and submit the required documents even if you do not yet have an SSN or ITIN.
 
In GLACIER, you will be instructed to enter either your SSN or your ITIN. If you have both, you should enter your SSN. The ITIN is no longer valid once an individual receives an SSN. After you enter your SSN or ITIN into GLACIER, the University will be able to apply any applicable tax treaties and exemptions to your taxable income. This means you should be taxed at the correct rate by the University. Each individual’s tax scenario is unique. It is not a guarantee that you will be eligible for any tax treaties or exemptions, but if you are eligible, the University must have an SSN or ITIN in order to apply them.
  • F-1 students can only obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) if they have employment. F-1 students must have either an offer of on-campus employment or authorization to work off-campus before even applying for an SSN. Without employment, F-1 students cannot obtain an SSN.
  • F-1 students can only obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) if they do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, an SSN and they need a tax processing number issued by the U.S. government for federal tax withholding and filing purposes. ITINs do not serve any purpose other than federal tax reporting. 
  • J-1 students can obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) even if they do not have employment. You can email isss@tamu.edu to request an SSN endorsement letter if you need an SSN but do not have a job offer.
  • J-1 students and scholars should email j1scholars@tamu.edu if you have questions about obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN).
When setting up your GLACIER account, if you do not have an SSN or an ITIN, you will be asked to select from the following options. Click the SSN and ITIN links above for further information about each and how to apply if you need one.
  • I do NOT have a U.S.-issued SSN or ITIN; I would like to apply for an SSN
    • If this option is selected, the GLACIER process will be on hold until you apply for, receive, and then enter your SSN into GLACIER.
  • I have applied for an SSN, and I have not yet received the number
    • If this option is selected, the GLACIER process will be on hold until you receive and then enter your SSN into GLACIER.
  • I do NOT have a U.S.-Issued SSN or ITIN; I would like to apply for an ITIN
    • If this option is selected, the GLACIER process will be on hold until you apply for, receive, and then enter your ITIN into GLACIER.
  • I have applied for an ITIN, and I have not yet received the number
    • If this option is selected, the GLACIER process will be on hold until receive and then enter your ITIN into GLACIER.
Until your SSN or ITIN is reported in GLACIER, your income will be taxed at 14%. No tax treaties or exemptions can be granted without the SSN or ITIN, so the University is required to apply the highest possible tax rate. This 14% tax withholding will either be deducted from the income that is distributed to you and/or charged to a student’s tuition and fee bill through the international withholding tax.
 
The GLACIER system will ask you to enter your SSN or ITIN within 10 days after the GLACIER account is created. However, the University is aware that it may take much longer than 10 days to receive an SSN or ITIN. You should report your number in GLACIER as soon as you receive it so the University can begin granting any applicable tax treaties and exemptions and you can be charged the proper amount of tax withholding. If the SSN or ITIN is entered into GLACIER on or prior to mid-December, and it is determined that you should have been charged at a rate lower than 14%, it may be possible for the University to credit you. Alternatively, you could receive a refund of unnecessary tax withholding when you file their tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the spring. You will need to have an SSN or ITIN to file the tax return and be eligible to receive a refund from the IRS. After you have an SSN or ITIN entered in GLACIER, the University should be able to calculate your proper tax withholding for all future tax years.
 
Students and scholars receiving taxable income because they are employed by Texas A&M University will also be required to maintain an account in Workday. You will be asked to enter your SSN into Workday once you have it. There is no specific deadline for entering the SSN into Workday, but it should be entered as soon as you receive it.
 
U.S. tax law divides people into residents and nonresidents for tax purposes. Residency for tax purposes is determined by the Substantial Presence Test – a complicated calculation that considers how long you have been in the U.S. and in what status. Sprintax will calculate the Substantial Presence Test for you. Residents for tax purposes follow the same rules as U.S. Citizens and are taxed on world-wide income. Nonresidents for tax purposes follow different rules and are taxed on U.S.-sourced income. Nonresidents for tax purposes are not eligible for many of the tax benefits available to residents for tax purposes, including the ability to use most of the tax products marketed in the U.S. and the ability to benefit from many tax credits.

 
There are 3 basic categories of tax forms that you may encounter in the U.S.
  1. Forms that you (the taxpayer) must complete and submit to the entity that is providing your taxable income (such as your employer, school, bank, etc.) so they can calculate the correct amount of federal income tax that should be withheld from your taxable income.
  2. Forms that you (the taxpayer) will receive from the entity that is providing your taxable income (such as your employer, school, bank, etc.) to summarize your prior year tax history. These forms show you how much taxable income you earned and how much federal income tax you paid already because it was withheld from your income.
  3. Forms that you (the taxpayer) must complete and submit to the U.S. government (the Internal Revenue Services, or IRS) each year to summarize your tax situation for the previous tax year (January 1 – December 31).
Here is a very basic overview of the most common tax forms you may encounter. If you receive a form not listed below, you may email hello@sprintax.com to determine how the form may impact your tax filing requirements.
Here you will find answers to the tax-related questions most frequently asked by international students and scholars.



International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) staff are NOT Tax Professionals or Certified Public Accountants. ANY ADVICE PROVIDED IS INTENDED FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. For professional advice, please consult with Sprintax directly. For official information, please visit the IRS website: https://www.irs.gov/.