Tax Information for Newcomers
As an international student, researcher, or faculty member at Harvard, it is important that you be aware of your U.S. income tax obligations. U.S. tax laws distinguish between residents and non-residents for U.S. tax purposes. Non-residents only pay taxes on U.S. source income, while residents follow the same tax rules as U.S. citizens and pay taxes on their worldwide income. Most incoming F and J visa holders are considered non-residents (F and J students for the first five calendar years in the United States and J-1 scholars for the first two calendar years in the United States).
The U.S. tax system is organized according to the calendar year and is a pay-as-you-go-system, which means that taxes may be deducted from salaries, stipends, and scholarships if these funds are from U.S. sources. In most cases, taxes are automatically withheld from your pay (or charged to your term bill if you receive a Harvard scholarship). Your available income after taxes, therefore, may be less than anticipated as you may be subject to federal, state and/or Social Security taxes that can range from 14% to 30% of your total income. The amount of taxes you will pay will depend on the type of income you receive and your tax status in the United States.
There are many tax treaties between the United States and other countries. Such treaties may exempt earnings, scholarships, and stipends from taxes. Students receiving scholarships from Harvard will be sent information by e-mail from the Student Receivables Office, which includes information about the countries that have tax treaties with the United States. Researchers and faculty paid by Harvard must visit the University Financial Services (UFS) for tax related information (see below). Please note: In order to claim a tax treaty benefit you must have either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).
University Financial Services
University Financial Services (UFS) is located at 1033 Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd floor in Cambridge (phone 617-495-8500, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). They help foreign nationals determine their tax residency status and apply for tax treaty benefits. Determining tax residency is important because it affects:
- Tax treaty eligibility
- Amount of tax withheld from payments made by the University
- Type of U.S. tax reporting documents to be received and filed
Additional information regarding their services is available here.
Filing Tax Returns
Many of you may not realize that you will have to complete U.S. tax forms. Federal and state income tax forms are completed annually in the United States and submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Tax forms must be completed (even if a tax treaty exempts you from paying any U.S. taxes) if you were in the United States on any visa other than a tourist visa.
Tax Preparation Assistance
To help guide you through the tax filing process the HIO has purchased web based tax software designed exclusively for international students, scholars, and their dependents who are non-residents for tax purposes. In addition, the site also addresses various tax issues, including federal resident returns and dual status returns, as well as Massachusetts state returns for both residents and non-residents. It is available to anyone with a valid Harvard ID and PIN through the HIO web site.
If you are employed in the United States, your employer will send you a statement of earnings, called a Form W-2, by the end of January that details your income and any taxes withheld during the previous year. If you receive benefits of a tax treaty for employment, scholarship or fellowship income, you will receive a Form 1042-S by mid March that details your income and treaty benefits. You will need these documents to complete your tax forms. Be sure to keep copies of all your tax documents. When you are leaving Harvard, be sure that the University Financial Services Office has your correct mailing address so that you will receive the necessary tax documents if you received funding from Harvard.