April 29, 2017

MCISA offers tax assistance for international students

Filing taxes in a foreign country can be a confusing and complex process for international students, according to Webster’s Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs (MCISA) office. That is where the office’s tax workshops come in.

MCISA Assistant Director Bethany Keller said students have questions and can get frustrated and confused with the requirements.Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 9.16.22 AM

“I often find that students will come [to the workshop] just for peace of mind,” Keller said. This is the sixth year in a row MCISA has held a tax filing workshop. The first session was held March 20.

Chinese International Relations senior Tina Xu attended the workshop and said it made filing taxes easy.

“It’s very convenient and they provide us with information that we couldn’t have obtained otherwise,” Xu said. “It’s pretty helpful.”

Keller said there is a misunderstanding about who has to file. She said people think of taxes as a function of employment, but there is more to it. In order to secure student visas, students need to obtain a document verifying they were in the U.S.

According to the Internal Revenue Service website, form 8843 is not an income tax return but an informational statement required by the U.S. government. Even if international students did not have jobs or make wages, they are still required to file form 8843. The form is due June 1.

The university purchases the Glacier Tax Preparation (GTP) software for international students, which they can use to file their taxes with no charge. GTP specializes in non-resident alien federal tax filing.

International students need to calculate their substantial presence from the day they moved to the states until Dec. 31 of the tax year. The calculated number of days determines whether a student is considered a non-resident or a resident for tax purposes. Students will not be able to use GTP if they are considered residents.

GTP is partnering with Sprintax to offer Missouri state tax filing with a $25 fee. Keller said information will roll over from GTP to Sprintax, making the process easier for state filing. Sprintax is optional; Keller explained manual state tax filing could be done without too much difficulty.

Keller said Webster uses GTP for its customer services and ease of use. GTP is situational and an individualized system. It guides the student through a series of questions and then pre-populates the federal forms with the given answers. Afterward, the student should double check the information, print the documents, sign and mail them to the Department of Treasury.

“[GTP] are really good at what they do,” Keller said. “They provide a really robust set of resources within their portal.”

MCISA launched a campaign in January to notify students to file taxes if they were in the U.S. during the tax year. The campaign includes a list of documents students need, tips, links and resources.

Keller said Webster has students from more than 100 nations and some countries have tax treaties with the U.S. For instance, students from Indonesia do not make any taxable income. GTP provides such information to students after accurately answering a series of questions.

Students can set up an account through their Webster email addresses, and MCISA provides them with an access code. The account is protected behind a security firewall. GTP does not provide an email address or a phone number for assistance but offers a help button within the portal.

If a student gets stuck, they can log in his or her question and the issue is tracked to the student’s record of information in their personal profile. Afterward, a certified public accountant will look at the given information and get back to the student with an individualized answer. This makes the information protected and secured within the system and answers will be specific to the student’s situation.

“We feel like it’s a service to students,” Keller said. “Let’s make it easier for students to figure out how to navigate [tax filing].”

The coming workshops are March 28 at 10 a.m. and April 7 at 3:30 p.m. All workshops are held in the Emerson Library, Classroom 110. More information can be found at http://blogs.webster.edu/ mcisa/resources/tax-resource/.

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