Tax for International Visitors

Tax law in the United States is complicated. How much and what you may be taxed on is based on sets of credits, charts, and concepts that are difficult to understand by the average U.S. resident. This is doubly so for international visitors studying or working in the U.S. as different rules and concepts apply.

Macalester College provides several services to assist you in navigating the rules and regulations. This FAQ is designed to provide some basic information for international visitors at Macalester and some answers to commonly asked questions about the GLACIER software service. Also, the International Student Program at Macalester maintains an FAQ that may be informative to international students studying at Macalester.

This information should be viewed as informational only. You should seek professional advice in the event your situation, relative to taxes, is unusual or you need assistance beyond what the school can offer you.

General Questions

What can I be taxed on in the U.S.?

Commonly, as an international student, visiting scholar, or employee, you will be taxed if any of the following apply to you:

  • You receive direct monetary compensation for services that you perform for the school (student employment, teaching, lecturing, or other employment related tasks)
  • You receive a scholarship or grant from the school and a portions of the payment meet certain criteria
  • You receive a prize, award or honorarium from the school (this might include such items as a "gift card" given by a department to you or winning a competition at the school that results in a cash payment)
  • You receive compensation as an independent contractor (visiting scholar) -- this rarely affects students, faculty, and staff at the college; though it always affects international visiting faculty who lecture for the college and are paid, but have no employment relationship with the school

When is the "tax year" in the United States?

The "tax year" runs from January 1 to December 31.

What are my obligations/procedures related to tax at Macalester?

  1. If any of the situations apply to you as described here, we will ask you to complete a information survey and certain forms near the start of the academic year or when you start working/studying at Macalester -- this service is provided through the GLACIER system. The information request is sent via an e-mail to your Macalester e-mail account -- you should provide this information as the directions indicate -- this service is provided by the Employment Services (Payroll) Department.
  2. You will need to complete a U.S. federal and state tax return prior to April 15 for the previous tax year -- the college will provide you with access to software and support to assist you in doing this -- this service is provided by the International Student Program.
    International Student Programs tax information

What will happen if I don't provide the requested information (answer 1 above)?

Failure to provide the information and/or return the necessary forms will require the college to tax you at the maximum rate under U.S. law.

What will happen if I don't file a U.S. tax return and I am required to do so (answer 2 above)?

Failure to complete a return (when you are required to do so) may subject you to fines and penalties under U.S. law.

How does immigration information relate to tax in the U.S.?

  • Immigration and tax are separate subjects from the standpoint of the law in the U.S.
  • They are related as how a person is taxed is determined by how long they have been in the U.S. and what country they had "tax residence" with prior to entering the U.S. -- also, much of the documentation required for taxation is the same documentation as is required for immigration

What does the term "Alien" mean related to U.S. tax law?

For tax purposes, an alien is an individual who is not a U.S. citizen. Aliens are classified as non-resident aliens (NRA) and resident aliens. Resident aliens are subject to U.S. tax law in the same way as U.S. citizens. You can become a resident alien in two ways --

  • Becoming a U.S. lawful permanent resident - "LPR" - (getting a "green card")
  • Passing the "Substantial Presence Test" (or being in the U.S. long enough in a specific immigration status)

Macalester has software (the GLACIER system) that will determine if you are a resident alien for payroll withholding (deductions) and tax filing purposes using the "Substantial Presence Test."

What is a "tax treaty"?

Tax treaties are special agreements that the U.S. has with 60+ countries. Taking advantage of these treaties provides a special exemption from U.S. taxation (with the intent of reducing "double taxation" -- i.e. being taxed in the U.S. and your home country for the same taxable income)

  • Tax treaties can be claimed as you are being paid (resulting in more money "in pocket")
  • Tax treaties can be claimed when you file your tax return (possibly resulting in year-end refunds)
  • Claiming a tax treaty is optional
  • The state of Minnesota observes federal tax treaty rules (if you are exempt for federal taxes under a treaty, you will also be exempt for MN state taxes for the same type of income -- note, not all states in the U.S. follow this rule)

Special rules and paperwork apply when claiming these treaties. Macalester has software that can assist you in taking advantage of this benefit if you desire to do so and are eligible.

What tax documents will the college issue me? What are the conditions for each document to be issued?

On a yearly basis (around January 31), the college may issue you tax information documents. These documents are used to complete your federal and state tax returns. These documents may include the following:

  • W-2 - "Wage and Tax Statement"
  • 1042s - "Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding"
  • 1098t - "Tuition Statement" (resident aliens only)
  • Tax Grant Letter - (scholarship recipients only)

You will be issued a W-2 if you worked for the college (student work/study or summer employment) and any of the following applied:

  • You are a tax resident of a country that does not have a tax treaty with the U.S.
  • You chose not to claim the applicable tax treaty for employment purposes
  • You worked prior to a tax treaty being "in force" for the time you were working
  • You earned more money than the treaty maximum for the given tax year

You will be issued a 1042s if any of the following applied:

  • You worked for the college and claimed a tax treaty
  • You had a taxable scholarship amount without a tax treaty
  • You had a taxable scholarship amount with a tax treaty
  • You received a taxable prize, award, or honorarium from the college
  • You provided services to the college that fall in the independent services category (uncommon for students and faculty/staff members)

You will be issued a 1098t if:

  • You received a scholarship from the college and are a resident alien for tax purposes
  • You have tuition and/or mandatory fees assessed

You will be issued a Tax Grant Letter if:

  • You received a scholarship from the college and are a non-resident alien for tax purposes

Are these documents available online? (as of September 2010)

W-2 - yes - to access it do the following:

  • Log-into 1600grand
  • Click on the "Employment/My Job" tab
  • In the "Employment Details" channel, click on the "Tax Forms" link
  • Click on "W-2 Wage and Tax Statement" -- select the correct year follow the prompts

1042s - yes - to access it do the following:

or

  • Go directly to http://www.online-tax.net (GLACIER log-in screen)
  • Log-in with your GLACIER username and password
  • Follow the prompts to the forms section of the website

1098t - no:

  • This form is issued by the Student Accounts Office
  • Re-print requests should be directed to Student Accounts
  • This form is only issued to international students who are resident aliens

Tax Grant Letter - no:

  • This form is issued by the Financial Aid Office
  • Re-print requests should be directed to Financial Aid
  • This form is only issued to international students who are non-resident aliens

Can you provide a link to additional information about U.S. taxation for international visitors?

Following are links to the official Internal Revenue Service (IRS) site for this topic -- this information is very technical and may require a significant investment of time to understand:

Keep in mind, the previous link only covers tax concepts related to federal U.S. taxes. Links to information about Minnesota state taxes is as follows:

GLACIER System

What is GLACIER?

GLACIER is an online system that Macalester uses to collect additional information about you that is not collected as part of the admission or new hire process. This supplemental information is pertinent to your tax withholding in the U.S. -- for a variety of reasons, it is to your advantage to complete the information as accurately as possible and within the timelines specified.

The GLACIER system is administered by the Employment Services Department.

What is CINTAX and how does it relate to GLACIER?

CINTAX is a system used by international students, faculty, and staff at Macalester to prepare taxes prior to the April 15th tax filing deadline.

CINTAX is administered by the International Student Program. Click here for more information.

GLACIER is used to determine how much tax is withheld (deducted) from paychecks and other pay from the school. GLACIER also feeds information into CINTAX (starting tax year 2010).

How is the information used?

We use the collected information for the following purposes:

  • To determine your status in the U.S. for tax withholding purposes ("Non-Resident Alien" or "Resident Alien")
  • Determine your eligibility for certain tax exemptions (tax treaties)
  • Provide you with the necessary year end documentation to file your taxes

What will I need to complete the questions on GLACIER?

You will need the following documents:

  • Current Immigration Status
  • 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 Foreign Address)
  • U.S. Entry and Exit Dates
  • Academic Institution or Host Sponsor Information

What should I do if I forget my password?

Contact the Macalester administrator named in the e-mail -- he/she will contact with a new password and instructions

What should I do if I don't understand a question on GLACIER?

Click on the "Online Help" button in the lower corner of each screen - additional directions and answers to common questions will be provided - also, an email link is provided in the event that the question is not answered through the FAQ text.