Tax Filing Information

 HIO has prepared a short video to cover basic tax information. 

As an international student, researcher, or faculty member at Harvard, it is important that you are 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).

Tax Information for Newcomers

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.

Tax Treaties

There are many tax treaties between the United States and other countries. Such treaties may exempt earnings, scholarships, and stipends from taxes. The Office of the Controller (OTC) will determine your tax status using a system called Glacier. 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).

Office of the Controller

The Office of the Controller is located at 1033 Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd floor in Cambridge. Phone: 617-495-8500, E-mail: nratax_ufs@harvard.edu. UFS helps 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.

Filing Tax Returns

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. Federal and state income tax forms are completed annually in the United States and submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Tax Preparation Assistance

To help guide you through the tax filing process the HIO offers web-based tax software called Windstar 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.

2017 Tax Filing Season

In the United States, you must reconcile your 2015 calendar year tax withholding and liability by filing federal and state tax returns. If your income does not meet the reporting threshold, it is possible that you may only need to file a tax statement instead of a full tax return. Please carefully review the HIO tax FAQ, as the answers to your basic tax questions will likely be included.

Tax Deadlines

If you were present in the United States during any part of 2016 on a visa other than a B visa or WT/WB, there is at least one tax form you must complete. Federal tax forms are due to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by April 18, 2017. Massachusetts state tax forms (if necessary) are due to the Department of Revenue by April 18, 2017. Please note that if you had no U.S. based income you have until June 15, 2017 to file your forms. If you were not in the United States at all during 2016 you do not need to complete any tax forms at this time.

Resources for Tax Season

FAQ for Filing 2017 Tax Returns

An excellent starting point for anyone with tax questions including answers to many common tax questions.

Windstar Foreign National Tax Resource

Web based federal tax return preparation software as well as comprehensive content library containing information on resident and non-resident returns as well as Massachusetts state returns. Please note the Windstar site is only available to those with an active HU ID and PIN.

Tax Resource Library Highlights

  • Non-resident alien
  • Resident alien and annual status
  • State income tax information
  • Tax treaty overviews
  • IRS publications
  • Substantial presence test
  • Tax rates, deductions, and credits
  • Social Security information

Tax Preparation Highlights

  • Substantial presence test
  • Form 8843
  • Form 1040 NR/1040 NREZ
  • Assists with Massachusetts state returns
  • Tax treaty analysis
  • Year round access to the software
  • Access to previous tax returns
  • Storing basic information for annual use

Software Access Codes

Once the HIO receives the Windstar access code, it will be sent to you in an email by mid to late February and again in early April. The access code will also be available at the HIO reception desk starting mid to late February.

Please do not share the access code with others since the HIO has paid for a limited number of users to be authorized to use the software. Sharing of this access code will jeopardize our ability to offer this service to you as we must remain in compliance with the license agreement we have signed. By using this tax assistance program, you acknowledge that Harvard University is not liable for any errors and incidental or consequential damages in connection with furnishing, performance or use of these on-line systems, on-line HELP and/or examples contained therein.

The tax resources offered by the HIO are provided so that international members of the Harvard community can make informed personal decisions concerning their taxes. HIO advisors are not trained tax specialists and cannot provide individual advice on taxes. By using these tax assistance programs, you acknowledge that Harvard University is not liable for any errors and incidental or consequential damages in connection with the furnishing, performance or use by you of these on-line systems, on-line HELP and/or examples contained therein. You should seek professional tax advice from a qualified accountant or attorney if you have questions or need clarification.