Services for International Students and Scholars

Social Security Numbers & Taxes

What is a Social Security Number (SSN)?

If you are working and getting paid in the United States then you will need to get a Social Security Number or SSN. An SSN is a nine-digit number used for tax-payer identification, income reporting, and other official record keeping purposes. SSN’s are valid for a lifetime once issued.

A Social Security Number is an important identifying document. Please make sure that you keep it in a safe place to avoid identity theft.

Remember! Social Security numbers are not valid forms of work authorization! Please read the employment section to learn about student and exchange visitor employment on and off campus.

Am I Eligible to apply for an SSN?

You are only eligible to apply for an SSN if you are employed. The U.S. government does not allow those who are not employed to apply for an SSN.

How long does it take to get an SSN?

It takes about 2 -4 weeks for an SSN card to be issued. You are allowed to start working with just a letter/receipt from the SSA stating that you have applied for an SSN. However, this is at the discretion of your employer. Typically, if an employer will be doing a background check they will only accept an SSN number before you can start working. Please talk with the HR department of your employer about their policy.

When can I apply for an SSN?

F-1 Students
  • If you have CPT Authorization – you can apply 30 days before the start date of your CPT
  • If you have OPT Authorization – you can apply after you have both your I-20 with OPT endorsement and your EAD card
  • If you are working on campus – you can apply after you receive your On Campus Employment Letter from OGS
J-1 Students 
  • If you have AT Authorization – you can apply 30 days before the start date of your AT
  • If you are working on-campus – you can apply after your receive your On-Campus Employment Letter from OGS

What immigration documents should I bring to apply for an SSN?

Where can I apply for an SSN?

After collecting all required documentation, you can apply for your SSN with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA has a few locations in the Boston area. When applying for your SSN you will need to go in person to one of the SSA locations.

Generally, there are two convenient locations for Northeastern students studying at the Boston campus:

Social Security Administration
10 Causeway Street
Boston, MA 02222

Social Security Administration
10 Fawcett Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

For Northeastern students studying at the Seattle campus:

Social Security Administration
Suite 901
915 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98174

If you are not located in Boston or Seattle you can find the nearest Social Security Office near you here.

Tax Information

Important Disclaimer

The information on OGS webpage is provided as guidance and is not intended to be legal tax advice. The staff of OGS are not tax specialists and are NOT qualified to answer international students/scholars questions regarding taxes. If you believe you have a complicated tax issue, please consult the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), local and state tax agencies and tax professionals for advice and guidance regarding their individual tax situations.

To help our international students and scholars, the OGS provides free access to Windstar, an online tax software assistance program. An email will be sent to all eligible students with log in information. You can access the Website here to begin logging in:

 

https://trr.thomsonreuters.com/

 

The amount of taxes you pay will depend on the type of income you receive and your tax status in the U.S. The U.S. tax system is a pay-as-you go system which means taxes may be automatically deducted from your paycheck, stipends and scholarships if the funds are U.S. sourced. You may notice that your available income after taxes has been reduced by tax withholdings.

International students and scholars (F or J immigration status) in the U.S. are required to file (Federal) tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each year. It is a legal requirement to report your taxes even if you did not earn income in the U.S.

Do I need to file taxes?

You must file federal tax returns if you were in the U.S. for any period of time during 2016 on a non-immigrant visa. You do not need to file taxes if you were not present in the U.S. any time during 2016 or visited the U.S. on a tourist visa status (B1/B2).

If you receive income in the U.S., including wages, stipend, or scholarship funds, you will likely have federal and state tax withheld from your checks.

Non-resident international students (present in the U.S. for any part of five calendar years or less, excluding 2017) must file at least the U.S. federal tax Form 8843 even if you did not earn any income in the U.S.

*In addition to filing federal tax return, some students and scholars must also file a MA state tax form. For more information, please refer to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue FAQ site.

Form W-2:

If you are employed by Northeastern University and/or any U.S. employer you should have received Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement that summarizes your previous year’s income and taxes withheld. W-2 documents are sent by the end of January. If you have worked for compensation and not yet received your W-2, please contact your Human Resources department. The OGS does not have access to these forms.

Form 1042-S:

If you received a scholarship or fellowship in 2016 from a U.S. source OR earned income and it was covered under a tax treaty between the U.S. and your home country, you will need to file Form 1042-S. Form 1042-S details your income and treaty benefits if it applies.

Tax Residence Category: Tax Non-Resident/Tax Resident

Tax Residence categories are not to be confused with the immigration terms. The names are classified as “non-resident” and “resident” similar to immigration terms, but it is important to know that it is independent from your immigration classification. For the purpose of tax, residence is defined based on the Substantial Presence Test (SPT).

Tax Non-Resident – Tax Non-Residents are generally only taxed on U.S. income and usually complete Forms 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ and may benefit from any applicable tax treaty and exemption from U.S. Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid taxes. While Tax non-residents are not required to file a federal or state tax return if their earned income amount is below the stated personal exemption amount, they are encouraged to file a return if taxes were withheld from their paycheck as they will likely receive a refund.

Tax Resident – Tax residents are generally taxed by the U.S. on worldwide income and usually complete Form 1040-EZ or 1040 and required schedule forms.

Windstar, the tax preparation software we offer to international students and scholars will help you determine your tax residence status. You will be able to use Windstar to complete your federal Tax Non-Resident tax forms, if Windstar determines you fall under the Tax Non-Resident category.

Deadlines

The Deadline to file your taxes is April 18, 2017. The deadline refers to the date the envelope is postmarked by the post office.

Form 1040-NR/1040-NREZ with Form 8843 – April 18, 2017

Form 8843 only (if you did not receive income) – June 15, 2017

Documents Needed to Complete Tax Forms

  • Your passport, I-94, visa/immigration status information,
  • I-20 (if you are F status), DS-2019 (if you are J status)
  • Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Tax reporting documents for U.S. income received in 2016: Forms W-2, 1042-S and/or 1099 (if you received any)
  • Copy of past year’s tax forms (if you filed federal tax return previous year)
  • Address Information (Current U.S. and Foreign Address)
  • Academic Institution or Sponsoring Organization Information
  • Entry and Exit Dates for current and past visits to the U.S.
  • Scholarship or Fellowship grant letters (if no related Form 1042-S)

MA State Tax

Some students and scholars must also file a MA state tax form. For more information, please refer to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue FAQ site.

Windstar will help determine your Massachusetts status. If you used the software to prepare your federal tax return it will prepare the forms you will need to file, if it is required.

Note: You may be required to file a state tax return for each state you lived or worked during the preceding calendar year.

Resources

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

http://www.irs.gov/

Substantial Presence Test

Boston IRS Office Contact Information:

JFK Federal Building

15 New Sudbury Street

Boston, MA 02203

(617) 316-2850

IRS National helpline: (800) 829-1040

IRS VITA Program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance): 1-800-829-1040

Tax Treaty Information:

U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens (IRS Publication 519)

U.S. Tax Treaties (IRS Publication 901)

Massachusetts State Tax Filing Information

Massachusetts Department of Revenue

2016 Massachusetts Tax Forms and Schedules

Information on Massachusetts State tax forms

Nonresident/Part-Year Resident Income, Exemption, Deduction and Credit Questions

Massachusetts Department of Revenue Contact Information:

19 Staniford Street

Boston, MA 02114

1-800-392-6089 or (617) 887-MDOR

Tax consultants and tax attorneys

If you decide to hire a lawyer, tax accountant or tax provider to assist with filing your taxes, you must ensure that they have expertise in international tax issues. The OGS does not endorse any specific accounting firm. Here is a partial list:

KLR, Certified Public Accountants

400 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, Tel: 617 236-8098

Meilman & Costa, P.C., Tax Attorneys, Meilman & Costa, P.C.

70 Wells Avenue, Suite 200, Newton, MA 02459, Tel: 617 969-9500

Contact: Stephanie Meilman or Nelson Costa

Paula Singer, Tax Attorney, Vacovec, Mayotte & Singer

Two Newton Place, 255 Washington St., Suite 340, Newton, MA 02158, Tel: 617 964-0500 or 1 800 TAX-GROUP, e-mail: info@vacovec.com

Gary R. Engler, CPA, Gary R. Engler & Company

11845 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 900, Los Angeles, CA 90064 Tel: 310 440-5557, e-mail: gary@englercpa.com

Vacovec, Mayotte & Singer, Tax Attorneys

255 Washington Street, Newton, MA 02158, Tel: (617) 964-0500

Contact: Arthur Kerr

Important Disclaimer

The information on OGS webpage is provided as guidance and is not intended to be legal tax advice. The staff of OGS are not tax specialists and are NOT qualified to answer international students/scholars questions regarding taxes. OGS subscribes to Windstar tax preparation software to help international students/scholars prepare Federal and State tax forms. If you believe you have a complicated tax issue, please consult the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), local and state tax agencies and tax professionals for advice and guidance regarding their individual tax situations.