GLACIER eases tax filing for international students

By Yi Zhu

Wei Li is an international graduate student in Labor and Employment Relations, and works as a paid graduate hourly grader for the College of Business. When the tax-filing season came in previous years, Li always had trouble calculating her tax payments and preparing the documents for the federal tax return by herself.

“I used to have a very tough time figuring out what forms I should submit for tax-filing and where to get those forms,” Li said. “The filing process always drives me crazy and frustrated.”

In an effort to help all international students better prepare their taxes this year, the International Student and Scholar Service purchased a licensed agreement with GLACIER Tax Prep and is offering free use of the service.

The tax prep service is a web-based tax return preparation system designed exclusively for foreign students, scholars, teachers, researchers, trainees and dependents to aid in preparing U.S. federal income tax forms.

“GTP is not new,” said Guaxara Gonzalez, advising assistant for ISSS. “Until last year, U of I only gives ‘active’ international students or scholars the access to GTP. From this year on, every one of them will have this access.”

By saying ‘active,’ Gonzalez indicates a small group of international students and scholars who receive relatively large incomes on or off campus, acted actively in campus activities and has a strong willingness to handle their tax issues. All international students and scholars as well as their dependents are required to file at least one tax form for every year they are present in the U.S., regardless of whether they earned an income, according to ISSS’ website, 

“Many international students and scholars don’t know they have to file the tax annually even if they don’t receive income,” Gonzalez said. “This does not necessarily mean you have to pay taxes, this is according to the federal law. If they don’t file their taxes, it will be documented to their personal record, and might influence their application for H1B VISA, green card or other immigration documents in the future.”

ISSS is not able to give tax advice about individual cases, since they are not “tax professionals,” said Helen Agans, office support assistant in ISSS. The Office of Business and Financial Service provides some services of tax issues for University staffs, but international students are applied to a different process in tax-filing.

“Since the number of international students on campus is growing continuously on campus, these requests are booming,” Agans said. “With the help of GTP, tax issues become easier to understand, diminishing international students’ confusions. We encourage them to use this system.”

After filling all the necessary forms and providing required information, a personal tax document will be generated. International students and scholars must note that although the tax document has been created, it is not submitted to the Internal Revenue Service, the agency that is responsible for collecting taxes and the administration of the internal revenue code. 

“The GLACIER system really helps me a lot with my tax problems,” Li said. “Although I still have to mail the documents, it assists me to make it clear what documents I should submit. It also helps me keep a copy of my tax file, remind me of the filing deadline and reduce any possible legal violations.”

However, Li hopes in the future that GTP will provide forms in different languages for people with different language barriers. 

International students can access the GLACIER Tax Prep online with Sunapsis, a program run through I-Start.

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