What is the purpose of taxes?
Taxes are a way to make sure that every person with an income pays the government their appropriate share. The money you pay in taxes goes to many places including social security, defense and international security assistance, Medicare/Medicaid, safety net programs, and interest on debt. In addition to government workers’ salaries, common resources (such as police and firefighters), infrastructure, public libraries, and parks, among other things, are supported through taxes. In the United States, the burden is on you to understand, interpret, and report accurately.
What is the deadline for filling taxes?
In most years, the deadline is April 15.
What is the outcome after I file my taxes?
There are generally two outcomes. You will need to either pay taxes if you did not pay enough during the previous calendar year. Or, if you overpaid your tax burden, you will receive a tax refund.
What types of taxes do I need to pay?
This depends on your individual circumstances and your legal residence.
My friends pay less tax than me. Why?
Taxes are highly individualized based on many factors that vary greatly even between two people in similar circumstances. Your salary and withholding tax are only two pieces of a much bigger puzzle. Income, deductions, number of exemptions, tax credits, phase-out of exemptions, deductions, and credits, as well as withholding and estimated tax payments, are all factors in determining the amount of your refund or (gasp!) the amount you owe the government at year end.
Your annual income tax calculation starts with ALL sources of taxable income for the year. In addition to your weekly paycheck, this can include a spouse’s salary, interest, dividends, capital gains or losses, unemployment, retirement distributions, social security, rental income, small business income, cancelled debts, alimony, gambling winnings, and even bribes! You also have adjustments to income. Depending on your situation, these could include deductions for traditional IRA contributions, student loan interest deduction, alimony paid, and others.
Where do I learn more about taxes?
- Cornell-specific information: Basic information, the 1098-T, 1098-T FAQ, fellowship recipients, and general information.
- International Students: Review the Global Learning website first. Review the tax preparation assistance and resident or non-resident pages.
- All students: Review the IRS website and NY state websites.
- Personal Finance for Ph.D.s: Personal Finance for Ph.D.s are not professional tax preparers; this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute tax advice.
Free help preparing taxes:
- For international students: Tax information for International Students – Global Learning provides free tax preparation software for international students. (Turbo Tax and other products do not include the right forms for international students, do not use them.)
- Tax preparation from Alternatives Credit Union: Alternatives Federal Credit Union offers free tax preparation for those who qualify. If your income is less than $57,000, you could be eligible.
If you decide to work with a tax preparer, please follow these tips:
- Check the preparer’s qualifications
- Check the preparer’s history
- Ask about service fees
- Ask to e-file
- Make sure the preparer is available
- Provide records and receipts
- Never sign a blank return
- Review before signing
- Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN
- Go to Student Center to make sure your address on record is accurate. If you received any funds through the university, you will receive tax documents detailing what you received. Domestic students should have received most of them by January 31. International students will receive their documents soon.
- Collect your documents and any other statements you might have received. For example, your bank may have sent you a statement depending on the type of account you have and the bank’s location.
- How you file will depend on your residency.
- International Students: You will need to file U.S. federal tax returns if you received any U.S. based funds, such as wages, fellowships, or a travel grant. The Office of Global Learning provides access to software (SPRINTAX) to assist you, but WAIT! We will make SPRINTAX available only after all required tax documents (W-2 and/or 1042S) are available in early March. In the meantime, please make sure that your Student Center address is up-to-date with your current local address, and review tax information provided on the Global Learning website.
- Domestic students: Programs such as Turbo Tax guide domestic taxpayers through each item of income and deductions, and users need to simply input the information from their tax documents (i.e., W-2, 1099, 1098, 1095, etc.).