New software helps international students with taxes

Marlene Brueggemann

There is some hope for international students fearing the tax-filing process.

The Office of International Programs is offering access to tax software this semester that helps international students and staff with filing their United States income taxes.

Students can purchase an individual access code for $3 that allows them to use a program called NRAware! from any computer with Internet access.

International students, in particular, have problems filing their taxes because there are so many variables, said Robin Borczon, assistant director for international programs.

Students first have to figure out what form to complete, Borczon said.

“There is a very complicated residency formula that determines whether you are a resident for tax purposes or not,” Borczon said.

Another problem is that “resident” is used differently for taxes than it is used for immigration purposes or tuition purposes, Borczon said. Besides all these definitions, tax forms are filled with jargon that can be difficult to understand.

Students using NRAware! have to provide basic information, such as nationality, current and home address, and U.S. entry and exit dates. The program then does all the necessary calculations, looks up the tax treaties individual countries have with the United States and completes the tax form.

NRAware! is not an online filing program, Borczon said. Students have to print out the completed form and mail it.

Muhammad Raza Tiwana, an alumnus from Pakistan who works for international programs, has had his share of problems with filing income tax.

“It is time consuming,” Tiwana said. “Especially some questions just take you off your feet.”

Students are often asked what kind of taxes they have filed before or whether they are dependents, both of which can be confusing, Tiwana said.

Paola Cassana, a senior from Peru, has been living in Bowling Green for more than four years. Filing taxes requires a lot of background knowledge from students that they often don’t have, and it is difficult to find someone who does, Cassana said.

Cassana used NRAware! to file her taxes and had a good experience with the software.

“If you don’t know anything about taxes, you can still do it,” Cassana said.

Western started using the software last year after recommendations from other schools, Borczon said.

“It seems to be a really user friendly kind of thing,” Borczon said.

About 120 students have purchased it so far. The heavy purchase period is usually close to the April 15 tax deadline, Borczon said.

Borczon said students often assume that because they have to file taxes, they have to pay out more money.

“Some countries don’t have this system at all, so the concept of federal taxes is a little alien to some,” Borczon said. “Students often don’t realize that they are going to get money that they paid in back.”

It is usually just a matter of how much the refund will be, Borczon said. International students do not often work full-time or in high-paying jobs anyway, so most of the money comes back to them, she said.

Reach Marlene Brueggemann at [email protected]