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CAN to US student - as a non-resident, can I go to a tax prep service for help?

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How have you other international students dealt with filing taxes? There is help available from my school but their instructions are so confusing I can't even figure out what forms to bring to them for help. I haven't filed taxes before so I don't really know what the process is. But am I even eligible to go to a tax prep service? We can partly file through an online website but I am confused about if/how I would file taxes to my home country. Any advice would be appreciated.

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I don't know about the Canada part, but for the US your school will most likely provide you access to software that should help automate the process. It is true that (unlike citizens), after you complete the whole thing electronically, you have to print, sign, and mail your tax docs. I assume it might be the case that some schools would provide actual on-site help from experts, but I wouldn't count on it. Every place I've been, schools are very reluctant to give tax-related advice. You could pay for it.. but it's not clear that services like HR Block will have any expertise working with international students who need to file in multiple countries, so watch out for that. They may not tell you that they don't know what the f*ck they're doing because they'll want your money, so be sure to get a recommendation from someone who's used those services before you spend money on them. 

As for what documents you need, for the States you'll get the relevant docs from your schools - a W2 if you receive a salary, 1042-S if it's a fellowship; plus possible forms from your bank for any revenues you've had; and a form that indicates that you have insurance. You'll need to enter the precise dates you've been in the US vs when you've been traveling abroad, so figure that out. But otherwise, it's generally not too complicated. 

(Also don't forget you'll need to file taxes in your state, also probably manually, but it might depend on the state.)

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I've dealt with exactly the same thing for the last 5 years! It's a real pain. To answer your specific question:

I would recommend using the school-provided tax software for US taxes. Is it Sprintax or Glacier? My school used to provide Glacier, which was okay, but now they provide Sprintax and I think Sprintax is a lot better. Sprintax also allows you to choose to pay another $25 (or $35) to get software for state taxes, which is well worth it because it took me like 5 hours to figure out how to do California taxes by hand (I had Canadian fellowship income too). 

For Canadian taxes, you will have to find a Canadian tax prep specialist to help you if you have questions. US tax preparers won't be able to help you. But filing in Canada should be pretty straight-forward. You should just use online tax software, like U-File. You can't NETFILE to Canada if you don't live in Canada, so you have to print it out and mail it. You will also need to file your US taxes first, and then include a copy of your US return to Canada.

For more information, I recently wrote about Canadian grad students studying in the US and taxes here: 


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