While many Yalies are slaving away on senior essays and summer job interviews, others are just getting over an even greater nuisance. April 15 is the deadline for filing taxes, and many international students are breathing a sigh of relief that the process is over.
Most American Yalies interviewed confessed they’d never done their own taxes.
“I’ve never done my own taxes because I’ve never made enough money to have to file,” Sean Fenton ’04 said. “But I do know how to do them.”
While some were baffled by the prospect of completing the forms, others were thankful for parents and accountants who could take responsibility for carrying out the process for them.
“My father handles my taxes when he does the taxes for the rest of our family,” Eric Meizlish ’04 said. “Taxes are a hassle, and I certainly appreciate that he takes care of them for me.”
Some international students simply need to go to the University Taxation Office and sign a form that exempts them from taxes; others have been meeting with tax counselors, reading up on the technicalities of U.S. taxation, and attending workshops designed to make the process easier.
“The whole process is confusing,” said Nicolette Franck ’04, a resident of Ontario, Canada. “We’re all reading different things, and getting information from different people, so it’s hard to be on the same page.”
The University Taxation Department and the Office of International Student Services are trying to do just that.
“I think the general feeling is that tax forms are pretty confusing, but the International Office of Student Services is very good about answering questions related to all areas, including taxes,” Ireland resident Dara Mac Caba ’02 said.
Devoted to facilitating the taxation process, the department provides detailed instructions, workshops and one-on-one appointments and runs a Web site complete with downloadable forms, free software to assist filling out those forms, and relevant links.
As International Student Visas only allow students to work for the University, and not for other private businesses (a special working visa is required for such employment), working international Yalies are especially concerned with the issue of taxation.
Other international students, including Canadian resident Michael Treskow ’04, do not work and find the process “kind of pointless, yet painless.”
“You have to file a tax return even if you haven’t actually worked in the U.S.,” Treskow said. “It would be simpler to ask people who worked to do the taxes, while not bothering those international students who do not work.”
But Treskow willingly accepts the process, praising the software provided by the University for making the process minimally time consuming.
“You can download the software for free or fill it out online,” Treskow said. “The whole process takes 30 minutes, if you have a source of income in the U.S., and only about 10 if you don’t.”
Even so, some international students had trouble this year with filing tax returns.
“I went to the payroll office to inquire about my tax status early in the semester to get on top of things, but they said I didn’t need to worry about it this year, because I filled out a W-2 form as ‘exempt’ last year,” Franck said.
But after receiving a recent bombardment of e-mails reminding international students to complete their tax returns, Franck thought it best to check again.
“I knew you had to fill them out every year,” Franck said. “So now I have to go [today] and get the form.”