I am not an American by passport (as of now), nor a permanent resident (green card holder).
However, it struck me when I was filling out my tax return this year. The tax software was telling me, basically, “Hey, you’re no longer a non-resident alien*. You’re officially a resident alien* (hooray!). Fill the same tax return form as the Americans instead, girl.”
*A side note: alien means non-American and non-American green card holder. I am an alien in the US, basically.
That means, I have lived in the USA for long enough, that now I am a resident of the USA for tax purpose. Although I was away from the States between June 2014-August 2015, all the number of days have accumulated for the past 4 years. That may also mean, the tax treaty benefit between Indonesia-USA which states, an Indonesian student living in the USA funded by a scholarship/ fellowship for the first 5 years may be tax exempted, is no longer available for me.
Uh-oh, what should I do?
That hooray was a sarcasm. It turned out that filling out a resident tax return gives me a slight mental breakdown (this is definitely lebay, a.k.a. exaggerating). I was confused on how to write my 1042-S form income (which you may get, when you get a scholarship/ fellowship in the US), W-2 (when you work in the US), and 1095-B (healthcare coverage). Yes, it also surprises me that I remember all those form numbers.
There is also a state tax return which I have to file. Fortunately, as a Massachusetts resident who has lived here for the past ~4.5 years, nothing much has changed. Well, except the fact that they have migrated from WebFile to MassTaxConnect this year and I have forgotten the login credentials. For a state tax return, you also need a 1099-HC. Basically, if you don’t have a health insurance covering you for the whole year, any tax refund you expect may not be given.
MIT provides GlacierTax for free for the international students who are non-residents, to help them fill and file the federal tax returns. However, MIT doesn’t provide one for residents (starting this year, I am one of them).
So, I should turn to other tax software available online. TurboTax, TaxAct, H & R Block, you name it. Sometimes, you can get away and pay nothing to create your tax return form, but that was not the case for me. None of them support filling 1042-S; while 1042-S was my most significant income in 2016 as an international student.
After asking people and digging through my e-mails, I found one e-mail thread of AIS-MIT (Association of Indonesian Students at MIT) talking about, “Now I am a resident alien, what tax software should I use?” I tried the one that my friend suggested**, and voila! I have filed both my federal tax return and state tax return!
**If you are facing the same problem (filing federal tax return as a resident alien from Indonesia), you may contact me through akunoortitan [at] gmail [dot] com, and I can probably give you the name of tax software. The tax software may require you to pay a fee, though.
Finally. I was stressed out for a little bit, as the tax return deadline in the USA is fast approaching (most of the time, it is due on April 15th, every year; but this year it’s due on April 18th).
Now that I am done and still due a refund, I can take a breath and focus on something else. As soon as the refund arrives, I probably book my ticket home for this summer. Out of topic, let me know if you are interested to meet up this summer! You can e-mail me, or drop a comment below. As always, feel free to share your experience of filing out federal tax return/ your experience with tax in general. Cheers!