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Susan Chacko

Dear Just Ask:

Do IRTAs have to pay self-employment tax? Can IRTAs contribute to an IRA?

What tax forms do visiting fellows file?

--composite questions from confused NIH-based taxpayers

Dear Taxpayers:

Ah, taxes. Bad enough when you know exactly what you need to file, but so much worse when you are not sure of the tax laws for your particular situation. Here is some useful information, but be warned that interpretation and implementation of tax laws are the domain of the IRS and the courts, and the IRS is the final arbiter on all tax issues.

IRTA fellows are paid in the form of a taxable grant, which NIH reports to the IRS. Early each year, IRTAs should receive a green 1099G (for U.S. citizens) or a 1042-S (for green-card holders), which states what was paid them the preceding year. This form replaces the standard W-2--or any other form you may be used to. If the 1099G has not arrived by January 31 or the 1042-S by March 15, call the Office of Financial Management at 496-5635 to get the form sent.

Federal and state taxes are not witheld from IRTA awards therefore, estimated taxes must be filed quarterly on form 1040-ES for federal taxes and the equivalent form for state taxes. Due dates for estimated taxes are the 15th of April, June, September, and January. At tax time, IRTAs should file the 1040 tax form, not the 1040A or 1040EZ.

IRTAs need to file federal and state taxes forms are available at public libraries, post offices, and on the Web at


State forms can be downloaded from

<http://www.dccfo.com/taxpmain.htm>(District of Columbia)

<http://www.comp.state.md.us/main.htm> (Maryland)


<http://www.dor.state.nc.us/DOR/>(North Carolina)


<http://www.revenue.state.az.us/index.html >(Arizona).

Because IRTAs are paid from a taxable grant, not salaried for services rendered, the NIH Legal Counsel advises they are not subject to Social Security and Medicare witholdings. They are also not self-employed and so should not file Schedule C or pay self-employment tax. Also, the medical coverage cost paid by NIH for IRTAs is not income and should not be added to the 1099G income.

The amount from the 1099G or 1042-S should be reported on Line 21 (taxable grant), not Line 7 (taxable income), of the 1040 tax form. If it's reported on the wrong line, the IRS may question why you have not paid Social Security or Medicare. If that happens, you should respond with a letter stating that your income is from a taxable grant and should have been reported in Line 21. You can also include copies of the description of the award program:


and the information on taxes for fellows:




IRTA fellows cannot contribute to an IRA, because their stipends are not considered compensation and are not subject to Social Security. If they get additional income from other sources and pay Social Security taxes on that income, then they may be able to contribute to an IRA. If you have questions, you can contact Ed Everitt (Division of Financial Management, NIH) by e-mail at

(include your phone number, so he can discuss the situation with you) or ask your local IRS office.

Senior staff fellows are employees of NIH and therefore have the same benefits as other government employees. Taxes are witheld from their salaries, including Social Security and Medicare. They get W-2 forms and must file taxes like any other government employee.

No general tax information can be provided for visiting fellows, because the tax laws that affect them arise from their country of origin. Each has its own tax treaty with the United States, so some visiting fellows have to pay U.S. taxes and others do not. The Fogarty Center publishes a tax handbook each year, available from the receptionist in Building 16A. The Center also holds monthly tax meetings and workshops around tax time for its visiting foreign scientists.

--Susan Chacko

Where To Get Tax Help

IRS publications that cover fellows' tax issues are:

* Publication 17: Your Federal Income Tax

* Publication 520: Scholarships and Fellowships

* Publication 590: Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)

The local IRS Office: For Bethesda employees, the closest IRS office is at 11510 Georgia Ave., Wheaton, Maryland 20902.

IRTA tax questions for U.S. citizens: Contact Ed Everitt by e-mail at

Visiting scientist tax issues: Call your Fogarty immigration specialist at 496-6166 to attend the next tax seminar, or contact Fogarty's tax contractor, Peter Canonico, Valley Tax Financial Service, by e-mail at

The Fellows Committee website has tax information at

Tax issues are sometimes discussed on the fellows' mailing list, and you can also ask a tax question there. Subscribe to this list by sending e-mail to listserv@list.nih.gov, with the body of the message reading 'subscribe fellow-l'

The Fellows Handbook is given out in hardcopy form to all new fellows and can also be accessed on the Web at

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