Several factors affect whether UC Berkeley is required to withhold or report postdoc income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in turn affecting what you are required to do to comply with the law. How do you know where you stand?
*Please note: This is general information only. We strongly recommend you consult with a tax advisor.
Know Your Title Code
As a postdoc at UC Berkeley (or at any UC campus), your "title code" reflects who pays you and how you are paid, and (together with your citizenship) that determines your tax status. Because postdocs are often paid through more than one funding source, you may have two or even three title codes. See a list of all postdoc title codes. If you do not know which title code or codes you fall under, log onto UCPath to view your earnings statement, consult your HR representative, check your appointment approval letter, or contact VSPA at firstname.lastname@example.org for verification.
Determine How Your Title Code Affects Your Tax Situation
- Postdoc Employees (Title Code 3252), Regardless of Citizenship Status
The payments you receive for working at UC Berkeley as a postdoc employee are considered wages. The IRS requires UCB to withhold income taxes from your paycheck. UCB will therefore deduct some of your wages and pay them to the IRS. At the end of the year, UCB will provide you with a W-2 form, indicating the amount of tax that has been withheld from your pay. You will submit this form and the information on it to the IRS on your tax return, and that is all you really need to worry about. When you are first hired, you will be provided with a form W-4, a worksheet that will help the University determine how much money to withhold from your paycheck for taxes. This page also provides information on income withholding tax.
- Postdoc Fellows (Title Code 3253) who are U.S. Citizens, Permanent Residents, and Resident Aliens
Payments you receive for working at UC Berkeley are not considered “wages,” rather they are considered a “fellowship.” UCB is not required to withhold taxes from fellowships or to report fellowship payments for individuals who are U.S. citizens, permanent residents (green card holders), or resident aliens for tax purposes. The IRS and California Franchise Tax Board require fellowship recipients to “self–report” fellowship payments when they file their U.S. and California annual income tax returns. This means that the postdoc fellows themselves are solely responsible for keeping track of their own monthly fellowship payment statements. UCB will not issue a W-2 form for fellowship payments to postdocs in this category, since only payments that are considered wages are reported on the W-2. Postdoc fellows who fall under this category should refer to the IRS and CA Franchise Tax Board for information about paying quarterly estimated taxes.
- Postdoc Fellows (Title Code 3253) who are NON-Resident Aliens
The IRS does require UC Berkeley to withhold taxes from fellowship payments to postdoc fellows (those in title code 3253) who are non-resident aliens for tax purposes. At the year-end, a different tax statement, called a “1042-S” will be provided to such postdocs.
- Postdoc “Paid-Directs” (Title Code 3254)
If you are paid by an external organization, such as a foreign government, your pay is not considered "wages," so UC Berkeley is not required to report such payments to the IRS. You will not receive a W-2 form. However, when a UCB department pays for the cost of benefits for a postdoc paid-direct, this contribution is considered a form of income called “imputed income,” and the amount of this contribution is considered taxable income.
- Postdocs with Multiple Title Codes
If you have more than one appointment in the UCPath payroll system, more than one tax situation may apply to you. For example, if you receive a fellowship (Postdoc Fellow under title code 3253), but you also receive a supplemental salary from your PI supervisor (as a Postdoc Employee under title code 3252). In this case, part of your income will be reported to the IRS, and part will not. That means that although you would have to pay estimated quarterly taxes to the IRS for the fellowship portion of your pay, UC Berkeley will withhold the taxes from the supplemental portion of your pay.
Tax Reporting Requirements for International Postdocs and Researchers
If you are a visa holder, we advise you to register with GLACIER/Foreign Tax Compliance System. Visiting scholars and visiting student researchers will need a GLACIER record if your faculty host will provide you with a living allowance payment.
GLACIER is a secure online tax compliance system that collects tax-related information from foreign individuals receiving payments from UC Berkeley. GLACIER helps determine tax residency status, withholding tax rates, and tax treaty eligibility for the foreign individual. GLACIER also manages foreign national’s paperwork, prepares tax forms, and assists with IRS tax reporting.
The Berkeley International Office (BIO) has a plethora of useful information for our international postdocs, visiting scholars, and visiting student researchers. Visit their website for all the important details.
Additional Tax Information
Still have questions? Visit BIO's tax FAQ page.