Tax Assistance for J-1 Participants
We cannot legally provide you with tax advice or endorse services from tax accountants. This page provides links to and descriptions of resources located on the IRS website (www.irs.gov). If you have Tax Law Questions, you should contact the IRS directly as your primary source of information:
Here is a list of topics discussed in this tax guide. Click one of the following links to jump to the relevant information:
Resources for J visa holders filing taxes:[top]
As Nonresident Aliens, J-1 Exchange Visitors must file annual income taxes with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS is the government agency responsible for collecting Federal taxes. For tax filing purposes, most J-1 visa holders are considered Nonresident Aliens in the broad category of International Taxpayers. A comprehensive guide on filing US Taxes for Aliens, including all of the rules that apply to J visa holders, is published on the IRS website here: http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p519.pdf. (Contents: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p519/)
This is a list of Tax Forms for Non-citizens, pubished on the IRS website (you will not need to file all of these forms): http://taxmap.ntis.gov/taxmap/ts0/formsfornoncitizen_o_6f59d029.htm
The IRS website also provides detailed information on the Taxation of Nonresident Aliens here: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Taxation-of-Nonresident-Aliens
If you are interested, this page describes the difference between Resident Aliens and Nonresident Aliens: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Determining-Alien-Tax-Status
I did not earn any income in 2013, but I was present as a J-1 exchange visitor. Do I still need to file taxes?[top]
Yes, you need to file taxes if you were present in the US as a J-1 exchange visitor for even 1 day during 2013. Even if you do not have any US earned income during 2013, you may still need to file Form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals With a Medical Condition: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Form-8843,-Statement-for-Exempt-Individuals-and-Individuals-With-a-Medical-Condition-1
Your host company must send you form W-2 by January 31. Contact your host company if you have not yet received form W-2.[top]
Sometime in January, your host company should have sent you a W-2 form showing all earned income they paid to you during the current calendar year. If you are unfamiliar with what form W-2 is, please check this webpage: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Form-W-2,-Wage-and-Tax-Statement
If you have not yet received a W-2, or are unclear about the information on your W-2, you must follow up with your host company’s Human Resources department, your training program or internship supervisor, or another representative at the company as soon as possible. It is a legal requirement that all W-2 forms be sent out to employees by January 31 of every calendar year.
You will need this form to complete your tax return. Most J-1 exchange visitors will complete either a 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ (US Non-Resident Alien Income Tax Return). The tax return forms can be downloaded from the IRS website (links below). The main resource page for Foreign Students and Scholars (including cultural exchange visitors) is located here: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Foreign-Students-and-Scholars.
The Foreign Students and Scholars page provides several links that should help determine the sources of income on which you need to pay taxes. Most J-1 visa holders will need to complete either form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ in order to file taxes with the IRS. Here is a general guide for Nonresident Aliens on how to figure their tax: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Nonresident-Alien---Figuring-Your-Tax
I have my W-2 but do I need any other forms before I can file my taxes?[top]
You may need additional information before you can begin filing your Federal and State income taxes. In addition to form W-2, you may also need to obtain IRS form 1042-S. Form 1042-S must be filed by March 15, so it may arrive later than form W-2. Here is some more information on IRS form 1042-S: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Form-1042-S,-Foreign-Person%27s-U.S.-Source-Income-Subject-to-Withholding
What is a Tax Treaty?[top]
If your country has a Tax Treaty with the United States, you may need to indicate this when you file taxes as it can affect the rate at which you are taxed. If you are not sure whether your country has a Tax Treaty with the US, you should review IRS Publication 901, U.S. Tax Treaties:
More information on Tax Treaties can be found here: http://taxmap.ntis.gov/taxmap/ts0/taxtreaty_o_17dc605d.htm.
Which form should I file, 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ?[top]
1040NR and 1040NR-EZ are very similar. The “EZ” in 1040NR stands for the word “easy,” meaning that the 1040NR-EZ is the short version of the 1040NR (confused yet?). The IRS has designed a survey that helps you decide if you should file form 1040NR or form 1040NR-EZ: http://www.irs.gov/instructions/i1040nre/ar01.html
Some J-1 Visa holders with J-2 dependents should use form 1040NR.
If you are still confused, this page provides detailed information on which forms you should file as a Nonresident Alien taxpayer: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Aliens---Which-Form-to-File
Here is the IRS page with more information on form 1040NR-EZ: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Form-1040NR-EZ,-U.S.-Income-Tax-Return-for-Certain-Nonresident-Aliens-With-No-Dependents
Here is a link to form 1040NR-EZ http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040nre.pdf
…and here are the instructions for form 1040NR-EZ: http://www.irs.gov/instructions/i1040nre/
Here is the IRS page with more information on form 1040NR: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Form-1040NR,-U.S.-Nonresident-Alien-Income-Tax-Return
Here is a link to 1040NR-EZ: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040nr.pdf
…and here are the instructions for form 1030NR: http://www.irs.gov/instructions/i1040nr/.
Do I also need to pay Social Security and Medicare Taxes?[top]
All of the information above refers to paying Federal income taxes. In addition, US residents and some nonresidents also pay national taxes for Social Security and Medicare. If you are a J-1 visa holder in the US temporarily, then you may be exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes. It is up to you to determine whether or not you have to pay these taxes, but the IRS and Social Security Administration websites can help you make this determination.
The Social Security Administration descrives its policy on Nonresident Alien Tax Witholding here: http://www.ssa.gov/international/AlienTax.html
Also, read these two pages for more information on whether or not a J-1 visa holder can claim exemption from Social Security and Medicare taxes: (1) http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Foreign-Student-Liability-for-Social-Security-and-Medicare-Taxes.
…and this page is also helpful: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Exempt-Individual-Who-is-a-Student
Two important points to consider from the IRS website:
- Exchange Visitors(p43)
Exchange visitors are temporarily admitted to the United States under section 101(a)(15)(J) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Social security and Medicare taxes are not withheld on pay for services of an exchange visitor who has been given permission to work and who possesses or obtains a letter of authorization from the sponsor unless the exchange visitor is considered a resident alien.
If services performed by an exchange visitor are not considered as performed to carry out the purpose for which the visitor was admitted to the United States, social security and Medicare taxes are withheld from pay for the services unless the pay is exempt under the Internal Revenue Code.
- Students and Exchange Visitors(p43)
Generally, services performed by you as a nonresident alien temporarily in the United States as a nonimmigrant under subparagraph (F), (J), (M), or (Q) of section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act are not covered under the social security program if the services are performed to carry out the purpose for which you were admitted to the United States. This means that there will be no withholding of social security or Medicare taxes from the pay you receive for these services. These types of services are very limited, and generally include only on-campus work, practical training, and economic hardship employment.
Social security and Medicare taxes will be withheld from your pay for these services if you are considered a resident alien as discussed in chapter 1, even though your nonimmigrant classification ("F," "J," "M," or "Q") remains the same.
Services performed by a spouse or minor child of nonimmigrant aliens with the classification of "F-2," "J-2," "M-2," and "Q-3" are covered under social security.
If you believe you may be exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes in 2013, the following forms may be of use to you:
Form 8316--Information Regarding Request for Refund of Social Security Tax Erroneously Withheld on Wages Received by a Nonresident Alien on an F, J, or M Type Visa: http://taxmap.ntis.gov/taxmap/ts0/form8316informatio_f_198756e1.htm
Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Form-843,-Claim-for-Refund-and-Request-for-Abatement
I will also be filing for my J-2 dependent.[top]
If you believe that you should also file taxes for your J-2 dependent, then we recommend you seek advice from a qualified tax professional who has experience with J-1 and J-2 related tax issues. There are several factors to consider that are too complicated to explain here, so it is better to seek outside guidance in these instances.
This website may also provide answers to some common J-2 related questions: http://apps.irs.gov/app/vita/content/0605/0605_01_075.jsp?level=foreignstudent
What about the State Income Tax?[top]
You may also need to file a State Income Tax return. You can find the website for each State’s Department of Revenue from the following page: http://www.aicpa.org/Research/ExternalLinks/Pages/TaxesStatesDepartmentsofRevenue.aspx
You may owe money to the IRS, or the IRS may owe you money.[top]
Refunds! They are a thing. It means you get money back from the IRS for taxes that you overpaid to the government. If you file electronically (efile), you can check the status of your refund here: http://www.irs.gov/Refunds.
Or, you may have underpaid in total taxes to the government during 2013, which means that you will have to pay additional taxes to the IRS. You can pay online using a Credit or Debit Card, choosing one of the payment processors on the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Pay-Taxes-by-Credit-or-Debit-Card.
Help! I am outside the US and I will not be able to file US income taxes by April 15. What should I do!?
If you cannot make the April 15 deadline for filing US income taxes, you may be eligible for an extension of the deadline. More information on obtaining an Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return is available here:
If you need help with filing Taxes…[top]
Even if you read all of the resources above, you will by no means become an expert in US tax law. You may want to seek help from a tax accounting service that is familiar with J1 related issues. Hiring an outside service will expedite and simplify the process, but these services can be expensive, so be sure to research all of your options carefully before making a decision to purchase services. We cannot recommend a specific service, but you may want to consult your host company’s HR department to ask them to locate a competent service. Make sure the service has handled J1 related taxes previously. Many popular services rely on software that does not contain provisions for the special considerations of your J1 status.
What happens if I don’t file a Tax Return?[top]
Filing taxes can be a hassle, but filing early can truly save you time and money. When the IRS recieves the W-2 form from an employer, but cannot match it to a tax return, the service creates a tax return that assumes unreported revenue. You then become liable for the tax on this created return. Should you wish return to the United States for employment purposes in the future, you will discover you owe unpaid tax plus interest and penalty.
The list above is a great place to start doing research, but it does not cover all of the topics that may be of concern to J visa holders filing US taxes. All of the resources we have referenced are available online at the IRS website (www.IRS.gov) or the Social Security Administration website (www.SSA.gov).
In addition, the following page contains more information relevant to Nonresident Aliens: http://taxmap.ntis.gov/taxmap/ts0/aliennonresident_o_00a819d9.htm
Remember to always maintain copies of your tax documents, including your tax returns, for your personal records!
Good luck and we hope the process is not too tax-ing (definition: physically or mentally demanding)!