The American Immigration Council cannot legally provide you with tax advice or endorse services from tax accountants. This page provides links to resources located on the IRS website. If you have any tax law questions, contact the IRS directly.
Resources for J Visa Holders
For tax filing purposes, most J-1 visa holders are considered Nonresident Aliens. As Nonresident Aliens, J-1 exchange visitors must pay federal, state and local taxes.
J-1 visitors must file annual income tax reports with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is the U.S. government agency responsible for collecting federal taxes. The IRS publishes the comprehensive U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, that answers questions on such topics as what is a nonresident alien, how to determine the amount of tax one pays, and how to get help with your tax questions.
You may find the following helpful:
What IRS tax forms do I need to fill out?
Most J-1 exchange visitors will complete either a 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ (US Non-Resident Alien Income Tax Return). The 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. 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
For more detailed information on which forms you should file as a Nonresident Alien taxpayer, visit: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Aliens---Which-Form-to-File
- The IRS page with more information on form 1040NR-EZ is: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Form-1040NR-EZ,-U.S.-Income-Tax-Return-for-Certain-Nonresident-Aliens-With-No-Dependents
- Link to form 1040NR-EZ http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040nre.pdf
- Instructions for form 1040NR-EZ: http://www.irs.gov/instructions/i1040nre/
- The IRS page with more information on form 1040NR is: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Form-1040NR,-U.S.-Nonresident-Alien-Income-Tax-Return
- Link to form 1040NR: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040nr.pdf
- Instructions for form 1030NR: http://www.irs.gov/instructions/i1040nr/
When will I receive my W-2 and what do I do if I haven't received it?
You will need the W-2 form to complete your tax return. Your host organization is legally required to send you a W-2 form showing all earned income paid to you during the current calendar year by January 31. Contact your host organization's human resources department or your supervisor if you have not received form W-2 by that date. For more information on the W-2, visit this webpage: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Form-W-2,-Wage-and-Tax-Statement
I have my W-2 but do I need any other forms before I can file my taxes?
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
I did not earn any income in 2014, but I was present as a J-1 exchange visitor. Do I still need to file taxes?
Yes. Even if you were in the U.S. for one day as a J-1 exchange visitor and did not earn any U.S. income, you still need to file Form 8843, the 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
What is a Tax Treaty?
If your country has a Tax Treaty with the U.S, 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, review IRS Publication 901, U.S. Tax Treaties: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Publication-901,-U.S.-Tax-Treaties-2
Do I also need to pay Social Security and Medicare Taxes?
U.S. residents and some nonresidents also pay Social Security and Medicare withholding taxes. If you are a J-1 visa holder, you may be exempt from paying these taxes. The Social Security Administration describes its Nonresident Alien Tax Withholding policy here: http://www.ssa.gov/international/AlienTax.html
For information on whether or not a J-1 visa holder can claim exemption from Social Security and Medicare taxes: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Foreign-Student-Liability-for-Social-Security-and-Medicare-Taxes
If you believe you are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, 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
What should I file for my J-2 dependent?
All J visa holders must file a return. If the J-2 has not earned money in the United States, file Form 8843. If money has been earned, then also file either the 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. The J-2 who earned money may also be responsible for Social Security and Medicare taxes. Consult with a tax specialist knowledgeable of J-1 and J-2 tax issues.
What happens if I owe money to the IRS?
If you underpaid total taxes to the government during a tax year, 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
You will receive a refund, which means you get money back from the IRS for taxes that you overpaid to the government. If you file electronically (efile), check the status of your refund here: http://www.irs.gov/Refunds
What is State Income Tax?
You may need to file a State Income Tax return. Find the website for each State’s Department of Revenue here:http://www.aicpa.org/Research/ExternalLinks/Pages/TaxesStatesDepartmentsofRevenue.aspx
What should I do if I am outside the United States and cannot file my tax returns by April 15?
If you cannot make the April 15 deadline for filing your tax return, you may be eligible for an extension. More information on obtaining an Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return is available at: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Form-4868,-Application-for-Automatic-Extension-of-Time-To-File-U.S.-Individual-Income-Tax-Return
What should I look for in a professional tax preparation firm or accountant?
Seek help from a tax accounting professional who is familiar with J-1 and J-2 tax issues. We cannot recommend a specific service; you may want to consult your host organization’s HR department for help locating a competent service. Many popular services rely on software that does not contain provisions for the special considerations of your J status.
What happens if I do not file a tax return?
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 to return to the U.S. for employment purposes in the future, you will discover you owe unpaid tax plus interest and penalty.
Remember to keep copies of your tax documents, including your tax returns, for your personal records!