Do J1 Visa Holders Have to File Tax Returns?

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J1 visas are granted to promote cultural exchange and provide opportunity for the recipients to obtain training or study in the U.S. Some J1 visa categories include: intern, specialist, work and travel, teacher, professor, research scholar, trainee, or a student, among others.

Do J1 visa holders have to file tax returns?

Yes, J1 visa holders who earned money during their stay in the U.S. have to file tax return for each year in which they were compensated.

  • J1 visa holders have to pay federal, state, and local taxes.
  • J1 visa holders do not have to pay social security or Medicare taxes.

The required forms are 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ that have to be mailed and cannot be e-filed. That includes tax preparation software such as TurboTax that do not support those forms.

In many instances, J1 visa holders have taxes withheld from a paycheck and may therefore qualify for a refund. In that case, they have to file the same forms.

Taxation is not the same across the board and varies based on admittance category, the visitor’s country of origin, and the duration of stay. Additionally, there are tax treaty provisions based on the country of origin that affect the income tax rate. Even though those treaties may exempt you from paying taxes, you still have to report earnings to the IRS.

Publication 515 contains information on tax treaties between the US and other countries. You can check if your country of origin has any special arrangements with the US government. There you will find the following tables (by country of origin):

  • Withholding rates on income other that personal service income.
  • Types of personal service income subject to exemption or reduction of withholding.
  • Effective dates and location of text of each treaty.

What’s necessary to file tax returns?

You will need the following documents to report your earnings to the IRS:

  • Passport with I-94 to fill Immigration related information.
  • Social security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
  • Wage and tax statement from your employer such as W-2.
  • Other documents you may receive include Form 1098E, Form 1042S, Form 1099G.

When is filing of Form 1040NR or NR-EZ not required?

You do not have to file taxes in the U.S. if your income sources are only from:

  • Abroad (generated in other countries)
  • You earned interest income from a U.S. bank, a U.S. savings & loan institution, a U.S. credit union, a U.S. insurance company, an investment that generates interest income.
  • Tax free scholarship or fellowship.

Where to file Form 1040NR or NR-EZ?

Check the most recent Instructions to Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ for the mailing address. It varies depending on who files (individuals vs estates and trusts) and whether or not a payment is included.

What to do if you are back to your home country?

Many J1 visa holders are back in their home countries when they have to file U.S. tax returns, which is often challenging. There are companies in the U.S. that assist with this type of situations but I cannot recommend any of them simply because I have not been able to verify their credentials. I would first try to contact an IRS office abroad or acceptance agents outside of the U.S. to see if they can provide further assistance.

Remember that all forms can be downloaded from irs.gov and you can call a U.S. IRS office for instructions. Help is offered in many languages.

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