What J-1 Visa Holders Need to Know About Filing Taxes

Filed in J-1 Regulation Explainers by on February 22, 2016 0 Comments

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It is tax season in the U.S.! By January 31, 2016 anyone who received income from a U.S. source should have received a W-2 form for income from their employer or 1099 forms from investments such as bank accounts or stock funds. These documents are used to fill out both Federal and State income tax reports, known as income tax returns. The American Immigration Council has several resources on our website to help exchange visitors understand where to find tax information. Several links to those resources are below, but first, let talk about why exchange visitors are subject to U.S. taxes.

Basically, the U.S. taxes all income of everyone in the U.S., unless there is a tax treaty in place that applies to specific situations. Usually, these tax treaties exempt income earned outside of the U.S. In some cases, the treaties provide additional benefits. The treaties are written in language best understood by Certified Public Accountants and Tax Attorneys and can be very confusing to everyone else. The Internal Revenue Service has IRS Publication 519 that attempts to summarize the treaties. Treaties aside, most likely if you received compensation from a U.S. source, you will be subject to U.S. Federal and State income tax.

Anyone who receives a W-2 form has until April 18, 2016 to file the federal income tax return. Most, but not all, J-1 participants can use IRS form 1040-EZNR for this purpose. Make sure you are using the 2015 form. 2015 is the year you earned the income reported on this form. The due date this year is April 18, instead of April 15, because of the Emancipation Day holiday in the District of Columbia — even if you do not live in the District of Columbia. If you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you have until April 19, 2016. That is because of the Patriots’ Day holiday in those states.

For what is the revenue raised by taxes used? Generally, both Federal and State taxes pay for costs associated with public education, transportation infrastructure, health, and security. Our incredible national and state parks are supported in part from income taxes. Recent years have seen funds allotted to the development of renewal energy sources.

Because filing a tax return requires you to provide sensitive information, the IRS cautions everyone to beware of tax scams that can result in identity thief. If you decide to use a professional tax preparation service, do investigate that they are legitimate and that they understand the special tax issues associated with your J visa status.

Once you file your income tax returns, it may be a great time to reward yourself with a visit to a State or National Park.  After all, you just contributed to their maintenance!

Here are some useful links to help you navigate the U.S. federal and State tax world: