All MAST participants are required by law to submit tax documents for each of the years that you were in the U.S. Tax filings are due by April 15 of the following year.
Do not use any tax software unless it is specifically designed for J-1 tax preparation.
MAST recommends that you use Sprintax, which is designed for non-residents.
Nearly all MAST trainees and interns are considered "nonresidents" for tax purposes.
To be considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes, you must meet the Substantial Presence Test. To meet this test, you must be physically present in the United States (U.S.) on at least:
- 31 days during the current year, and
- 183 days during the 3-year period that includes the current year and the 2 years immediately before that, counting:
- All the days you were present in the current year, and
- 1/3 of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, and
- 1/6 of the days you were present in the second year before the current year.
As nonresidents, J-1 trainees and interns are required to pay the following taxes:
- Federal income tax
- State income tax
- Local taxes (where applicable)
Trainees and interns DO NOT pay the following taxes:
- Social Security tax
- Medicare tax
- Federal unemployment tax
Host trainers MUST deduct taxes from every paycheck. If your host trainer is not deducting taxes, discuss this with your host trainer and contact MAST if the issue is not resolved.
When you start your training in the U.S., you will fill out a W-4 form so that your host trainer can estimate what income should be withheld from your wages for tax purposes. This is then paid directly to the U.S. Treasury on your behalf.
Follow these instructions to fill out the W-4 form:
- Step 1: complete this section fully. For 1c, select "Single or Married filing separately"
- Steps 2-3: leave blank
- Step 4: in the blank space under 4(c), write "NRA"
- Step 5: sign and date
You will receive a Form W-2 from your host trainer in January. This form summarizes your earnings and taxes withheld from you the previous year. It usually has four copies: federal copy, state copy, local/city copy, and employee copy.
You will need the W-2 form to file your tax return.
If you worked more than one job, you will have a W-2 for each job. Make sure you have all W-2s before you file your tax return.
J-1 trainees and interns are required to file an accurate income tax return every year that they are in the United States. Even if you did not earn any money in a given year, you must still complete tax documents.
Taxes filings are generally due by April 15.
MAST International partners with Sprintax, a company that works specifically with non-resident aliens (including J-1 trainees and interns). MAST will send trainees and interns a unique log in code to access Sprintax.
We do not recommend that you use any tax preparation products such as TurboTax, H&R Block, Tax Act, etc., to prepare your tax returns because they are not designed for non-resident aliens.
Documents You Need:
- U.S. entry and exit dates for current and all previous visits to the U.S.
- All tax forms you’ve received (W-2, 1099 bank interest statement, etc.)
- Form DS-2019
- Social security number
- Current U.S. address
- Permanent home country address
- Copy of previous year’s tax forms (if applicable)
Steps for Using Sprintax:
- Use the unique code and web URL provided by MAST to access Sprintax.
- Set up an account.
- Answer some easy-to-understand questions.
- Sprintax calculates your tax obligations and prepares your tax return(s).
- On the "Review Your Order" page, enter the unique discount code provided by MAST.
- Pay for any required state tax returns.
- Download and print your tax forms.
- Sign and mail your tax forms to the IRS following the instructions on the tax return packet.
Always keep all documents and a copy of your tax return for future reference.
Who has to submit a tax return?
Every MAST participant is required to submit federal tax documents – even if you didn’t earn any money! This is required by U.S. law.
If you do not submit your tax return, you could be fined and you may be disallowed from returning to the U.S. in the future.
Why do I need to submit a tax return?
When you work and earn money in the U.S., money for taxes is removed from every paycheck. The tax return process reviews the taxes you’ve already paid and calculates if you’ve paid the correct amount.
What if I filed a tax return last year?
You have to submit tax documents again this year. You must submit a tax return for every calendar year you were in the U.S.
What if I didn't work this past year, but I was in the U.S.?
If you were present in the United States on your J-1 visa for any time during the previous year, even if you did not work, you must complete and submit tax documents for that year. Sprintax will help you fill out the appropriate form.
Will I get money back? Or have to pay more money?
If you have overpaid your taxes (more money was withheld from your paychecks than required), you will get money back through a tax refund.
If you have underpaid your taxes (less money was withheld from your paychecks than required), you will need to pay additional taxes when you file your tax return.
Can I use a different tax software, such as TurboTax?
No. Do not use another tax software. These softwares are not designed for J-1 trainees and interns. These softwares will have you fill out the wrong tax form. If you file your taxes incorrectly, you will need to pay more money and take a lot of time to correct your taxes.
What do I do if I used a different tax software (such as TurboTax)?
If you have submitted your taxes utilizing a software that is not designed for non-residents, (Turbo Tax, H&R Block, etc), YOU NEED TO FIX YOUR TAX RETURN. The steps for this are outlined below:
- Fill out Form 1040X to amend your tax return.
- Use Sprintax to fill out a new Form 1040NR. Follow the instructions to print and submit the tax return by mail, not electronically.
- Print out your tax return from Sprintax. On the top of every page, write “AS AMENDED”
- Print out your tax return from the other tax software and write “COPY OF ORIGINALLY SUBMITTED” on the top of every page
- Mail all three forms (Form 1040X, Form 1040NR from Sprintax, and your tax form from the wrong software) to the address provided in the Form 1040X Instructions.
How do I get my tax refund?
If you are owed a tax refund, there are two options to receive it: direct deposit or a mailed check. Please note that the IRS will not direct deposit a tax refund into a foreign bank account.
If you still have a U.S. bank account, you can have the refund directly deposited into your account. You cannot have your refund deposited into a foreign bank account. However, you can have it deposited into an online account like Wise (formerly Transferwise).
Note: If you leave the U.S. with your U.S. bank account open, you should check with that bank before leaving that this is possible to keep your account temporarily open, close it online, and have them send the money to you through wire transfer BEFORE you leave the U.S.
If you will not be in the United States when you file your tax return, you should make sure that the permanent address on your tax return form is accurate. This is the address that your tax refund check with be mailed to. If you are having a check sent to you outside the U.S., be sure to ask your local bank whether they will cash an American check.
If you move before your refund arrives, you must submit IRS Form 8822: Change of Address (PDF).
What are tax treaties?
Depending on your nationality and other conditions, you may be able to claim a tax refund under an international “tax treaty.” Tax treaties are agreements between the U.S. and other countries that allow you to claim back tax that you paid while working in the U.S. Your eligibility depends on factors such as your nationality, length of stay, purpose of your stay, type of income, and visa. Sprintax always checks if you’re eligible for an international tax treaty when preparing your tax return. If you are preparing your own taxes, you can find information about tax treaties in IRS Publication 901 (PDF).
What do I do if I get a letter from the IRS?
The IRS will only ever contact you via a mailed letter. Any other contact by e-mail, text message, social media, or phone calls is a scam. Review the IRS letter and compare the issue(s) identified in the letter with the tax return form you completed. Provide the IRS with any information or documents requested by the date stated in the letter.
If you get a letter, you can contact the IRS directly at +1-267-941-1000; this is the phone number of the Nonresident department of the IRS. Often the best option is to call early in the morning when the hold time may be shorter; they open at 7:00 am Eastern Time.