Tax Information for MAST Trainees and Interns

All MAST participants that were in the U.S. in 2018 are required by law to submit tax documents by April 15, 2019

Do not use any tax software unless it is specifically designed for J-1 tax preparation.

We recommend that you use Sprintax.

Please be cautious about potential scams during tax season. The IRS will only ever contact you through a mailed letter. Any other contact by email, text message, social media, or phone call is a scam. Don't share you credit card or banking information with anyone through email, phone, text, or social media! And please ask us if you are unsure if something is a scam; we are happy to help. 
Reminder: MAST International is happy to help you with questions, but please know that MAST staff are not tax professionals and cannot assist or advise on tax preparations. Sprintax is not affiliated with MAST International or the University of Minnesota. 


Taxes Overview

J-1 trainees and interns must comply with all U.S. laws and regulations, which includes paying some taxes and filing an accurate income tax return.

You are required to pay the following taxes:

    • Federal income tax
    • State income tax
    • Local taxes (where applicable)

You do not pay the following taxes: 

    • Social Security tax (FICA)
    • Federal unemployment tax (FUTA)
    • Medicare

Non-residents are taxed at the same rate as residents, effective for the 2018 tax year. 

Bracket Tax Rate
$0-$9,525 10% of taxable income
$9,526-$38,700 +12% of the balance over $9,526
$38,701 - $82,501 + 22% of the balance over $38,701
$82,501 - $157,500 + 24% of the balance over $82,501
$157,501 - $200,000 + 32% of the balance over $157,501

NOTE: Your host trainer MUST deduct taxes from every paycheck. If your host trainer is not deducting taxes, call the MAST office immediately at 1-800-346-6278. If your host trainer is not deducting taxes and this is not fixed, you will be responsible for paying these taxes the following year in one large lump sum.


Important 2018/2019 Tax Updates: 

Major tax law changes were implemented in 2018 that affect J-1 trainees and interns. The personal allowance (annual amount of income that was not federally taxed) was removed by the IRS. Because this change was introduced quite quickly, there is a high chance that employers may not have been able to adjust their withholding systems correctly and trainees/interns may need to pay additional federal taxes this year. 

Previously, every non-resident who was working in the U.S. was entitled to a personal exemption of $4,050; in other words, J-1 trainees and interns could earn up to $4,050 of income before they were taxed by the federal government. This was the main means by which non-residents received a Federal tax refund. Now, the personal exemption has been eliminated and all income earned by J-1 trainees and interns is taxable. From the 2018 tax year onwards, a J-1 trainee or intern will only be entitled to a Federal tax refund if they had too much tax deducted from their paycheck. 

Most J-1 trainees and interns will still be entitled to a state tax refund. 


Terms to Know

NRA: non-resident alien
W-2: statement of wages earned and taxes withheld (provided by your host trainer)
Form 1040NR (PDF): U.S. non-resident alien tax return form
Form 1040NR-EZ (PDF): U.S. non-resident alien tax return short form
Form 1099-INT: a bank statement listing the amount of interest earned (provided by your bank)
Form 8843 (PDF): form filed by non-resident aliens to show exemption form the substantial presence test
FICA: federal social security tax
FUTA: federal unemployment tax
Tax return: official statement filed with the IRS to report taxable income during a calendar year
IRS: Internal Revenue Service – branch of the U.S. government that collects taxes
Tax payer: You!


W-4

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. At the end of the tax year (every April), you must verify that you have paid the correct amount of tax by filing a tax return.

Filling out the W-4 Form

Your employer may tell you to follow the instructions printed on the form, but this is not correct. The instructions on the form are for U.S. residents and will not work for you. 

Follow these instructions to fill out the W-4 form:

  • Line 3: mark “Single” even if you are married
  • Line 5: claim “1”. If you are a resident of Canada, Mexico, South Korea, or a U.S. national, find additional instructions in IRS Publication 519 Chapter 8 (PDF)
  • Line 6: write “NRA” or “non-resident alien” 
  • Line 7: leave this blank

W-2

The W-2 form is issued at the beginning of the year and 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.

At the beginning of the year, your host trainer will send you a W-2 form. (They are required to mail this to you by February 15.) If you have already gone home, be sure that your host trainer has your home country address. You may also provide an email address to receive an electronic copy. You will need the W-2 form to file your tax return and receive any refunds due.

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.


Filing 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. If you arrived in December but did not receive any wages in 2018, you must complete and return IRS Form 8843 (PDF).

Taxes are due April 15, 2019, and April 15, 2020. 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. MAST International recommends that you use Sprintax because it offers tax preparation specifically for non-resident aliens. (Sprintax is not affiliated with MAST International or the University of Minnesota.) You can also choose to complete and file the forms yourself.

Filing Process

Gather the following documents/information before starting your tax return:

  • Passport
  • 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 filing your tax return with Sprintax: 
  • Create an account at Sprintax.com
  • Answer the questions the program asks you
  • Sprintax will review your answers for all applicable allowances and dedications
  • Sprintax will finalize the calculations and prepare your tax return
  • Print your tax return, sign it, and mail it to the IRS

Always keep all documents and a copy of your tax return for future reference. 


If You Submitted The Wrong Form

If you have already submitted your taxes for this year utilizing a software that is not Sprintax (Turbo Tax, H&R Block, etc), YOU NEED TO FIX YOUR TAX RETURN. The steps for this are outlined below:

  1. Fill out Form 1040X to amend your tax return.
  2. Use Sprintax to fill out a new Form 1040NR. Follow the instructions to print and submit the tax return by mail, not electronically.
  3. Print out your tax return from Sprintax. On the top of every page, write “AS AMENDED”
  4. Print out your tax return from the other tax software and write “COPY OF ORIGINALLY SUBMITTED” on the top of every page
  5. 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.

Additional Information

What to do if you did not work the previous year

If you were present in the United States anytime during 2018, even if you did not work, you must complete and submit tax documents for 2018 by April 15, 2019. If you did not work, you must complete and return IRS Form 8843 (PDF).

If you were present in the United States anytime during 2019, even if you did not work, you must complete and submit tax documents for 2019 by April 15, 2020. If you did not work, you must complete and return IRS Form 8843 (PDF).

Banking and Returns Options

There are two ways to receive your tax refund: direct deposit or a mailed check. Please note that the IRS will not direct deposit a tax refund into a foreign bank account.

You may want to keep your U.S. bank account open through the tax season after you go home. That way, you can deposit your tax return check or have it direct deposited and then close your account online and wire the money in the account back to yourself at home.

Note: You should check with your U.S. bank that this is possible to keep your account 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 move before your refund arrives, you must submit IRS Form 8822: Change of Address (PDF).

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 to do if you 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.

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