5 things every J-1 participant needs to know about US tax

Tax for J-1 students
  • What President Trump’s ‘Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’ means for J-1 visa holders
  • Understanding J-1 tax obligations and entitlements
  • Sprintax – the easy way to file a J-1 tax return!


When President Donald Trump introduced his ‘Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’ in November 2017, many J-1 visa holders and international students in the US were left feeling extremely confused.

‘How does this bill affect me?’ ‘Do I have to file a tax return?’ ‘Can I still get a tax refund?’

A lot of questions were left unanswered.

Today we are here to answer these questions! If you’re going on a J-1 trip to the US simply follow this guide and you’ll be able to keep the IRS (the American tax authority) happy while receiving any US tax back you are due.

So without further ado, here’s 5 things every J-1 participant needs to know about US tax

Short on time? Check out our video summary instead!

(1) Yes, you have to file a tax return!

First things first. Every J-1 visa holder in the US must file a tax return at the end of the tax year. It’s the law!

Prior to President Trump’s bill there were a limited number of circumstances in which a J-1 holidaymaker would not be required to file a tax return.

This is no longer the case however, and one of the conditions of the J-1 visa is that the visa holder files a tax return.

Filing a return          

There are a number of ways to file a tax return.

For starters, you could file your return directly with the IRS.

But, for many J-1 students, filing a tax return is an extremely confusing, complicated and frankly boring task!

The fastest, easiest and best way to prepare your US tax return is to choose Sprintax. More on this below!

Not filing a return

Not filing a j-1 tax return

If you don’t file a tax return after your J-1 program, you may be subject to penalties and interest.

The late filing penalty is 5% of the additional taxes owed amount for every month your return is late, (up to a maximum of 25%). If you file more than 60 days after the due date, the minimum penalty is $205 or 100% of your unpaid tax, whichever is less.

Failure to comply with your tax obligations may also result in you being denied a US visa in the future.

What is a tax residency status?

It’s vital to determine your residency status in order to file a compliant tax return.

The majority of J-1 visa holders are considered non-resident aliens for tax purposes by the IRS.

When you prepare your tax return with Sprintax, our software will determine your residency status based on the information that you provide.

Prepare your tax return with Sprintax

(2) What do Trump’s changes mean for J-1 students

J-1 program and tax

The ‘Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’ has wide ranging effects for all US taxpayers – but particularly for those venturing to the States to study, for an internship or to work and travel.

As most of these changes were activated in January 2018, it’s vital that all non-residents understand their US tax obligations and entitlements.

The primary change for non-residents relates to what’s known as the ‘personal exemption‘.

Prior to the bill’s introduction, every non-resident who was working in the US was entitled to a personal exemption of $4,050. In other words, if you were working in the US on a J-1 visa in 2017 you could earn up to $4,050 without paying tax. The personal exemption was also the main means that non-residents could use to get their Federal tax refund.

However, as of 1 January 2018 (and up to 2025) the personal exemption was reduced from $4,050 to $0. The removal of the personal exemption means that overall taxable income has increased for all non-residents.

It’s important to note that these amendments do not affect the 2017 (and previous) tax return filing season. So, if you were working in the US on a J-1 visa in 2017, you can still avail of the personal exemption.

Prepare your tax return with Sprintax

(3) You could still be entitled to a tax refund

J-1 refund

The removal of the personal exemption means that, for most non-residents, Federal tax refunds will be reduced. From the 2018 tax year onwards, the only reason a non-resident will be entitled to a Federal tax refund is if too much tax is deducted from their income.

However, even if you’re not entitled to a Federal tax refund, it’s pretty likely you’ll be entitled to a State tax refund.

Our average State tax refund is $175.

But remember; to receive your State tax refund you’ll have to file your State tax return. Before you can file your State tax return, you’ll first have to file your Federal tax return!

Bottom line? You’re legally required to file a tax return. There’s a great chance you’ll be due a State tax refund. So file your return and claim your cash!

Claim your refund with Sprintax here!

(4) How much tax will you pay?

From the 2018 tax year onwards, all non-residents must pay 10% in income tax up to $9,525. And if you earn more than this amount on your J-1 program, you must pay 12% in income tax on the amount between $9,525 and $38,700.

Case studies


J-1 in Boston

Fred travels to Boston on a J-1 visa to work in a restaurant for the summer. During his time in the US he earns $4,000.

If Fred was working in Boston in 2017 he would not have to pay tax on his earnings as his income does not exceed the personal exception amount of $4,050.

However, if Fred works in Boston in 2018, he will not be able to avail of the personal exception and must pay $400 (10%) in income tax.


Fiona moves to Miami on a J-1 visa and secures work in an office for the summer. During her time in the US she earns $9,000 (the average income for around 50% of all summer work and travel participants).

Had Fiona earned this income in 2017, her tax bill would have been $495 ($9,000 – $4,050 = $4,950. 10% of $4,950 = $495).

However, if she earns this income in 2018 her total tax bill will be $900.

J-1 in Miami

The full tax rate and bracket list is as follows:

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

Claim your refund with Sprintax here!

(5) Sprintax is the easiest way to prepare your tax return

Sprintax is the only online self-prep tax software for those on a J-1 programme and non-residents in the US. It will help you prepare your US tax return in minutes!

When you create a Sprintax account, our system will assist you in preparing fully compliant Federal and State tax returns.

Our software will also enable you to receive your maximum legal tax refund.

tax refund for international students

Sprintax is also the ‘go-to’ tax filing software for numerous major universities in the US including NYU, Columbia, Arizona State University, Illinois Institute of Technology and Cornell. We’re also the non-resident partner of choice for Turbo Tax.

What does self-prep mean?

Sprintax is a self-preparation tax software that allows J-1 holidaymakers to easily prepare a fully compliant tax return.

When you create your account you’ll be asked to enter some relevant information into the software. You can then download your fully completed and complaint 1040NR (non-resident tax return).

When you file with Sprintax you file with confidence!

  • Compliant US tax return
  • Save time and stress!
  • Determine your residency status
  • Avail of relevant international tax treaties
  • Avail of personal allowances, credits & tax deductions
  • 24/7 Vita Qualified Live Chat facility
  • Maximize your State tax refund

Over 500k people have used Sprintax to prepare their tax return and get their tax refund.

How much will it cost?

The Sprintax tax prep fees are:

$35.95 – Federal

$25.95 – State

But don’t forget, most J-1 visa holders are entitled to a State tax refund!

How can I get started?


Set up a Sprintax account today!

In summary:

  • The majority of all J-1 visa holders are considered non-residents for tax purposes in the US
  • Every non-resident in the US is legally obliged to file a tax return
  • Failure to do so may result in fines, penalties and future refusal of entry to the US
  • As of 1 January 2018, non-residents are no longer entitled to claim the personal exemption of $4,050
  • However, J-1 visa holders can still apply for their State tax refund by filing a tax return
  • Sprintax makes filing your US tax return easy!
  • When you prepare your tax return with Sprintax you’ll receive your maximum legal refund


Filing your US tax return with Sprintax is super cheap and easy. Get started now!




Subscribe to the Sprintax Blog!

US tax can be confusing. Especially for nonresidents!

That’s why, if you’re an International Student or J-1 participant in the US, or you work in a University International Student Office, you should subscribe to the Sprintax blog.

You’ll find tons of useful content for nonresidents. We cover tax, student life, acclimatizing to the US and much more.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up today and never miss a thing!

Hey I'm Stacy! I'm dealing with US taxes and can't wait to help you prepare your tax return! I've been working with taxes for like forever, so you can totally trust my expertise. Sprintax can make things much easier for you. Check out my blog posts and feel free to ask me any questions.

Leave a reply.

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *