Navigating taxes for J-1 interns and trainees: a comprehensive guide

j1 visa internship and trainee program tax guide

Understanding the complex tax system can be a daunting task for interns and trainees on J-1 visas.

However, knowing which taxes you need to pay, which ones you don’t, and how to file your tax return correctly is crucial.

That’s why our team has prepared this guide that will help simplify the process and ensure that you’re compliant with US tax laws.


What taxes do J-1 interns and trainees pay in the US?

As a J-1 intern or trainee, you are subject to federal and state (depending on the state you live and work in) taxes on your income.

These taxes are deducted from your paycheck by your employer.

The amount you owe depends on your income level.

It’s important to review your pay regularly to ensure the correct amounts are being withheld.


Tax exemptions as a J1 intern or trainee

One of the benefits of being on a J-1 visa is that you are generally exempt from paying Medicare and Social Security taxes.

These exemptions are based on your nonresident status for tax purposes and are designed to exclude you from paying into systems you won’t benefit from during your short stay in the US.

Read more: FICA tax explained for nonresident aliens


Will I be a nonresident for tax purposes?

J-1 internship trainees nonresidents for taxes

Most J-1 interns and trainees are deemed nonresidents for tax purposes in the US.

Usually, a resident alien is taxed on their worldwide income. On the other hand, any nonresident aliens will need to pay federal tax on income earned in the US and/or income connected with US trade or business, not on worldwide income.

As a nonresident alien, you’ll need to file a tax return (1040-NR) for any years you earned income in the US.

You’ll be considered a nonresident for tax purposes within the US if you have not passed the green card or substantial test.


Starting a job in the US – what you should know

 When you start a new job in the US, your employer will ask you to complete some important tax documents. These documents will determine how much tax is deducted from your wages.

By not completing them correctly, you risk paying the incorrect amount of tax.

Here are a few key tax forms you should know about when starting a new job in the US:


You’ll need to complete this form before starting a new job.

W-4 form is used to determine exactly how much tax should be withheld from your paycheck.


This form is used to reduce tax liability by claiming tax treaty benefits.

The US has tax treaties with over 65 countries, and to avail of one you’ll need to complete and submit W-8BEN form.


If you earn income through a certain type of scholarship, personal services or fellowship income (including compensatory scholarship or fellowship income from the same withholding agent), then you will need to complete a Form 8233 and send it to your employer.

This form can also be used to claim exemption from withholding for certain personal services, because of an income tax treaty.


Sprintax Forms can help you manage your pre-employment tax forms in one place!

Get started here


Before starting a job, it’s important to know that you will also need an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number) and a SSN (Social Security Number).

Not sure how to get an ITIN in the US? This blog has all you need to know.


j1 internship tax refund

I was not paid during my internship, should I file a tax return?

Even if you did not earn income during your stay in the US as a nonresident, you’ll still need to file a Form 8843 before the tax deadline of April 15.


How to file a US tax return on a J-1 intern and trainee program

Filing a tax return is an essential task to complete each year, in order to remain tax compliant with the IRS.

Remember, if you do not remain tax compliant, you leave yourself open to fines and penalties, as well as potential visa/Green Card issues down the line.


With that in mind, here are the key forms and steps involved:

  1. Form 8843: All J-1 visa holders must file Form 8843, regardless of whether you earned income in the US. This form declares your nonresident status.
  2. Form W-2: This form is provided by your employer and summarizes your earnings and the taxes withheld during the year. You need your W-2 form to file your tax return.
  3. Form 1040-NR: As a nonresident, you will file Form 1040-NR to report your income and calculate your tax liability.


You can choose to file your tax return by mail or electronically (e-file). E-filing is generally faster and more convenient, allowing you to receive your tax refund sooner if you are eligible.

The good news? You can e-file form 1040-NR with Sprintax!


Am I due a tax refund?

Whether you are due a tax refund depends on various factors, including the amount of income you earned, and the taxes withheld by your employer.

If too much tax was withheld from your paycheck, you might be eligible for a refund.

Filing your tax nonresident return will determine if you overpaid and are entitled to get money back!


How can Sprintax help me?

Sprintax is a specialized tax preparation service designed to assist nonresidents, including J-1 interns and trainees, with their US tax obligations.

Here’s how Sprintax can help:

  • Guidance: We provide clear instructions and support for understanding and completing all necessary tax forms, including Forms 8843, W-2, and 1040-NR.
  • Compliance: Sprintax will help you understand your tax obligations and ensure you are compliant with US tax laws.
  • Refund: By accurately preparing your tax return, we will help ensure you receive any refund you are entitled to.
  • Support: Sprintax offers 24/7 customer support to answer any questions you may have throughout the tax filing process.


Using Sprintax can simplify the tax filing process, giving you peace of mind that your taxes are handled correctly and efficiently.

By understanding your tax obligations and using the resources available to you with Sprintax, you can begin to understand the US tax system and focus on making the most of your internship or training program!


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