Exchange visitors are considered non-resident aliens, therefore you will need to file a Form 1040NR (which they can e-file or mail).

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/taxation-of-nonresident-aliens

https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-form-1040-nr

All J1 participants who earned even $1.00 in the US are required to file a US tax return before April 15 of the following year. Failure to file a Federal tax return will breech IRS regulations and may result in accrued penalty fees and interest and can possibly result in future visa denials so this is very important. In cases where a foreign national is applying for a different visa or green card, proof of previous tax returns are often required for consideration. 

Note: As part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, EFFECTIVE FOR TAX YEARS BEGINNING AFTER DECEMBER 31, 2017, AND BEFORE JANUARY 1, 2026, the personal exemption is suspended ($0 per person) for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026; for tax years 2018-2025. See more here: https://www.hrblock.com/tax-center/irs/tax-reform/tax-cuts-and-jobs-act/

IN PREPARATION OF FILING YOUR TAXES

You will be asked to complete a W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate) during camp orientation. Here are instructions for J1 participants. Supplemental Form W-4 Instructions for Nonresident Aliens. Your taxes are calculated and deducted based on the information you provide in that form. The W-4 is required for employers to run their payroll. In order to file a tax return you will need tax filing number which is either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification number (ITIN). If you did not apply for a SSN or if you did not receive your SSN for any reason, you can apply for an ITIN by completing a simple W-7 form. 

English version: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw7.pdf
Spanish version: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw7sp.pdf

If you were not able to obtain a SSN while you were in the US, you should apply for an ITIN, but be sure to choose the correct reason for the filing. Instructions for completing this form can be found here: https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-form-w-7
If you completed a W-4, you should receive a W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) form which will summarize your overall earned income and withheld taxes for the previous year. If you do not receive your W-2 by February 15th, you should contact your employer immediately. If you do not hear from your employer, contact your sponsor. 

Taxes must be filed before April 15th of the following year. If you file AFTER April 15th and you did not file an extension request, you may be assessed interest and penalty fees. 

TAX FILING OPTIONS
1. Complete your own tax return. Federal AND state (where applicable) Federal Tax Filing: You can file your federal income tax return on your own using the 1040-NR-EZ form: https://form-1040-nr.com. Instructions for 2019 filings are not yet updated, but should be updated soon and will be available here: https://form-1040-nr.com State Tax Filing: State and local tax forms vary by state. Some states don’t impose income tax and therefore may not require a tax return. https://www.taxadmin.org/state-tax-forms. The IRS also provides links and information for filing taxes in your host state. If you worked in more than one state, you will need to file state taxes for each state in which you worked.
2. Employ a tax agent to assist you in filing your tax return/s and to answer any questions you have. Sprintax is our recommended provider. They provide an easy to use, online software that ensures compliance with US regulations. They provide reliable services and they work in partnership with Universities and other J1 programs already. Create an account now: https://taxprep.sprintax.com/campstaffusa. A member from the Sprintax team will contact you once you’ve created an account. If you have any questions, you can email them as well at hello@sprintax.com

The key benefits of Sprintax are:      

  • Low Cost: Sprintax fees are $39.95 for Federal and $34.95 for State Online: Students can complete both Federal and State returns online in 10 minutes and they assist with any and all questions. You still need to print the returns and mail them along with copied of your W2s.   
  • Refunds: If you set up a US bank account, they can set it up so that your refund is automatically deposited into your US account. Otherwise, if you are due a refund, you will receive a check in US funds.    
  • 100% Compliance: Sprintax is built for non-resident filing with 24/7 LIVE chat assistance and 100% compliance with regulations and treaties.

* Note that with both options, you MUST submit your 1040NR EZ form by mail so you will incur mailing fees. Before mailing them, be sure to make copies for safe keeping and mail using an approved courier service with tracking ability. We recommend Fed Ex, DHL or UPS for tracking reasons 

Refunds and/or Owed Taxes: If you are owed a refund, you will be issued a paper check issued by the US Government and it will be mailed to you. If it turns out that your employer did not deduct the taxes you are liable for, you may owe the IRS money. In this case, you will have to follow instructions on how to make the appropriate payment and mail the payment with your filing.

Be careful of other tax agencies. We would like to highlight that online providers such as Turbo Tax are not suitable for non-residents aliens. Turbo Tax even makes it clear on their site https://intuit.me/2Mb2TyZ & https://intuit.me/2nBD2BKOther tax agencies may advertise a full or partial refund of Federal taxes even for J1 participants. That is simply not true. We have been told that some agencies show refunds providing the IRS with intentional inaccurate misinformation, misappropriating credits and deductions afforded to US citizens but not to non-resident aliens. Please note that if you use any such providers and they intentionally or unintentionally provided false or misleading information, it is YOU who will be in breach of IRS regulation and risk being audited and incurring fines or penalties on incorrect refund amounts. 

NOTE TO ALL: Be cautious of individuals or companies offering to file your tax returns. We’ve been made aware of information provided by the IRS on warning signs of “ghost preparers” and tax scams:

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/beware-of-ghost-preparers-who-dont-sign-tax-returns.

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts

SPECIAL NOTE TO OUR WINTER PARTICIPANTS
Because you have received earnings in both calendar years, you will be required to file taxes for both years.