How to File Your Taxes

All CIEE Camp Exchange USA participants are paid during their time at camp; as such, you are required to pay federal, state, and sometimes local taxes.

What do I need to know?

  • All J-1 participants must file a tax return.
  • Tax returns must be filed by April 15 of the year following your program. (If April 15 falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or public holiday, tax returns must be filed by the next business day.)

What is a tax return?

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A U.S. federal tax return is a report filed annually with the US taxing authority – the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Tax returns require the filer to provide information about their income and other earnings, tax payments they have made, and other information needed to determine taxes due. Additionally, most U.S. states and some U.S. localities (such as counties and cities) require annual income tax returns to be filed. 

U.S. tax returns are due on April 15 for the preceding calendar year. If April 15 falls on a weekend or public holiday, the due date is the next business day. You can review the IRS resources for nonresident alien taxpayers. 

What is the cost of filing?

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There is no cost of filling if you prepare your own tax return. The cost of tax preparation by a certified tax provider or through tax software will vary depending on the provider fees. Tax preparers may charge flat fees or by the hour. Before hiring a tax preparer, always ask the maximum amount you might have to pay.

What is a W-2?

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A W-2 is a summary of your total wages in addition to any federal, state, and local taxes that were withheld. This information is required to fill out your tax filing forms. Your camp will mail you a W-2 form by January 31st of the filing year.

Please note: Before you leave the U.S., be sure to provide your camp with your mailing address in your home country. They will use this address when mailing your W-2.

Which tax form do I file?

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Most J-1 exchange visitors are considered “Nonresident Aliens” for U.S. tax purposes. Most CIEE Camp Exchange USA participants will file a Form 1040NR-EZ. The “EZ” stands for “easy,” meaning this form is shorter and simpler than other forms that apply to nonresidents. You can file Form 1040NR-EZ if you don’t have dependents and only have U.S. wages to report. Follow the instructions for Form 1040NR-EZ to avoid any mistakes.

What is the difference between federal, state, and local taxes?

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Everyone is required to file a federal tax return; however, U.S. states, counties, and cities vary in their filing requirements. Each state in the U.S. has its own form. However, you must complete only the form for the state in which you worked. The IRS provides a list of state tax websites for your convenience.

Please note: If you worked in South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wyoming, New Hampshire, or Tennessee, and your only U.S. source of income last year was camp wages, you will likely not need to file a state tax return. To ensure this applies to you, please confirm with your camp.

What websites or companies can prepare my taxes?

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CIEE doesn’t have a preferred tax provider. Sprintax is one of the companies that specialize in online U.S. tax preparation solutions for J-1 visa exchange visitors like you.  There are other companies in your home country who can help, do research and ask your international representative for recommendation When looking for a tax provider, please keep the following in mind:

  • Use a reputable company. There are many tax service providers. Some are designed for J-1 visa holders and some are not.
  • The cheapest option is not always the best. Be sure to check the provider's credentials carefully.
  • Tax forms are complicated. You should only trust a qualified professional to complete your forms. If they make a mistake or file the forms incorrectly, you could be held responsible.
  • Do not use online tax preparation software (such as TurboTax) that is not designed for your situation; using such software could cause you to file your tax return incorrectly.

Where do I mail my forms?

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Nonresident aliens using the Form 1040NR-EZ must mail their signed form to the IRS. Electronic filing is not allowed. It is a good idea to send your form via a trackable or certified delivery service so that you have proof of the date of mailing. You should also make a copy of all your documents before sending them.

  • If you are enclosing a payment: Mail your payment and your forms to the Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 1303, Charlotte, NC 28201-1303, USA.
  • If you are not enclosing a payment: Mail your forms to the Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service, Austin, TX 73301-0215, USA.

Don’t forget to read the instructions for Form 1040NR-EZ, which include the mailing information above.

Will the taxes that were taken out of my paycheck be returned to me?

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You may get a refund for some of the taxes that were withheld from your pay. Whether you receive a refund (and its amount) will depend on your U.S. wages, how you filled out your W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, this is a form you fill out when starting your employment in the U.S.) , and whether you claim any deductions to offset your taxable income when you complete your tax return. In addition to any excess income tax withholdings that might be refunded to you, J-1 exchange visitors are also not subject to the Social Security and Medicare taxes (FICA), which U.S. residents must pay.  If your camp withheld FICA taxes from your pay by mistake, ask your camp for a refund. If your camp does not issue a refund to you, you may claim a refund from the IRS by filing Form 8316.  

How do I know if I made a mistake on my tax return?

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You will likely receive a letter in the mail from the IRS requesting more information or verification if there are any errors on your tax return. Please know that there are many phishing scams (attempts to get sensitive information from individuals) and other types of fraud; the IRS will never contact you by phone to request a payment or notify you of a deficiency. If you do receive such a letter, please be sure it is from the IRS.

What if I missed the April 15th deadline?

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If you are not able to file your tax return on time, you may request a six-month extension. To do so, complete and file Form 4868--Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return--by April 15th. Be sure to include a payment for the estimated tax due.