Your Questions Answered
What are the requirements for using your service?
Our service is for you if you are a nonresident of the United States for U.S. tax purposes (see explanation below), and have visited the United States to work as short-term J-1 visa holder (that is, less than one year).
Also, your income must be under $50,000.
You could be in any one of the following J-1 categories:
- Au Pair
- Camp Counselor
- International Visitor
- Short-term Scholar
- Summer Worker, or
We ask that you:
1) lived and worked in only one state while in the US for less than one year,
2) have received, or have access to, your Form W-2 from your U.S. employer (the form that tells you how much you made and how much tax was collected),
3) received only wage income of under $50,000 (you could also receive bank interest, which is not taxable to a non-resident), and
4) have a U.S. bank account, or the willingness to apply for a prepaid Payoneer debit card (through us) that can be used anywhere in the world that MasterCard® is accepted.
The last requirement allows us to have your refund deposited directly into your account, so you get your refund as quickly as possible. (If you don’t meet these requirements, we are happy to help at gwcarter.com)
Who is a nonresident? You are, if you entered the United States as a J-1 visa holder and have not been here longer than two calendar years. If you have been present in the U.S. during more than two calendar years during the past seven years, you don’t qualify. Also, If you entered with a different visa status and converted to J-1, it’s not going to work.
If you do not fit these parameters, we can still help! Through our companion site at gwcarter.com, we provide a full array of tax services for foreign nationals who are both resident aliens and nonresident aliens.
Our Foreign National Tax Guide provides a broad primer on U.S. taxation of foreign nationals, and our interactive tool for determining your U.S. residency and election options is at Your Tax Residency. We would be happy to provide a free quote for tax services, and answer any questions you have.
Why do you limit your service to people with income less than $50,000?
Through this low-cost service, we want to provide the best service possible to those who have limited options to obtain quality tax services anyplace else.
If you don’t meet the income requirement, it doesn’t mean we can’t help you with your tax return. We are happy to help at gwcarter.com.
If I sign up, will you steal my refund?
Of course not. We don’t steal refunds. We get you the biggest refund legally possible. Furthermore, the refund is deposited directly into your U.S. bank account, so you know exactly how much your refund is.
Some firms have your refund check sent to them, and they hold it until you pay them. Or, they get you to sign a Power of Attorney form authorizing them to cash it. Then they send you what’s left, after they extract their fee. This is strictly against our code of ethics as Certified Public Accountants. We will never deposit your refund into our account.
Why should I trust your company with my tax return?
Not every tax professional understands the rules specifically applicable to tax returns for nonresident aliens. We do. We are one of the first of only a handful of practitioners in the United States that specializes in federal and state income tax services for foreign nationals.
Although this web site is new and designed for only a specific group of foreign nationals, we service the entire population through our main web site at gwcarter.com. Our Foreign National Tax Guide was first published in 1997 (updated many times since then), and was the first free comprehensive source of tax information for foreign nationals, preceding even the Internal Revenue Service.
So you can see that we have been doing this for a long time, but are we good? Probably the best way to know is to see what our clients have to say. At the bottom of each page of this site is a link to our Better Business Bureau reviews. Another source of reviews is the PTINdirectory.
Finally, in comparing tax services, you should check the credentials of each one. We are U.S. Certified Public Accountants who abide by a strict code of professional ethics.
Under the rules we choose to live by, we cannot cash your refund check, or hold it until you pay us. Our system ensures that your refund check is deposited directly into your bank account or debit card. And, we charge a flat fee agreed to by you in advance. We will not charge you a percentage of your refund – a practice specifically precluded by our code of conduct.
What are your terms for paying your fees?
First, your federal and state tax returns will be prepared by us and securely sent to you for your review. If you are using our Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard®, only after you have approved your returns for filing does our fee come into play.
- If your combined federal and state refund, as computed by us, is greater than our fee, and you have signed up for a Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard® through us, our fee will be deducted from your refund once it arrives in your account. There is no risk to you with this option, so even if you currently have a U.S. bank account, this is an attractive choice.
- If you are using a U.S. bank account other than Payoneer for direct deposit of your refund, we will invoice you for 50% of the fee before work begins. The balance of our fee is charged after successfully filing your return.
- If you have a tax liability, or your refund is too small to cover our fee, we will invoice you for 50% of the fee before work begins. After successfully filing your return, we will charge the balance. In this case, it’s not necessary for you to have a U.S. based bank account or credit card for you to pay us. Most clients find Transferwise an easy way to pay. Your tax payment to the IRS can be made by a transfer of funds from your foreign bank account, but it could be costly. See Foreign Electronic Payments. The fees and links for other private payment options endorsed by the IRS are described on the IRS site at Pay Your Taxes by Debit or Credit Card.
If your refund does not arrive, or is less than we computed, or if your tax liability is more than we computed, we will contact the authorities to determine why. If the balance was adjusted to pay a previous tax liability, or for any other reason we could not have foreseen or prevented, we will bill you for any unpaid fee.
If the tax is adjusted because of a mistake on our part, your tax preparation will be free. Yes, I actually said that: Your tax preparation will be free if we make a mistake.
You say you will help me get a U.S. based bank account. How does that work?
More precisely, we will help you get a virtual U.S. bank account number issued by Payoneer, if you sign up for a Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard® through us. Can any Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard® be used to get your tax refund? Absolutely not, don’t try it. We have a special arrangement with Payoneer for this purpose.
The card can be used anywhere in the world where MasterCard® is accepted. You can keep it in U.S. dollars to shop online at U.S. retailers, use it in stores, at ATMs, or transfer the balance to your local bank account. The bank account and routing numbers attached to the card allow us to instruct the IRS to deposit your refund directly onto the card. Even if you currently have a U.S. bank account, this is a great option.
When you apply through us (for free) you will be mailed the physical card. Therefore, you will need to wait till your card arrives to get your refund. However, Payoneer is better at mailing stuff internationally than the IRS. Here’s a link for more information about Payoneer.
Do you guarantee that my federal and state tax returns will be electronically filed?
- Some returns cannot be e-filed if the spouse (who is not filing) does not have a U.S. social security number or ITIN.
- Some state returns, such as Massachusetts, cannot be e-filed if the taxpayer has a non-US address.
- If the return includes income subject to tax withholding shown on Form 1042-S, or any form other than Form W-2, e-filing is disallowed.
- Claiming tax treaty exemptions sometimes disallows Form 1040NR from e-filing.
- Even if your Form 1040NR may be e-filed, certain state tax returns cannot be e-filed with Form 1040NR. These states are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
If your return cannot be electronically filed, it’s still pretty easy. We will send a Power of Attorney form for you to sign electronically, authorizing us to sign and mail your return to the IRS and/or state agency. We will mail the federal and/or state return via Priority Mail through the U.S. Postal Service, and will e-mail you the tracking information. See our Fee Schedule for the cost. You can still receive your refunds through direct deposit even if your returns cannot be electronically filed.
How long does it take to get my refund?
Whether we e-file or paper file your return, your refund will arrive much quicker than a paper check. This function could save weeks, or even months, over receiving the refund by mail. When a U.S. Treasury check leaves U.S. shores and is in the hands of foreign postal systems, you never know what might happen. With our system, there is no paper check navigating international postal systems trying to find you. Your refund shows up in your bank account ready to spend, no matter where you happen to be in the world.
What if my refund never shows up in my bank account?
What if my refund is less than you said it would be?
My employer withheld Social Security and Medicare tax. Will you help me get it back?
If your employer does not believe you, or is simply too lazy to file the paperwork, the IRS offers an alternative option to get a refund. Read about it at this page on IRS.gov. It’s best if you can convince your employer to send you the refund, because the refund process through the IRS often takes months, or even years (no kidding). If you would like us to prepare the paperwork, which includes following up on the filing with the IRS over the phone, our fee is $150 up front for this. We prepare these forms through our companion site at www.form1040nr.com. Please use our questionnaire to submit a quote request at our Free Quote page.
What if your calculator says I'm not getting a refund, but that I owe more tax?
If you have a tax liability, or your refund is too small to cover our fee, you still have a legal obligation to file a tax return. We will invoice you for 50% of the fee before work begins. After you have reviewed and approved your return for filing we will charge the rest.
In this case, it’s not necessary for you to have a US bank account or credit card for you to pay us. Most clients find Transferwise an easy way to pay. Again, if your refund or tax liability is adjusted because of a mistake on our part, your tax preparation will be free.
Your tax payment to the IRS can be made by a transfer of funds from your foreign bank account, but it could be costly. See Foreign Electronic Payments. The fees and links for other private payment options endorsed by the IRS are described on the IRS site at Pay Your Taxes by Debit or Credit Card.
What if I am audited? Will you defend me?
An audit involves an inquiry from the IRS or a state agency to verify information in your tax return. The request might require documentation or additional information regarding a claimed benefit.
If the inquiry does not question a legal position that we have claimed on your behalf, then our responding to these requests is beyond the scope of your engagement. We would charge an additional amount to respond on your behalf through a Power of Attorney form signed by you.
If the audit questions the legality of a deduction or credit we have claimed on your behalf, we will respond for free. If it is determined that we claimed a deduction or credit that is not allowed, your tax return preparation will be free.