Questions Frequently Considered
What are the requirements for using your service?
Our service focuses on individuals who are nonresidents of the United States for U.S. tax purposes (see explanation below), and who have visited the United States to work as short-term J-1 visa holders. These individuals include the J-1 categories of:
- Au Pairs
- Camp Counselors
- International Visitors
- Short-term Scholars
- Summer Workers, and
We ask that these individuals 1) lived and worked in only one state while in the U.S., 2) have received, or have access to, their Form W-2 from their U.S. employer (the form that tells you how much you made and how much tax was collected), 3) received only wage income (you could also receive bank interest, which is not taxable to a non-resident), 4) will not claim “away from home” expenses, and 5) 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.
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 Form1040NR.com, we provide a full array of tax services for foreign nationals. 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.
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 Form1040NR.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 posted in your private web portal for your review. 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 our fee upon your approval to file. This is a change of policy effective January 29, 2018.
- If you have a tax liability, or your refund is too small to cover our fee, we will invoice you upon your approval to file. 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®. It 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 half the normal fee) 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?
I’m afraid we cannot control that. That is under control of the IRS and state tax agencies. Since 2017 is the first year electronic filing has become available for Form 1040NR, there are still many situations that will disqualify the federal and/or state return for e-filing. Here are some current reasons:
- 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?
Well, if we can electronically file your tax return, the refund is processed much quicker than if the return must be mailed. Once your e-filed return is accepted, the refund could be deposited into your bank account in as few as ten days. If the return must be paper filed because something in the return does not allow us to e-file it, your refund still will be directly deposited electronically into your bank account – but paper filed returns take a little longer to process.
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?
The IRS says to wait at least six weeks from the date the return is filed to inquire about a refund. If your refund does not show up by then, we will call the IRS to find out why. Sometimes the process is delayed by the IRS or state taxing authority for further review. If there is anything we can do to speed up the process, we will do so. Since we don’t get paid in full until you get paid, it is in our best interest to make sure you receive your refund.
What if my refund is less than you said it would be?
If your refund does not arrive, or is less than we computed, we will contact the authorities to determine why. If the refund 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 refund is adjusted because of a mistake on our part, your tax preparation will be free. I’ll repeat that so you know you read it right. If the refund is adjusted because of a mistake on our part, your tax preparation will be free.
My employer withheld Social Security and Medicare tax. Will you help me get it back?
Most nonresident aliens are subject to Social Security and Medicare tax on their wages, just like residents are, even though they might not spend enough time working in the U.S. to be able to claim the benefits. The employee portion of Social Security and Medicare tax is 7.65% of the employee’s wage, which is withheld by the employer. However, there is a special exemption in the Internal Revenue Code for F, J, M and Q visa holders who are not residents. Many small business employers (and even large business employers) are not aware of this exemption, so be sure you don’t pay this tax if you qualify for the exemption. Tell your employer you are exempt from Social Security and Medicare tax under Section 3121(b)(19) of the Code. If they don’t give you a refund, at least they will be impressed with your tax acumen.
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 after you have reviewed and approved your return for filing. 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.
If I already filed a tax return, is it OK to file another one through you?
C’mon now. You know you’re not supposed to do that. It’s called tax fraud. Please don’t.
What if I give you the wrong social security number, just to mess with you?
OK. I think that’s enough FAQs for now.