We Specialize to Save You Money
You may have noticed that we focus on the tax needs of only a short list of foreign visitors to the United States through this website. That list includes short-term J-1 visitors, such as these:
- Au Pairs
- Camp Counselors
- International Visitors
- Short-term Scholars
- Summer Workers
We ask that these individuals 1) worked in only one state, 2) have their Form W-2 from their U.S. employer, or access to it (see “No W-2 – What To Do”), 3) received only wage income in the United States (bank interest is not taxable to a non-resident), and 4) have a U.S. bank account, or the willingness to apply for a prepaid MasterCard® (through us) that can be used to accept direct deposits of IRS and state refunds. We have developed special streamlined procedures for these taxpayers so we can reduce their fees and generate tax refunds for them as quickly as possible. If you are on this list, we look forward to working with you. Please continue reading and I’ll tell you about the process we follow.
However, if you are not on this list, we can still help you with your tax needs, whatever they might be (well, within legal parameters, that is). 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.
A Process to Meet Your Needs
Now back to you J-1 folks. As a short-term visitor to the United States, you go to work, get paid, and before you know it, it’s time to return to your home country. You hardly have sufficient time to learn this country’s tax system. And, if your employer assigned someone to explain your tax filing obligation to you, they probably never showed up. Now you’re back home, and you heard you’re supposed to submit a “tax return” to the U.S. government and you might get some money back. Luckily, that brought you here. (Yes!) Let me describe how we can make a nice big refund check appear in your bank account in a way that is fast, easy, safe and affordable.
Free Refund Estimate
The first step is to click the “Let’s Get Started” button on our home page to get a free estimate of your refunds, both federal and state. With a little information from you, you will receive an email showing your refund estimates. Your estimates will include any treaty benefits you appear to qualify for. Although the federal estimate should be quite accurate at all income levels, we are still working on the state estimates. We have come as close to actual results as possible, given the time permitted. However, this is just the jumping off point. If you agree to work with us, your exact refunds are computed, through our tax software, after receiving all relevant information from you. The process does not move forward until you have reviewed your final tax return and are satisfied with the results.
Our Offer Letter With No Obligation
Soon after receiving your refund estimate, you will receive another email from us if you request it, with a link to a fee quote and offer of engagement. This letter will specify the exact amount we will charge to prepare your tax return to claim your refund. (There are no additional or hidden charges.) It will also lay out our proposed agreement with you in plain English. There is no small print with big words. There is no Latin, pig Latin or double talk, just a plainly worded agreement that you can either accept or not accept. If you have questions or comments prior to accepting, you can enter them in the document and we will respond. This is a web based document that you accept or reject over the Internet. There is never anything to print, copy or scan with our process. Paper is never required.
You Accept – We Go To Work
The tax return preparation process requires that we receive your personal information, such as address, Social Security number, date of birth, visa information, etc. For this, we ask you to fill in a PDF questionnaire (done on your computer or tablet) and drag and drop it to the secure private web portal we will set up for you. We also need a copy of your Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status), Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement), and any additional withholding documents you have received. We analyze the availability of treaty exemptions for you, determine your allowable deductions, and prepare the federal and state tax returns through our professional software. Once the tax return has passed the review process, it is sent to your private portal for you to review and approve. We take care to answer all questions to your satisfaction.
The fastest, most secure, and most reliable way to file a tax return with the IRS and states is through their electronic filing programs. Electronic filing has been required for resident individual tax returns for a number of years, but has not been available for Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ. However, beginning in 2017, electronically filed nonresident returns are accepted by the IRS for the first time. This greatly simplifies the filing process for nonresidents, especially those living outside the United States. GW Carter, Ltd. is an Authorized E-file Provider, and our J-1 Tax Refund program uses electronic filing whenever possible (there are restrictions for certain returns). Rather than allowing you to suffer the delay, inconvenience, expense, and risk of mailing paper tax returns, we will zip them off to the tax agencies and you will receive filing confirmations within hours. All you need to do is digitally sign an authorization form, which will will send you online.
On occasion, a return will not qualify for e-filing. For example, if all of your income is treaty exempt, the IRS requires paper filing of Form 1040NR. Additionally, certain states currently do not allow e-filing when the federal return is Form 1040NR. Whenever your federal or state return cannot be e-filed, we offer a convenient service to sign your return for you through a Power of Attorney form, and mail it via Priority Mail. This is all handled through digital signatures, and you receive tracking information when the return is filed.
Your Refund Through Direct Deposit
Our process requires you to receive your refund electronically through direct deposit into your bank account. It is necessary for you to have a U.S. bank account or debit card that accepts direct deposits from the federal and state governments. Without an account that accepts direct deposits, your checks will be sent on a perilous journey through two or more government postal services – an odyssey from which they might never be seen nor heard from again. Lost checks are common. A process that could take months through the mail takes only a few days through direct deposit. If you are reading this while still working in the U.S., be sure to open a bank checking account while you are here. This generally requires that you have a U.S. address. Then, do not close the account when you leave, at least not until after you have received your tax refunds.
Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard®. If you do not have a U.S. bank account, it can be very difficult to open one once you have returned to your home country. However, if you are in this situation, we have a solution. Through us you can apply for a Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard® to which your refunds can be directly deposited. Once your Payoneer account is approved, you must receive the card by mail in order to use it. This process will take some time, so it would be good to start early. Once you have your card and your refunds are loaded, you will be able to use the card to make purchases (online and in stores) or withdraw funds at any ATM machine where MasterCard® is accepted. To learn more about the Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard®, visit the Payoneer Support Center.
If you use a Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard®, we don’t get paid till your refund is safely tucked away in your account. We ask you to agree to allow us to conveniently transfer our prearranged fee automatically from your Payoneer account at that time. If you use your U.S. bank account, we charge 50% by e-check when you have approved your completed return for filing, and the remaining 50% when you have received your full refund. We will monitor the refund and check with the IRS on your behalf if the refund is delayed, or is less than the amount anticipated. Referring to our Fee Schedule, what you see is what you get. We never charge based on your refund amount. As Certified Public Accountants, fees based on refund amounts are prohibited by our ethical code.
No Refund? If your employer did the paperwork correctly, you should get both a federal and state (if applicable) refund. However, sometimes that’s not the case. You might have a federal refund coming, but owe money for state tax, or vise versa. Or, you might owe tax to both the IRS and state. If your net federal or state refund is large enough to cover our fee, we will use the same procedures as above. If your net refund is not sufficient to cover our fee, we ask for the difference before the tax return is filed, and will charge the balance from your refund. If you have a net payment due, we ask for a 50 percent retainer when the return is prepared, and the balance when your return is completed.
Yes, you might be thinking, “Why would I file a tax return if I don’t get a refund?” Well, just because there’s a legal requirement to do so if you received wages of about $4,100 or more. If you don’t file a tax return, and you know for sure that you will never return to the United States again for the rest of your life, it’s probably not a problem. However, if you ever wish to return (and we would love to have you) you better file.