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I have a few questions on taxation while being on a J1 visa (category research scholar).

Background information:

  • I am a Netherlands National
  • I will start in December 1, 2015 as a postdoctoral researcher in the US, NYC. I have not had any kind of VISA for the US before.
  • I will stay for exactly 24 months (Dec 1,2015 – Nov 31, 2017). After that I will return to the Netherlands and continue to work there.
  • I will be paid a salary by my home university in the Netherlands throughout this period in the US (FOREIGN income!).
  • Because I am in the US for 3 calendar years (2015,2016,2017) I believe I am a non-resident alien in 2015 and 2016, and a resident alien for 2017 because I am more than 183 days in the US.

A tax advisor from my home university has looked into my situation to determine where I should pay income tax and social security tax according to NL-US tax treaties and Dutch law. It appears I need to pay SS taxes in the Netherlands even while I am staying in the US. However for income tax he thinks I should pay tax in the US and not the Netherlands, while staying in the US.

However, I have read that for the first 2 years J1 visa holders are usually exempt from federal income and FICA taxes.

My questions are:

  1. Are both federal and FICA based on residence status? So am I correct in assuming that I need to pay federal income tax + FICA tax for 2017, but that I am tax exempt for 2016 and 2015?

  2. Elsewhere I have read advice that federal taxes need only to be paid if you are in the US for more than 24 months, regardless of calendar year (i.e. I am in the US for 24 months but in 3 calendar years). Can you comment if this is the case for my situation?

  3. I am receiving a FOREIGN income as a salary, not a fellowship, although the salary was paid from a fellowship that was awarded to me. However, the fellowship is intended as a real salary and not just to cover tuition or other direct costs. Does this in anyway changes above situation?

  4. I am obliged to pay Netherlands SS taxes by Dutch law. There is a totalization agreement between the US and NL. Does this mean I can claim exemption from FICA for 2017? Or do I need to pay and then try to claim back?

  • 1
    Google turned up this document, which has a pretty well-organized account of the rules: tax.thomsonreuters.com/wp-content/pdf/nra-tax/…. For a more authoritative source, see irs.gov/publications/p519/…. After a brief look at those: 1: I suspect you won't pay FICA in 2017. 2: it looks like it's by calendar year, not by months. 3: It should not make any difference. 4: Since your salary comes from NL, FICA probably won't be withheld, in which case there's no need to claim back. – phoog Jul 17 '15 at 10:02
  • Too many questions in one post, can you please split it to one question per post? – Dirty-flow Jul 17 '15 at 13:00
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However, I have read that for the first 2 years J1 visa holders are usually exempt from federal income and FICA taxes.

Not at all. There's an exemption from FICA for J-1 holders for income that is related to their J-1 status. There's an exemption from the substantial presence days count for J-1 status for two years. There's no blanket exemption from income taxes, however tax treaties may provide some specific exemptions. Treaty exemptions are usually calculated by month (that is, you get 24 months of benefit, not 2 calendar years), but read the specific treaty that applies to you for details.

Are both federal and FICA based on residence status? So am I correct in assuming that I need to pay federal income tax + FICA tax for 2017, but that I am tax exempt for 2016 and 2015?

No, neither is. Income tax is based on the source of income (which in your case is the US), FICA is based on coverage (which in your case you're exempt being in J1 status, as long as you are paid as part of the research for which you got the status).

Elsewhere I have read advice that federal taxes need only to be paid if you are in the US for more than 24 months, regardless of calendar year (i.e. I am in the US for 24 months but in 3 calendar years). Can you comment if this is the case for my situation?

I'm not familiar with the "Elsewhere" periodical. Do they have a web site? In any case, you either misunderstood or they misrepresented, this is incorrect. I'd suggest not to rely on sources with names as vague as "elsewhere".

I am receiving a FOREIGN income as a salary, not a fellowship, although the salary was paid from a fellowship that was awarded to me. However, the fellowship is intended as a real salary and not just to cover tuition or other direct costs. Does this in anyway changes above situation?

Your premise is flawed. You're not receiving a foreign income. You're receiving income from abroad, but it is sourced to the US because that's where the work is done.

I am obliged to pay Netherlands SS taxes by Dutch law. There is a totalization agreement between the US and NL. Does this mean I can claim exemption from FICA for 2017? Or do I need to pay and then try to claim back?

You're exempt from FICA because of your status, the treaty is irrelevant.


Keep in mind that treaties between the US Federal government and foreign countries do not apply for State income tax purposes. You're likely going to have to pay the New York State and City income taxes as resident for 2016-2017 and non-resident for 2015.

  • Do you have any references for any of these assertions? On the state income tax question, for example, the state form starts by asking for your federal adjusted gross income. I don't remember a line for adding back income that was excluded under federal rules but is taxable under state rules. – phoog Jul 17 '15 at 14:49
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    @phoog I'm not familiar with NYS tax forms, but in California the tax forms most definitely have lines for adding back that income. – littleadv Jul 17 '15 at 15:48

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