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I am a researcher on a J1 visa employed by a US university. The USA has a tax treaty with my country, Romania, based on which I believe my income in the USA is exempt from tax "for a period not exceeding 2 years from the date of his arrival in that other Contracting State" (in the exact words of the treaty).

Six years ago, I visited a different US university for 4 weeks on a B1 visa. It was a short research visit (i.e. I was not employed, but accommodation and a per diem was provided). I hadn't been back to the USA until I got this J1 visa.

Does that previous visit on a B1 visa affect the tax treaty benefits at all? Specifically, what is the interpretation of "from the date of his arrival"? Should it be counted from 6 years ago (meaning that the period of 2 years have long expired), or should it be counted from when I arrived on the J1 visa? Most importantly, I am looking for references clarifying this point.

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Usually you would find the detailed explanation in the "Technical Explanation" or another similarly named document coming with the treaty. Unfortunately, the IRS site doesn't list such a document for Romania.

For other countries, the date of arrival is usually the first date of arrival in the capacity referred to in the article, with some treaties explicitly mentioning the first date of arrival (i.e.: you can only claim the benefit once). The Romanian tax treaty doesn't seem to mention such a limitation, so I'd go with the first date of arrival in J-1 status for the current engagement.

  • Thank you, the bit about the existence of Technical Explanations is useful. I find it hard to understand certain parts of the treaty. Looking at the technical explanations of other similar treaties will hopefully point be towards the correct interpretation of this treaty as well. I did do some research on the "first date" thing before posting here, and I am sure that this treaty doesn't have it (while some other treaties do). – Lucas Mar 3 '16 at 11:34
  • Are you aware of any IRS documents (that can be cited) discussing the point about first date of arrival and how this means that the benefit can only be used once in a lifetime? (Or clearly explaining that if "first" is not explicitly mentioned then it can be used multiple time?) – Lucas Mar 3 '16 at 20:25
  • @Lucas I think reading the treaty as is is a good enough reference. Don't overthink this – littleadv Mar 4 '16 at 6:05
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Since this statement is specifically in the Teachers chapter, I would say it means date of arrival as a "Teacher".

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