Thursday 20 October 2016

J1 Tax Tips: Could your US holiday bring a $850 windfall?

Travel Tips & Advice

Published 29/08/2016 | 01:00

Statue of Liberty New York. Photo: Deposit
Statue of Liberty New York. Photo: Deposit
Plan ahead to make the most of your J1 roadtrip. Photo: Getty Images.
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

J1 summers are coming to and end. But there is a silver lining, our Travel Editor writes.

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Returning from a J1 summer of a lifetime can be a real jolt, but there is an upside.

Did you know that, depending on your time spent and income earned in the US, you could be entitled to an average tax refund of $850 (€752)?

That’s the figure quoted by the Union of Students in Ireland, which has a J1 guide on its website ( J1ers are obliged by law to file tax returns (important to note if you plan on a future US visa or green card), but it’s not just bureaucracy — getting this box ticked could net you a surprising windfall, too. Here’s how.

1. Get a W-2 form from your US employer

Similar to a P60, this records the income and tax paid in a given year. It’s sent at the start of the tax year (January), so make sure your employer has your contact details.

2. Get a tax refund estimation

Various companies offer free calculators online; it costs nothing to check.

3. File your tax return

This must be done before mid-April. Start the federal return at (you can check its progress online, or on the IRS2Go app), and double check details to avoid IRS penalties. States have their own revenue sites ( is a good resource).

4. Get someone to file for you

Tax returns can wreck heads, so you may prefer to pay a tax assistance agency to do the grunt work — charges $108 (€95) for federal and state returns, for example.

5. Cash in!

Well, hopefully. Some years ago, it was reported that $1.6m (€1.4m) went unclaimed by Irish J1 students every year. Could some of that be yours?

Plan ahead to make the most of your J1 roadtrip. Photo: Getty Images.
Plan ahead to make the most of your J1 roadtrip. Photo: Getty Images.

Read more: The ultimate J1 travel guide!


Loved your J1? Want to do it all over again? Well, you can — students are eligible to apply for as many J1 visas as their college term allows.

You need to prove minimum funds of $800 (€705) before you travel (even if students have a pre-arranged seasonal job, as is now obligatory), so why not roll over your tax refund to kickstart summer 2017?

Your US social security number (SSN) is for life, too, making the second trip less hassle — though it may be worth closing and re-opening your US bank accounts to avoid fees in the intervening months.


J1 work permits expire on September 15, and J1ers cannot leave and re-enter the US after that date, but they can remain as tourists for up to 30 days.

Depending on your college term, this could be the ideal time to blow some of your savings. What about two-for-one tickets at New York’s Broadway Week (; Sept. 5-18); Austin City Limits (; Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 & Oct. 7-9) New England’s killer fall foliage, or a great American road trip in a cheap rental?

The US is your oyster!

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