H-1B Taxes: What Are They and How to File?

Updated on November 21, 2023
At a Glance: The H-1B visa program allows non-immigrant workers in specialized fields to work in the United States. Different H-1B visa categories have distinct tax implications, with H-1B workers being subject to Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes. Tax residency status is determined by the Substantial Presence Test, impacting tax liabilities. H-1B visa holders are subject to federal income tax and, in many states, state and local income tax. Employers withhold federal income taxes, and H-1B visa holders are liable for Social Security and Medicare taxes. Proper tax filing is essential for H-1B visa holders.

Whether you are a current H-1B visa holder or considering applying for one, understanding the tax implications is crucial. In this post, we will cover topics such as tax residency status, federal and state tax liabilities, withholding taxes, and required documentation for filing. So, let’s dive in and explore everything you need to know about H-1B taxes and how to file them!

H-1B Visa and Taxes: Overview

The H1-B visa program in the United States allows non-immigrant workers in specialized fields to work in the country. Key visa categories within H-1B include:

  1. H-1B: Specialty occupation workers.
  2. H-1B1: Free Trade Agreement workers from Chile and Singapore.
  3. H-1B2: Workers in projects related to the Department of Defense.
  4. H-1B3: Fashion models of distinguished merit and ability.
  5. Other Categories: Including H-2A and H-2B for agricultural and non-agricultural workers, H-3 for trainees, and various others for individuals with extraordinary abilities or achievements in their fields.

Tax Implications for Different Visa Categories

Each H-1B visa category has distinct tax implications. The most notable is the difference in taxation for workers on H-1B visas compared to those on Optional Practical Training (OPT). While OPT participants are only liable for federal, state, and local taxes, H-1B workers are also subject to Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, which include Social Security and Medicare taxes. This distinction significantly impacts the overall tax burden for H-1B visa holders.

H-1B Visa and Tax Residency Status

For tax purposes in the U.S., individuals are classified as either resident or nonresident aliens. This classification affects how they are taxed:

  • Resident Aliens: They are taxed on their worldwide income, similarly to U.S. citizens.
  • Nonresident Aliens: They are taxed only on their income derived from sources within the United States and/or connected with a U.S. trade or business.

The Substantial Presence Test

The Substantial Presence Test is a crucial factor in determining an H-1B holder’s tax residency status. It involves a formula that counts the days of physical presence in the U.S. over a 3-year period. Generally, an H-1B visa holder who spends 122 days each year in the U.S. over this period will meet the Substantial Presence Test, thus being considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes. However, certain exceptions can apply, such as the “closer connection” exception, which can lead to being treated as a nonresident despite meeting the substantial presence criteria.

Federal, State, and Local Tax Liabilities

H-1B visa holders are subject to federal income tax and, in most states, state and local income tax. Both of these tax implications are explained below.

Federal Income Tax

H-1B visa holders are subject to federal income tax, which varies depending on whether they are classified as resident or nonresident aliens. The tax rate ranges from 10% to 37%, based on income level. Resident aliens are taxed on their worldwide income, while nonresident aliens are taxed only on their U.S.-sourced income. The precise rate depends on factors such as income level and filing status.

State and Local Taxes

State and local income taxes depend on the visa holder’s place of residence in the U.S. Not all states impose a personal income tax, and the rates can vary significantly between those that do. Similarly, some cities and localities levy their own income taxes, often withheld from wages by the employer. It’s important for H-1B visa holders to ensure their address is correctly registered to avoid incorrect local tax withholdings.

Withholding Taxes and FICA Contributions

In this section, we’ll explore H1-B tax withholdings and contributions to Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes.

Withholding Taxes

For H-1B visa holders, employers are responsible for withholding federal income taxes from wages. The amount withheld depends on the visa holder’s tax residency status and the information provided on Form W-4. Resident aliens are subject to withholding in the same manner as U.S. citizens, while nonresident aliens follow specific rules outlined in IRS publications.

Social Security and Medicare Taxes (FICA)

H-1B visa holders are liable for Social Security and Medicare taxes regardless of their residency status, unless their employment type is exempt under U.S. law. The combined rate for Social Security tax is 12.4% (split equally between employer and employee), and for Medicare, it is 2.9%. These contributions provide for retirement, disability benefits, and healthcare coverage under the U.S. social security system.

H-1B Taxes Requirements and Documents

Below, we explain the process for filing taxes as an H-1B visa holder in the U.S.

Filing Requirements for Nonresident Aliens

H-1B visa holders who are classified as nonresident aliens on the last day of the taxable year must file Form 1040-NR to report U.S.-source income and income effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business. If they are claiming treaty benefits, this must also be reported on Form 1040-NR, along with the required Form 8833.

Filing Requirements for U.S. Resident Aliens

H-1B holders classified as resident aliens for the entire taxable year are required to file Form 1040, just like U.S. citizens. This form reports their entire worldwide income. They may also be eligible for foreign tax credits if they have paid foreign income tax on foreign-source income.

Documentation Needed for Filing

H-1B visa holders should gather all necessary tax documents before filing, including their Social Security Card, Form W-2, any forms from the 1099 series, investment income statements, and other relevant income information. Accuracy in reporting all income and taxes paid is crucial to ensure compliance with U.S. tax laws.

How to File H-1B Taxes

Filing taxes on an H-1B visa involves several steps:

  1. Determine Your Tax Residency Status: Use the Substantial Presence Test to determine if you are a resident or nonresident alien for tax purposes. This will affect how you are taxed and which forms you need to file.
  2. Gather Required Documents: Collect all necessary documents such as your Social Security Card, W-2 forms, 1099 forms, investment income statements, and other relevant income information.
  3. Choose the Correct Tax Form:
    • Nonresident Aliens: File Form 1040-NR to report U.S.-source income.
    • Resident Aliens: File Form 1040, similar to U.S. citizens, to report worldwide income.
  4. Claim Deductions and Credits (if eligible): As a resident alien, you might be eligible for certain deductions and credits. Nonresidents have limited options in this regard.
  5. Consider Treaty Benefits: If applicable, claim treaty benefits using Form 8833 and report these on your tax return.
  6. File Your Tax Return: You can file your taxes yourself or seek help from tax preparation services like Sprintax, which specialize in nonresident tax issues.
  7. Marital Status and Dependents: Understand how your marital status affects your filing, especially if your spouse is also a nonresident alien. Nonresidents generally cannot claim dependents, with some exceptions for residents of Canada, Mexico, South Korea, and certain students or business apprentices from India.

Remember to file your taxes by the IRS deadline (usually April 15) to avoid penalties. If you’re unsure about any aspect of your tax filing, consulting with a tax professional knowledgeable in nonresident tax issues can be beneficial.

10 Tips for Filing Your H-1B Taxes

Below are a few handy H1-B tax-saving tips that will help you with your next tax return.

1. Keep the W-2 form handy

This is a very handy form to keep close which will make your tax return process much easier. This form contains details of your yearly payroll and you can get this from your employer. If you were employed by various employers during the same year you will need to collect multiple of these W-2 forms.

2. Make investments

Your income tax returns can be lightened by making various investments. You can make investments in retirement schemes (if your employer has not signed you up for these yet). You can also invest in the stock market or fixed deposits.

3. Claim spousal exemption

In the U.S you can qualify for a spousal exemption. You will be required to fill in an ITIN (Income Tax Identification Number) form to claim this exemption. You will get the ITIN by filling in a W-7 form. This is a great H1-B tax saving.

4. Pay tax on your worldwide income

According to U.S tax laws, if you are a U.S resident who also holds an H1-B visa, you are required to pay tax on your worldwide income. This means you will be required to pay tax on all interest earned from banks in foreign countries.

5. Declare all your financial interest

This is a factor that many people don’t notice and the penalty is definitely something that you would want to avoid.

If you own financial accounts in foreign countries and the progressive value of these accounts exceeds $10,000 per year, you will need to submit a TD 90-22.1 form to the IRS by 30 June each year. Failing to meet this deadline will mean a non-compliance penalty of $10,000 per year.

6. Declare your dependents

If you have dependents that are not allowed to enter the U.S, you can still declare them as your dependents when filing your tax returns. However, your dependents still have to qualify as dependents according to the laws of the United States.

7. Claim your Medicare for the period you were on OPT

If in a year of assessment you were both on OPT (Optical Practical Training) and an H1-B visa, chances are your employer withheld amounts for both Medicare and Social Security Tax. You are entitled to be reimbursed for the amounts withheld for Medicare, so make sure to claim this reimbursement.

8. Claim deductions for moving expenses

You can claim deductions for moving expenses if you either moved to the U.S from a foreign country or if you relocated to another location in the U.S. You should, however, meet the pre-set time and the distance standard.

9. Claim a medical deduction

If your medical expenditure exceeds 7.5% of your AGI (Adjusted Gross Income), you will be able to claim medical deductions. You will need Form 1040, Schedule A for this.

10. Get loans or make donations

You can get a tax savings for taking out a mortgage loan (loan providers like Stilt provide loans for foreign nationals on H1-B visas). You can also get tax relief from making donations to charities and for any expenditure incurred for actually filing your tax return.

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Final Thoughts

Understanding the tax implications of the H-1B visa is crucial for current and prospective visa holders. By being well-informed and following the necessary steps, H-1B visa holders can navigate their tax obligations and maximize deductions and credits. Seeking guidance from a tax professional specializing in nonresident tax issues can provide valuable assistance. Stay informed, be proactive, and fulfill your tax obligations with confidence as an H-1B visa holder.

Frequently Asked Questions about Filing H-1B Taxes

When is the deadline for filing H-1B taxes?

The deadline for filing H-1B taxes is typically April 15th of each year. However, the deadline may vary slightly depending on weekends and holidays. It is important to check the IRS website or consult with a tax professional to confirm the exact deadline.

Can I file my H-1B taxes online?

Yes, you can file your H-1B taxes online. The IRS provides electronic filing options, including free file software and commercial tax preparation software. Additionally, there are online tax preparation services that specialize in nonresident tax issues and can assist you in filing your H-1B taxes.

What forms do I need to file my H-1B taxes?

The forms you need to file your H-1B taxes depend on your tax residency status. If you are a nonresident alien, you will generally need to file Form 1040-NR or 1040-NR-EZ. If you are a resident alien, you will file Form 1040, similar to U.S. citizens. Additionally, you may need to include other forms and schedules based on your specific tax situation. It is recommended to consult with a tax professional or use tax preparation software to ensure you have the correct forms.

Can I claim deductions and credits on my H-1B taxes?

Yes, as an H-1B visa holder, you may be eligible to claim certain deductions and credits on your tax return. Resident aliens can generally claim the same deductions and credits as U.S. citizens. Nonresident aliens have limited options for deductions and credits. It is important to carefully review the IRS guidelines and consult with a tax professional to determine which deductions and credits you may qualify for.

What if I am married to a nonresident alien? Can we file taxes jointly?

Generally, nonresident aliens cannot file joint tax returns with their spouse. However, there are certain exceptions for residents of Canada, Mexico, South Korea, and certain students or business apprentices from India. It is recommended to consult with a tax professional to assess your specific situation and determine the best filing status for you and your spouse.

How do I report foreign income on my H-1B taxes?

As an H-1B visa holder, if you have earned income from foreign sources, you are generally required to report it on your U.S. tax return. Nonresident aliens report their U.S.-sourced income on Form 1040-NR, while resident aliens report their worldwide income on Form 1040. Additionally, you may be eligible for foreign tax credits if you have paid foreign income tax on your foreign-source income. It is recommended to consult with a tax professional to ensure accurate reporting of your foreign income.

Can I file my H-1B taxes myself, or should I seek professional help?

Whether you can file your H-1B taxes yourself or should seek professional help depends on your individual tax situation and comfort level with tax matters. Filing taxes as an H-1B visa holder can be complex, especially when dealing with nonresident tax issues. If you are unsure about any aspect of your tax filing or have a more complicated tax situation, it is recommended to consult with a tax professional who specializes in nonresident tax issues. They can provide guidance, ensure accurate reporting, and help you maximize deductions and credits.

What happens if I make a mistake on my H-1B tax return?

If you make a mistake on your H-1B tax return, it is important to correct it as soon as possible. The process for correcting a mistake depends on the type and severity of the error. For minor errors, the IRS may correct them without contacting you. However, for more significant errors or if you disagree with the IRS correction, you may need to file an amended tax return using Form 1040X. It is recommended to consult with a tax professional if you are unsure about the correction process or need assistance with filing an amended return.

What if I owe taxes but cannot pay the full amount?

If you owe taxes but cannot pay the full amount, it is important to still file your tax return by the deadline to avoid penalties for late filing. The IRS offers various options for taxpayers who are unable to pay their tax bill in full, such as installment agreements and offers in compromise. It is recommended to contact the IRS or consult with a tax professional to explore the available options and determine the best course of action for your situation.

What if I need more time to file my H-1B taxes?

If you need more time to file your H-1B taxes, you can request an extension by filing Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. This form will grant you an additional six months to file your tax return, moving the deadline to October 15th. However, it is important to note that an extension of time to file does not extend the time to pay any taxes owed. If you expect to owe taxes, you should estimate the amount and pay it by the original deadline to avoid penalties and interest.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.