Money & Taxes
Opening a bank account
Follow the below steps to open a checking account where you can deposit checks:
Ask your employer if there is a bank they recommend, or just choose one that is convenient.
- Go into the branch and ask how to open a checking account, particularly:
- What documents must I bring to open the account?
- Must I keep a minimum amount of money in the account?
- What fees will I be charged?
- What is the penalty if I withdraw more money than I have, either at an ATM, with a check or with a credit/debit card?
Some employers do "direct deposit," where instead of handing you a paper check, they deposit the money straight into your bank account. This will mean that you can access your money faster, and don't have to worry about losing a check. You will receive a paper receipt every time money is deposited. This also makes it easy for your employer to deposit any money that you still are owed after you have finished working there.
If you must cash a check before you have opened a bank account, you can do this at Walmart, or sometimes other grocery stores, for free. There are also places called "check cashing centers," but these charge a large fee and are not recommended.
Many checking accounts come with checks and with a credit/debit card. If you lose a checkbook or credit/debit card, call the bank immediately to cancel it, so that someone else can't use it to get money out of your account.
Keeping Good Records
Begin a log where you keep a record of what days and what hours you work. You may print and use this one: ERDT Work Log. If you have any problems with getting enough hours at your job, ERDT will ask to see this log.
Keep your pay stubs (the paper that comes with your paycheck). You may need these in the future.
You must pay Federal income taxes, as well as State and Local taxes in some areas. Your employer will "withhold" taxes - this means they take money out of each check and sends it directly to the U.S. Government. KEEP your pay stubs (the piece of paper that comes with your check) as you may need them in the future.
Typically, the amount the employer withholds is more than you actually owe. In the beginning of the year after your Work & Travel program, you will receive a W2 from your employer, which tells you how much you made, and how much you paid in taxes. You will use your W2 to file a tax refund with the U.S. government.
Be sure that your employer knows what mailing address they should use to send you your W2.
The U.S. tax refund system is complicated, even for U.S. citizens. If you file your tax refund incorrectly, you will either lose money or be charged a penalty. For example, the popular program TurboTax does not correctly calculate the refund for J1 students. There are companies who specialize in helping Work & Travel participants do their tax refund correctly - the most experienced is Taxback:
J-1 Work and Travel students do not need to pay Medicare, Social Security, or Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA or FICA). If your employer asks for proof of this, direct them to our Employer Web Page or have them contact ERDT.
Employers are required to mail your W2 by January 29. Remember that it could take a few weeks for it to come in the mail. If you do not receive a W2 by the beginning of March, first contact your employer by phone and email. If this doesn't work, call the IRS at 267-941-1000. You will need to tell the IRS agent:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your Social Security number
- Your phone number
- Your employer's name
- Your employer's address
- The dates you worked there
- An estimate of how much you made, and how much federal tax was taken out (use your pay stubs to determine this)
The IRS agent will then contact your employer.
Frequently Asked Questions
My final paycheck and/or housing deposit refund check will not be ready until after I have returned home. What should I do?
Ask your employer if he/she will deposit the money in your bank account. If not, please contact your agent in your home country and ask what they recommend.
You can ask your employer to mail the check to ERDT, or to your home, but there can be extra fees for cashing or depositing a U.S. check outside of the U.S.