L-1 Visa Taxation

For nonimmigrant L-1 visa holders in the United States, taxation has always been a pertinent topic. While many aliens would like to avoid breaking the law, the majority are confused about their U.S. tax status and what is required of them. This article gives you insight into all you need to know about L-1 visa taxation.

How Does the L-1 Visa Work?

The L-1 visa is an employment-based nonimmigrant classification that allows a multinational organization to transfer a foreign professional employee from any of their offices overseas to the United States. To qualify for this work visa, you must have worked for the foreign parent, subsidiary, branch, or subsidiary of the organization for at least one of the last three years.

The L-1 visa is in two categories, namely L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager and L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge. It is a dual intent that allows qualified applicants to adjust their nonimmigrant status to immigrant status and gain lawful permanent residence with the United States green card.

L-1 Visa Taxation

All non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. permanent residents are generally required to pay tax on the money earned while working in the United States. This is officially known as the U.S. Effective Connected Income. However, for those who have resided in the U.S. long enough to meet the Substantial Resident Test, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will tax them on their worldwide income.

l-1 visa taxation

Worldwide income is an aggregation of your foreign and domestic income. Foreign, from the IRS standpoint, means any place outside of the United States. This may be in your home country or some other country. So, as an L-1 visa holder, you will be seen as a U.S. resident for tax purposes as long as you meet the substantial presence test.

How is the Substantial Resident Test Determined?

The substantial resident test will depend on how much time you spend in the U.S. on your work visa. You will be classified as a U.S. tax resident if:

  • You are present in the United States for up to 31 days during the current year; and
  • The number of days spent in the United States in the current year, plus one-third of the total number of days in the United States year before, plus one-sixth of the total number of days you spent in the United States in the year before that, is at least 183 days. That is:
    • All the days you were present in the current year, plus
    • One-third (1/3) of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, plus
    • One-sixth (1/6) of the days you were present in the second year before the current year.

Example 1

You were physically in the U.S. for 120 days each year in 2017, 2018, and 2019. To determine if you meet the substantial presence test for 2019, count the full days of presence in 2017, 1/3 days of presence in 2018 (40 days), and 1/6 days of presence in 2019 (20 days): 120 days + 40 days + 20 days = 180 days.

In this case, you will not be considered a resident under the substantial presence for 2019 because the total 3-year period is 180 days. This means you will only be required to pay tax on money earned while working in the United States.

Example 2

You were physically in the U.S. on 130 days in 2017, 120 days in 2018, and 120 days in 2019. To determine if you are considered to have met the substantial presence test, you will need to count the full days of presence in 2017 (130 days), plus 1/3 of 2018 (40 days), plus 1/6 of 2019 (20 days): 130 + 40 + 20 = 190 days.

In this case, you will be considered a resident under the substantial presence test. This means you will be subject to United States Income tax on your worldwide income unless otherwise stated.

How Does the Taxation of L-1 Visa Holders Work?

As an L-1 visa holder, you may be subject to tax income from U.S. sources. The U.S. source income is grouped into two categories, namely;

  • Investment and other passive income: This is an income that is not connected with a U.S. business or trade.
  • Business income: This is an income connected with a U.S. business or trade, including compensation received for services you perform in the U.S.

Incomes that are generally treated as an investment and other passive income or business income are as follows:

  • Interest paid by a U.S. resident individuals or entities
  • Dividends paid by U.S. corporations
  • Compensation for personal services carried out in the U.S, regardless of the payer’s location. This also includes stock option income.
  • Gains generated from the disposition of real property in the U.S
  • Rents and royalties received from property located in the U.S.
  • Income from sale or exchange of personal property
  • Alimony received from a U.S. resident
  • Social Security benefits
  • Interest received on some specified portfolio obligations
  • Certain foreign-sourced incomes
  • Income from real property held for investment if the income is treated as a business income.

Tax Return Filing Process for L1 Visa Holders

The United States income taxes are self-assessed by L-1 taxpayers – meaning you can prepare and submit your tax returns to the IRS office yourself. You can also choose to go through a tax agent or contact the IRS office for help. The following guidelines are crucial when filing your L-1 visa taxes:

When to File

As an L-1 nonimmigrant receiving wages subject to U.S. tax withholding, you must file your tax return on April 15th of the following year every year. If April 15th is on a weekend, the next workday after April 15th will be considered the due date.

Forms to File

Different forms and documents are used for tax purposes, depending on the type of taxation being filed. The following are some of the regular taxation forms you will need as an L-1 visa holder:

1040NR Form

To file your income tax return, you will need to use the 1040NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. Both the income that is effectively connected with a business or trade in the U.S. and income that is Fixed, Determinable, Annual, or Periodical (FDAP) are reported on the 1040NR. Generally, FDAP is taxed at 30%. However, if you are qualified for the treaty rate, your charges will be lower. No deductions are allowed against FDAP income. Effectively Connected income is reported on page one while FDAP income is reported on page four of the 1040NR form.


Foreign Financial Bank Accounts (FBAR) will be required if you have a financial interest in or signature authority over any financial account that has a balance that exceeds $10,000 in the aggregate at any point during the year, outside of the U.S. In other words, this determines if you can own or control any foreign account.

8938 Form

If you are an L-1 visa holder with foreign financial assets that have an aggregate value exceeding $50,000, you will also need to file an 8938. The form is used to report information about those assets and must be attached to your annual tax return. Unlike FBAR, which is limited to just account balance and insurance policies, this form is more comprehensive and covers both accounts and assets.

3520 and 3520-A Forms

The 3520 is used to report the receipt of a foreign gift from a foreign person, foreign trust distribution, or foreign business. The threshold for this requirement varies, depending on the gift value. For instance, while you are required to report any foreign trust distribution, you may not need to report gifts from a foreign person unless the value exceeds $100,000, either in one transaction or a series of transactions in a tax year.

The 3520-A, on the other hand, is required if you have a foreign trust. Failure to file a 3520-A in accordance with tax law could lead to substantial penalties and fines.

Here are some other forms that may apply to your financial situation in the U.S.:

8621 Form: If you have any interest in a passive foreign investment company.

5471 Form: This is required if you have ownership in a foreign corporation.

5472 Form: This is required if you have an interest, ownership, or control in any foreign corporation.

Where to File

Your 1040NR (including other taxation forms, if applicable) must be submitted to the Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Austin TX 73301.

Does an L-1 Visa Holder Need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?

An ITIN is issued by the IRS to people who are not qualified for a Social Security number but are required to file a U.S. tax return. As a nonimmigrant on an L-1 visa, you and any dependents claimed on your tax return must have an ITIN in order to file your income tax. Otherwise, your tax return will not be accepted by the IRS.

How to Apply for ITIN

To apply for an ITIN, you will need to complete a W-7, Application for IRS ITIN. You must attach relevant documentation to establish your identity and connection to a foreign country. There are 13 different documents that can be used for this purpose. The IRS will accept the one you can present evidence for from the list shown in the Instructions for Form W-7.

Penalties for Not Filing Income Tax

Just like every country, immigration and taxation are very important to the U.S. government, and there are penalties for not complying with the laws. The following are some of the consequences you may encounter for failure to file correct income tax returns:

It May Lead to Deportation

Violation of tax law is a serious offense. If you are caught, it may end your L-1 visa status in the United States and result in your forced removal.

It May Affect Your Future Status Adjustment

If you are an L-1 nonimmigrant with plans to become a green card holder in the future, you must make sure you are attentive when it comes to your taxes. When applying for status adjustment, your tax return compliance will be scrutinized. If there are issues in this area, it could jeopardize your chances of becoming a permanent resident.

You Could Lose Your Deductions and Credits.

To receive the taxation benefit of allowable deductions and credits, you must file an accurate income tax return on time. A tax return is considered timely if it is filed within 16 months of the due date. If you fail to file within the date, the IRS has the right to deny you the allowable deductions and credits.

How VisaNation Law Group Immigration Attorneys Can Help

Violation of immigration and taxation law has both immediate and future consequences, and ignorance of the law is not a tenable excuse. This is why you need the help of an expert to guide you in your L-1 visa taxation.

VisaNation Law Group immigration attorneys specialize in providing high-quality immigration legal representation for those under work visa statuses such as the L-1. We help our clients make the most of their time and effort spent in the United States. To understand your taxation status and to learn how to file your tax return appropriately and in a timely manner, you can get in touch with a VisaNation Law Group immigration attorneys today by filling out this contact form.