Stop saying "Illegal Immigrants Don't Pay Taxes!"

…Undocumented workers are filing more taxes than ever before says the Internal Revenue Service.

We are not talking about regressive sales taxes. We aren't even speaking about how undocumented workers use fake SSNs and pay more than $7 billion into Social Security annually, thus keeping it afloat. Here, we are documenting how, along with American citizens each April, our 'illegal immigrant' parents file taxes with the IRS by using Taxpayer Identification Numbers.

The IRS began issuing these ITINs in 1996 to foreigners who did not qualify for Social Security numbers but earned income legally in the United States. Since then, more than 10 million of these numbers have been issued and although precise numbers aren't available, most ITINs used to file taxes belong to 'illegal immigrants,' according to a 2004 report by the Government Accountability Office. And the number of ITINs issued increases each year as do the tax returns filed using those ITINs.

The mainstream media hardly advertises this fact and the anti-immigration lobby plays like a broken record over and over that '"illegals are costing American taxpayers…" and  "illegals do not pay taxes." When Congress was debating an economic stimulus package earlier in the year, Tom Tancredo was booming on about how the package would give rebates to 'resident aliens.' What he and the mainstream media failed to mention was that the rebates would be given since these 'resident aliens' were filing taxes using their own ITINs. We understand that it is hard to be so stoicly against those damned 'illegals' when there are stories about them following the law, filing their taxes and contributing to America but face the facts.

See this story, this one and even this. Not only do undocumented workers pay taxes, they probably end up paying more than average Americans because 1) they do not want to risk audit and draw attention to themselves and 2) they do not qualify for rebates and breaks like Earned Income Credit.

So how much have 'illegal immigrants' paid in taxes to the IRS?

No one knows for sure but between 1996 and 2003, nearly $50 billion was paid into the treasury by 10 million people assigned tax identification numbers. "In North Carolina, a UNC-Chapel Hill study estimated that Hispanic residents paid $145 million in state income taxes in 2004, and another $86 million in small business taxes." (News & Observer, The (Raleigh, NC); 04/14/2007) Check out this report at Washington Times that speaks of a study showing immigrants in the Washington area pay the fair share of the tax burden.

Now I hear that only a minority of 'illegals' file their tax returns. Of course, not all 12 million 'illegals' file their taxes and I am certainly not making that claim. More than half are probably ineligible since they are either children, supported by their partners/spouses, working with fake social security numbers, don't earn enough or simply too scared to leave a paper trail. However, as 'illegal immigrants' adjust to life in America, find resources to help them understand that the IRS and CIS are not in bed with each other, and that ITINs are useful for creating a credit history and obtaining bank accounts, they surely find encouragement to file tax returns. Besides, it does show good moral character and would help with 'proof of presence' when it comes to eligibility for legal residence and citizenship. See more reasons for filing taxes if you are undocumented here.

Do I file taxes? No, I am an unpaid intern, blogger and janitor. But my mother is currently downstairs foraging through all her expense receipts and paycheck stubs from the past year to meet the April deadline. I asked her last week how much she paid in taxes and she took out a calculator, punched in some numbers, and gave me an answer that left my mouth gaping wide open: $16000, in business and property taxes.

Alright, do not ever claim that you are subsidizing my college education, my health care or any other social service. My parents are probably paying a lofty sum into providing healthcare and K-14 education for American citizens in our county of residence while paying out of the pocket for my health and education expenses. 

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