If you’re one of the more than ten million illegal immigrants currently believed to be living in the United States, there are many aspects of daily life that can be more than a little worrisome. More importantly, there are many opportunities that you may be denied due to your immigration status. There are, however, any responsibilities that you simply cannot avoid. For example, you are still expected to obey all local, state, and federal laws. And yes, you are still expected to pay taxes for any income you earn while in the country.
That last requirement can be a scary proposition for many recent arrivals, as they are rightly concerned that authorities will learn of their presence and initiate deportation proceedings. That fear is understandable, but unwarranted in this case. The fact is that even illegal immigrants are expected to pay taxes just as they would be required to do were they here legally. The good news is that you can do so without fear that your tax filing could be used to send you back to your home country.
The reason for that is simple: the IRS has as its main mission the tracking of income and collection of taxes. Because they had a problem managing various types of income earned in the United States by people who lacked Social Security numbers, the agency initiated the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number program almost two decades ago. That is the number that must be obtained by anyone who is not eligible for a Social Security Number.
Now, you might be wondering whether your illegal status might bar you from obtaining an ITIN. Rest assured, it will not. As long as you can provide the proper documentation, the IRS will process and approved you for your own identifying number. More importantly, they do not share this information with the immigration authorities. Remember, the Internal Revenue Service’s only goal in this area is to ensure that they collect as much of the tax revenue due as possible!
So, on the one hand, you have a situation where failure to report your income and file taxes can result in criminal penalties. On the other hand, you have an agency that has gone out of its way to ensure that you can properly meet that tax-filing duty without fear of your illegal status being discovered by immigration authorities. Obviously, your choice should be clear: get your ITIN and be sure to file those taxes. The last thing you want is for the IRS to track you down and assess heavy fines or other penalties simply because you were afraid to file.
Finally, be sure to obtain ITINs for any non-citizen dependents so that you can also claim them when you file. Each dependent must have a Social Security Number or ITIN before you can legally claim them on your tax return. While you cannot receive the Child Tax Credit for dependents unless they are U.S. citizens or lawful residents, claiming them on your taxes can still reduce your overall tax burden.