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Paying taxes as an immigrant: Get your ITIN number ASAP!

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Learn why it is crucial to get an ITIN number and begin paying taxes no matter your immigration status.

We are approaching the time of year when all US taxpayers are due to file their taxes, including non-residents, and if you are just beginning your immigration journey, it is normal to have a million questions regarding this topic. If you aren’t familiar with what an ITIN number means, it is basically a tax ID number for immigrants and individuals that do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, a Social Security Number (SSN). The acronym ITIN means Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

This form of taxpayer identification is provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and getting one can be very helpful in your immigration journey, as doing so can prove that you have good intentions and will be a contributing citizen of the United States. But, regardless of your long-term plans or immigration status – whether you want to immigrate to the US and acquire a Green Card, or just live and work occasionally here – if you earn any form of income in the country, you must report it to the IRS just the same.

For non-residents, however, this may not be so obvious. You might be wondering what happens if I share my personal information with the IRS and my immigration status is sensitive? What benefits do I get if I file my taxes? How do I declare income with an ITIN number?

At the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon we want to help you grow and fulfill your dreams of immigrating to the United States. We believe that knowledge is power, and knowing your tax rights and obligations as a newcomer is essential to progress through the immigration system and making the best decisions for you and your family.

What happens if I’m undocumented? Can I be deported if I start filing my taxes?

As long as you file your taxes correctly and on time, you have nothing to fear. The information you submit to the IRS is completely confidential, and is never shared with other government entities like ICE or USCIS unless your presence in the country is regarded as a danger to the public.

Following the principles established in federal law, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights establishes that every taxpayer, regardless of immigration status, has a right to privacy. This means that when you file your taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not investigate more than necessary.

And by filing your taxes, you will be complying with the law. Whether you are a citizen or your immigration status is not ideal, it will always be the best course of action to comply timely with your federal obligations, in this case with the IRS. In addition, there are multiple benefits that you can obtain thanks to your taxes.

What benefits can I get if I decide to obtain an ITIN number and start paying taxes?

There are dozens of benefits for which you could qualify. To begin with, if you are an employee and throughout the year you paid taxes without being registered, if you overpaid without realizing it, you can recover most of that money thanks to IRS refunds.

In addition, there are many tax credits that you can take advantage of, regardless of your immigration status. For example, for tax year 2021, the Child Tax Credit (CTC) was up to $3,000 per qualifying child over the age of 6 and up to $3,600 for each qualifying child under the age of 6.

Families with children age 17 and under are also eligible for this credit. Also, during the tax year 2021, this credit was fully refundable. This means that you could get the money up front, sent by check or bank deposit as a refund even if you didn’t owe the IRS anything.

Although this credit requires that the eligible child have a Social Security Number, as a taxpayer you can claim it even if you are not eligible to obtain an SSN, as long as you have filed an ITIN number with the IRS. Another requirement is that you must live most of the year at your primary address in the United States.

Two other credits you can take advantage of, even if you and your dependents are not eligible for an SSN, are the Other Dependent Credit, up to $500, and the American Opportunity Credit, up to $2,500 per eligible student. You only need an ITIN number to claim these credits.

Will I get immigration benefits if I pay my taxes?

Another advantage of filing your taxes regardless of your immigration status goes beyond financial perks. If you intend to start the process to become a permanent resident, one of the requirements is to be able to demonstrate that, during a period determined by immigration law, you have been a person of good moral character. And one of the main ways to show that you meet that requirement is by showing evidence that you have filed your taxes correctly and on time.

How do I get my ITIN number?

The IRS issues an ITIN number so people who are not eligible for an SSN can file their taxes. This number is requested through the W-7 form, which is estimated to take 6-10 weeks to process.

If you don’t have your ITIN number yet, don’t worry, the IRS allows you to submit your tax return simultaneously with the W-7 form, along with the corresponding documentation that confirms your identity. This can be very helpful for first-time tax filers.

If you are in need of immigration legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us! At the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon we have wide experience in immigration proceedings, family law, and personal injury and have successfully defended our clients for over 10 years. Contact us through our website or give us a call at (281) 606-0800!

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