Top Ten Tips You Need to Know to Avoid Immigration Consequences Involving Your Taxes

Many people do not realize that their choices when filing Federal Income Tax Returns can affect their immigration status. The following points are designed to help you avoid the biggest pitfalls.

  1. A common mistake noticed is individuals filing as singles. There may be financial advantages to doing this, but it is not truthful and will create significant problems when you try and petition for your spouse. You cannot claim to be in a bona fide marriage and file as single.
  1. Applicants for permanent residence, naturalization, or others seeking immigration benefits must submit copies of previously filed Federal Income Tax Returns with their applications.
  1. Immigration officers will scrutinize every aspect of the tax returns, including:
  • The number of dependents claimed and whether they satisfy the minimum financial support required by law
  • The amount and type of deductions taken and
  • Reported income, among other items.
  1. If an immigration officer determines the individual has misrepresented information or committed fraud, they will deny the immigration benefit being sought and, in some cases, initiate removal/deportation proceedings.
     
  2. Do not claim dependents or family members who are not qualified as dependents. A common issue raised as tax fraud is claiming dependents or family members who are not trained as dependents. Many people claim relatives outside the United States as dependents because they send money to them for support. This is no longer allowed.
     
  3. Do not fail to disclose or account for income earned that you may not have documentation for. Many people have freelance jobs, work under the table, or pay cash. Failure to disclose your total income could raise questions about your ability to support an immigrant or household.
  1. Failing to file income taxes may impact the immigration benefit being sought. If a person’s annual earnings are below a minimum amount set by the IRS, they may be exempt from filing a tax return. If they meet the minimum income amount, documented or not, a failure to file a tax return can be considered a lack of good moral character. It may deem them ineligible for immigration benefits.
  1. Lawful permanent residents must pay income taxes to earn at least the minimum amount. If they fail to pay the required taxes, they may be ineligible for citizenship in the future or experience problems when seeking to renew their green card.
  1. Remember that an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number is not a social security number and cannot be used for work. Filing income taxes is straightforward for those who do not have legal status. If you decide to file taxes when you are not required to do so, you can apply for an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). However, this number cannot and should not be used to demonstrate work authorization on an employment application or I-9 form.
  1. Amending past years’ returns is acceptable and recommended. Suppose your clients believe they may have reported an unqualified dependent, overstated, or understated income or deductions, or failed to file a return when required. It is recommended that they amend their tax returns before applying for an immigration benefit. Information about requirements for filing taxes, deductions, exemptions, etc., can be found on the IRS website.