Why should I file a tax return or pay taxes?
Although many people regard paying taxes as a burden, it is one of the most important responsibilities for immigrants and naturalized citizens alike. Just as it is the law for naturalized citizens to pay taxes, the same is true for both documented and undocumented immigrants. All people can be subject to penalties and interest for failing to file and pay taxes, but all people paying taxes are also entitled to a tax refund if they overpay their taxes.
For undocumented immigrants, you may need to file a tax return and pay taxes even if you are not working legally. Having a record of paying taxes can help with when you apply for a visa, permanent residence, or naturalized citizenship. For documented immigrants, paying taxes may allow you to access financial aid for education, refundable tax credits, unemployment insurance, social security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid, children’s health insurance program and the supplemental nutrition assistance program.
How Can I File a Tax Return If I Don't Have a Social Security Number?
If you are unable to get a Social Security number, you can file to obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). An ITIN is a temporary form of identification used for tax purposes only. Resident and Nonresident aliens, as well as their dependents, can apply for an ITIN.
Every person listed on a tax return needs to have either a Social Security Number or an ITIN. You can apply for an ITIN by filing a Form W-7. You will have to show original or certified copies of documentation proving your identity and foreign status (listed below). The form is available in English and Spanish. Form W-7 can be found here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw7.pdf
There are a number of different types of documents you can use to prove your identity or foreign status:
• U.S. driver's license
• National identification card (must contain photo, name, current address, date of birth and expiration date)
• civil (not issued by a church) birth certificate
• foreign driver's license
• U.S. state identification card
• foreign voter registration card
• U.S. military identification card
• foreign military identification card
• U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services photo identification
• medical records (dependents only)
• school records (dependents only)
These documents must be current (not expired). At least one must have a photograph. You may have to provide more than one type of document to prove your identity and foreign status.
There are three ways to file these documents:
Option 1: You can print form W-7 and mail it with your proof of identity and foreign documents to:
Internal Revenue Service
Austin Service Center
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, Tx 78714-9342
Option 2: You can use the services of a certifying acceptance agent to apply in person and avoid having to send your original documents to the IRS.
Here is a list of Certifying Acceptance Agents: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/acceptance-agent-program
Option 3: You can make an appointment at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center; this will also allow you to avoid sending in your documents to the IRS.
Here is a list of the designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers: TAC Locations Where In Person Document Verification is Provided | Internal Revenue Service (irs.gov)
What Else Is an ITIN Good for?
An ITIN is for tax administration purposes only. You cannot use an ITIN to change your immigration status, get a job, or apply for government benefits.
Will the Government Use the Information from My ITIN Application to Deport Me?
All taxpayers have the right to confidentiality. The IRS may not disclose your tax information to other agencies or the public unless you give permission. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights discusses your rights. You can find the Taxpayer Bill of Rights in multiple languages here: https://apps.irs.gov/app/picklist/list/formsPublications.html?value=Your+Rights+as+a+&criteria=title&submitSearch=Find.
WHERE CAN I GET HELP WITH TAX PROBLEMS?
For more information in general visit the following link: https://www.irs.gov/
Iowa Legal Aid helps low-income taxpayers with their tax rights and responsibilities though our Low Income Tax Clinic (LITC). The LITC educates and assists people who use English as a second language about the Earned Income Credit and other tax issues.
As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.
As a general rule, Iowa Legal Aid’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic does not prepare tax returns.