Does Paying Taxes Guarantee Permanent Residence?
Many immigrants seeking permanent residency believe that there is a fundamental nexus between paying taxes and obtaining permanent residency. There is a strong connection, but it is a mistake for anyone to believe that the payment of taxes and filing of tax returns entitles them to or, even worse, guarantees permanent residency.
The payment of taxes and filing of tax returns is mandated by federal and state tax laws. Breaking these laws would result in a person being ineligible for permanent residency, just like breaking any other law of significance.
Think of it this way. Persons convicted of selling drugs are not eligible for their green cards because they broke the law by selling drugs. Substituting “failing to pay taxes” for “selling drugs,” you get “Persons failing to pay taxes are not eligible for their green cards because they broke he law by failing to pay taxes.” Granted, failing to pay taxes is not the same moral harm as selling drugs. It is, however, useful to illustrate the point and has the added bonus of being true.
This is an issue for may undocumented aliens who receive their pay in “cash.” Obviously, they still pay sales tax every time they purchase any taxable items from a store, but other taxes go unpaid unless the person takes additional actions.
The failure to pay taxes comes at two junctures: 1) no “withholdings” are made from the person’s paychecks (money taken out of pay automatically to pay federal, state, city, Medicare, Social Security taxes); and 2) no accounting regarding taxes owed occurs when the person does not file a tax return. A person not having paid taxes with each paycheck then owes all taxes at the time he or she files his or her tax return. Conversely, a person who overpaid his or her taxes (had too much withheld from the paychecks) receives a tax refund upon filing his or her tax return. A person who has no income owes no income taxes and is relieved from filing a tax return.
Many believe that not having a social security number prevents a person from filing a tax return. This is not true. A person without a social security number who wishes to file a tax return may do so by applying for an Individual Tax Identification Number (“TIN”). While the TIN has the same format as a Social Security Number, it should not be substituted for a Social Security Number. It has only one authorized purpose – the payment of taxes and the filing of a tax return.
Certainly, paying taxes can be a hardship especially to families who are already struggling to make ends meet financially. Many of these families pull from systems funded by taxes – like schools, law enforcement, roads, etc. Away from issues of legal compliance, the common sense view is that fairness requires persons who use these systems to contribute to their maintenance and that failure to do so amounts to freeloading or theft. It is up to each individual to make his or her own decision on these issues. This article is not a moral mandate but an advisory as to what may occur if tax laws are ignored.
Finally, please consult with your accountant or tax preparer regarding your specific questions on taxation, and your immigration lawyer regarding any aspects of your immigration situation.