Millions of taxpayers are rushing to complete their federal and state filings before the April 18 deadline. Among them are several million people in this country illegally, and there are signs that fewer such immigrants are filing than in years past.
There is a common belief that immigrants in this country without authorization don’t file or pay taxes. But the IRS says that last year nearly 4.5 million people across the country who don’t have Social Security numbers filed federal tax returns and many are in this country illegally.
At the Unity Council, an East Oakland, Calif., community-based organization offering free tax preparation for low-income people, about a dozen clients and IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers spent a recent afternoon hunched over rows of aging computers.
“We’ll help everyone,” says Clarissa Johnson, who directs the clinic. “We don’t ask them about their immigration status. That is between them and the tax preparer and that is confidential.”
Many of these people use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, or ITINs. Many ITIN holders are foreign investors or students. But it’s generally understood that most tax filers using an ITIN are in this country illegally — like 36-year-old Axel, who asked that we not use his last name because of his immigration status. He came to the U.S. from Guatemala several years ago. In his native Spanish, he said he has no hesitation about filing his tax returns.
“First, because it’s my responsibility, I want to do things the correct way,” he says.
Axel says a few years ago a shady tax preparer made mistakes on his return and he wound up getting fined several thousand dollars.
By Richard Gonzales for NPR
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