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Promoting Immigrant Integration During Tax Season

Mar 25, 2014
Photo of accountant and two clients
Leya Speasmaker

Immigrant integration is a joint effort between newcomers and the receiving society to create a new community that reflects the needs and wants of everyone. Tax preparation and filing is one such area where both newcomers and the receiving community can work together to assist immigrants in their integration and contributions to country.  Accurate and timely tax preparation is a key component of a successful naturalization application.  Furthermore, assessing taxes is likely to be an eligibility requirement for other immigration benefits like legalization.  Immigrants, regardless of status or documents used to acquire employment, are required to file taxes. Service providers working with the foreign-born can offer tax assistance preparation and support as their clients work to fulfill this federal requirement.

As the deadline quickly approaches for the filing of 2013 taxes, CLINIC would like to highlight how our network can assist its clients in this often confusing task.

  1. Provide your clients with accurate information.

    If a person has a tax filing requirement, he or she must file a tax return, regardless of immigration status. A Social Security Number (SSN) is not required to file taxes. The information on a tax return is not shared with any other governmental agency, so applicants should not be worried that their immigration status will be discovered. 

  2. Help your clients apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

    Individuals without an SSN can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to use in place of a SSN. Tax filers who speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, and Russian can find translated materials on the IRS.gov website. An ITIN does not authorize work in the U.S.  For more information, including how to apply for an ITIN, see the IRS General ITIN Information page.

  3. Promote why immigrants should file their taxes.

    Filing taxes is an important step an immigrant can take in integrating into U.S. society. Even before applying for citizenship, it is a good idea to file taxes in order to establish a tax history in this country. In fact, it is required! Any person working in the United States is required to file a tax return each year.  An individual’s tax history can be included within a naturalization application to establish residency and as well as establish good moral character. Finally, highlighting the possibility of a receiving a tax refund could be an added incentive to file.

  4. Partner with local groups who provide high-quality, low cost tax preparation assistance to the foreign-born.

    The IRS offers Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) clinics to help low to moderate income, elderly, disabled, and limited English proficient taxpayers. You can use the VITA Locator Tool on IRS.gov, download the IRS2Go app, or call 1-800-906-9887 to find a clinic near you. There are several national and local non-profit organizations that also provide tax assistance to their local communities. These can be located through a Google search.

Click here for additional information on offering tax preparation assistance to your clients. 

For more information and ideas on promoting immigrant integration within your community, please see CLINIC’s Building Welcoming Communities webpage. You may also contact Leya Speasmaker at lspeasmaker@cliniclegal.org with any questions or comments.  

*Leya Speasmaker is a Field Support Coordinator in CLINIC's Capacity Building Section