As an expression of social responsibility and solidarity, all immigrants, regardless of legal status, can and should file taxes. Paying taxes is a meaningful way to promote the common good and an important means for immigrants to establish “good moral character.” A requirement for people applying to become US citizens, “good moral character” is character which measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides and can be helpful with other immigration benefit applications.
During the 2015 tax season, there are many ways for immigration legal service programs to help clients complete this important task, as well as avoid falling victim to scams. Visit CLINIC’s new Center for Immigrant Integration for resources on tax assistance preparation and other ways to encourage immigrant integration in your community.
Educate your clients about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
For clients with Social Security numbers (and whose family members also have Social Security Numbers), the United States federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit that helps working people with limited income. The maximum credit ranges from $496 for families without qualifying children to $6,143 if a family has three or more qualifying children. For more information about the EITC, the IRS has many resources for the public to use.
Educate your clients about the Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).
An ITIN is an identification number used by individuals who aren’t eligible for a Social Security Number. The ITIN can be used to file taxes and receive a tax refund. People who aren’t eligible for a Social Security Number may get an ITIN regardless of their immigration status or country of origin. Similar to immigration benefit applications, an application for an ITIN is free and can be downloaded here. A person cannot have both an ITIN and a Social Security Number, so it is important to know the requirements for obtaining each number. Learn more about the ITIN here. Learn how to help clients apply for an ITIN here.
Know where to send clients for tax assistance services.
Free tax assistance preparation services exist for people making between $53,000 and $60,000 a year. Your clients can file their taxes for free through a link on the CLINIC website, by clicking on www.MyFreeTaxes.com, or by visiting their local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) clinic.
Teach your clients to be aware of potential tax frauds.
Unauthorized practitioners may seek to take advantage of foreign-born clients, whether with immigration benefit applications or tax preparation services. Clients should seek the help of qualified organizations offering tax assistance so that tax fraud or exorbitant fees for assistance are avoided. Many innocent and unsuspecting people fall prey to telephone, email and internet-based tax scams each year. The IRS has many resources on common types of scams and how to avoid them.
Consider offering tax assistance preparation services at your own agency.
CLINIC recently profiled three CLINIC affiliates who offer tax assistance services to their communities. Each organization offers a model appropriate for their location, agency and client base. Learn more on CLINIC’s Tax Resources Page.
***All tax information included on the CLINIC website is for informational purposes only. CLINIC cannot provide information on how to file taxes, how to employ immigrant workers, or how to verify documents needed to secure employment. Please call the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at 1 (800) 829-1040 for assistance.***
For more information on how your program can promote immigrant integration, or to have an integration initiative highlighted on our website, contact Leya Speasmaker, Integration Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-565-4816.