Recent decision trends show that immigration officers are increasingly concerned with tax reporting and tax payments made on earned income, regardless of whether the employment was authorized or not. As such, immigration applications are being reviewed more closely, resulting in ever-increasing requests for additional financial information before making a final decision in an application. We strive to stay on top of the changes occurring in immigration processing and so we have changed our guidance accordingly.
What is an ITIN?
The ITIN is a tax processing number that is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The ITIN is issued to individuals who cannot obtain a US Social Security Number and it allows individuals to comply with United States tax laws.
Should I get an ITIN?
If at any time after your arrival in the United States you earned income from your labor, you are required to file taxes and declare that income, regardless of whether you had a work permit or not. If you do not have a Social Security Number but you are required to pay taxes, you must get an ITIN. Our firm strongly recommends that clients get an ITIN in order to comply with United States tax filing requirements. One of the top things that Immigration has been requesting lately is proof that the applicant has filed tax returns. Filing tax returns can serve as an indication of good moral character and the applications of those who have not filed taxes or filed them with the wrong status could result in a denial of their application.
What do immigration authorities want to see in my application?
Immigration authorities will use the information provided in your application to determine whether you possess the requisite good moral character. The officers want to see that you have properly filed yearly taxes for the income that was actually earned while living in the United States. Specifically, they will want to see:
- If taxes were filed for each year the applicant worked in the United States, with or without a permit;
- If they were file correctly;
- What Social Security Number or ITIN the applicant used for filing taxes and who it belonged to;
- Was the correct filing status used? (i.e. did the applicant use “single” status only if single?)
- If married, was the filing address used in the taxes the same as the couple’s address or the same as the address used by the spouse in their return?
- If married, how did the couple support themselves financially if the earnings reported in the taxes are less than their expenses or less than the poverty guidelines?
- If dependents are claimed, was the applicant qualified to claim those dependents? (i.e., did the applicant provide at least half of the financial support for each dependent?)
- Have the taxes been prepared by an IRS authorized preparer who entered their information and their PTIN on the return?
How do I get an ITIN?
Since our firm is focused exclusively on immigration matters, we are unable to obtain an ITIN for you. However, please call us and we will refer you to one of the trusted professionals we work with, depending on your particular situation; that may be a tax preparer, an accountant or enrolled agent, or a tax attorney. They will be able to help you obtain and maintain your ITIN so that you can properly file your taxes. We encourage you to start the process to obtain the ITIN as soon as possible as it can take up to three months to obtain a number.
I got my ITIN; now what?
Once you have the ITIN, you should file tax returns for each and every year you earned income through labor. How many years you can file back taxes for varies depending on your situation and the tax professional can advise you. You will likely have to pay back taxes, a later filing penalty; you may also be eligible for a refund if you had taxes deducted from a paycheck. You may have to enter into a payment arrangement with the IRS for the back taxes and show that you are complying with the payments. Only a tax professional can tell you the best way to handle your particular situation. Please make sure that your professional is familiar with immigration consequences and can file for you within the required parameters.
If you have any questions or concerns about this, please call us or visit our website to schedule a consultation.