Did you know you still need to pay taxes even if you’re an undocumented immigrant? Not doing so can have serious consequences. Don’t worry; you don’t need a social security number or lawful residency status to complete your taxes. You can pay taxes to the IRS by obtaining an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). The ITIN does not provide you legal immigration status, nor work authorization (you can’t use it on an I-9). What it does allow you to do is, besides comply with your taxes, open an interest-bearing bank account, apply for business loans, get a driver’s license, and as well as provide a payment trail should citizenship be in your future.
The ITIN was created by the IRS back in 1996. It allows people not eligible for a social security number to pay the taxes they’re legally required to. You aren’t required to have lawful status in the US to obtain an ITIN. Many workers and business owners that must pay taxes in the U.S., but don’t qualify for a social security number, use the ITIN. This includes:
- Non-resident foreign nationals that own or invest in U.S. businesses and take income from that endeavor, but live abroad
- Foreign students who are eligible as a resident of the U.S.
- Dependent or spouse of U.S. citizen, lawful resident, or foreign national on a temporary visa
I’m Worried About Getting Deported
News, media, and politicians would lead you to believe that the ITIN is a backdoor to kicking people out of the U.S. The fact is the U.S. government was designed and operates in a way that keeps information compartmentalized. This means most government agencies don’t or legally cannot share information with one another. That’s why you can pay taxes without legal status, with the assurance that the information won’t be used by immigration officials.
Consider a common story of immigration into the United States. Carlos brings his family from Honduras to start a new life. They enter into the U.S. and Carlos takes work in landscaping where the pay is good, and the employers are usually small businesses. At the end of the year, the employer gives him his pay forms. Carlos wants to pay his fair share in taxes but doesn’t want to have the IRS report him to immigration. Carlos does need to pay taxes. If he doesn’t, it’s far more likely he’ll be caught by the IRS, which can then get him on immigration enforcement radar. The answer – to obtain an ITIN.
Take it a step further. After saving up some money, Carlos decides to start his own company. He knows the business inside and out. He’ll need a small business loan to get the equipment to start his company, but he’s afraid applying for a loan will get him deported. Again, the ITIN will allow you to apply for business loans, bank accounts, and everything you need to run a business.
So How Do I Get an ITIN?
Obtaining an ITIN is actually simple. You can follow the 5-steps to submit an ITIN application listed in this article to get one quickly.
- Fill out a W-7 form
- Include your tax return
- Check your identity
- Submit your application
- Wait for your ITIN to arrive
It’s important to know you can use any foreign birth certificate documents, ID cards, or driver’s licenses to verify your identity. You don’t have to use anything from the U.S. If you’re unsure of how certain documents can be used for immigration status, you should always get some advice, whether from an attorney or from a customer service representative. It’s better to have one and be on the safe side than to be caught without one when you need it most.
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Article by Jordan Schneir