Four Things for Latino Families to Remember on Tax Day

By Yuqi Wang, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

For many Latino households, the tax refunds they receive every April is one of the largest influxes of cash they receive all year. The refunds help families pay debts, keep them out of poverty, and help to buy necessities like clothes and groceries. Below are a few things for Latino families to keep in mind as the 2016 tax filing season wraps up today.

1. You may be eligible for critical refunds, such as the EITC or CTC. Filing your taxes means that you might be eligible for critical refunds like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The EITC and the CTC are two refundable tax credits that benefit low- and middle-income earners. They increase the earnings of lower-income workers, reduce child poverty, make low-wage work more rewarding, and offset the effect of paying regressive payroll taxes. Both credits raised more than nine million Americans out of poverty in 2015, and made 22 million others less poor. It is important to note that taxpayers filing with an ITIN number are eligible to claim the CTC, but not the EITC.

2. If you file your tax return with an ITIN, you may need to renew your ITIN to get a refund. Under legislation passed by Congress in 2015, the IRS requires that certain taxpayers renew their ITINs before they submit their tax return and claim certain tax credits, primarily the Child Tax Credit. Affected ITINs expired on January 1, 2017, and unless renewed, taxpayers using expired ITINs on their tax returns will face a delay in receiving eligible tax refunds. For more information and resources on renewing ITINs, visit nclr.us/ITIN.

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New Law Creates Challenges for Immigrants Trying to File Taxes

Guest blog post by Max Moy-Borgen, Tax Program Manager, Mission Economic Development Agency

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Photo: John Morgan

Last December, Congress passed legislation that will make it more difficult for immigrants with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file and pay their taxes. Immigrants with older ITINs will have to revalidate their number based on a schedule specified in the law.

I oversee tax preparation for low-income and immigrant families at the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), the largest free tax preparation service in San Francisco, with four Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites in the city that help 4,200 clients each year. From my experience, I know that if this requirement is not implemented properly, it will have a detrimental effect on those who are just trying to pay their taxes.

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Usuarios del ITIN Deben Preparar Para Proceso de Renovación

Antes del fin de año, el Congreso pasó una nueva legislación que requiere algunos inmigrantes que declaran sus impuestos con un Número de Identificación Individual del Contribuyente (ITIN, por sus siglas en inglés) revalidarlo. NCLR ha creado recursos para la comunidad que incluyen las fechas límite para renovar su ITIN:

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Aunque aquellas personas con ITIN que se emitieron antes del 2008, tendrán que revalidar su ITIN (antes del 1ro. de Enero de 2017), el Servicio de Impuestos Internos (IRS, por sus siglas en inglés) aún no ha compartido detalles sobre ese proceso y dudas permanecen.

Por ejemplo:

  • Para los inmigrantes que revalidan su ITIN, ¿podrán mantener el miso ITIN o recibirán uno nuevo?
  • ¿Sera igual el proceso de revalidar un ITIN a el proceso de aplicar por un ITIN nuevo, o existiera un proceso simplificado?
  • ¿Tendrán que revalidar su ITIN al momento de declarar sus impuestos o podrán entregar la aplicación de revalidación de una manera separada a el IRS?

En lo que esperamos respuestas a estas preguntas y muchas más, el IRS ha expresado públicamente que inmigrantes contribuyentes con ITINs que necesitan ser revalidados no deben revalidar con la declaración de impuestos de este año. Más información será disponible en las semanas siguientes en cuanto a cuando y como deben de proceder los inmigrantes que tienen que revalidar su ITIN empezando el 1ro. de enero de 2017.

Hasta entonces, los preparadores de impuestos deben utilizar esta temporada de impuestos para informar a sus clientes que serán afectados por la nueva ley que tendrán que preparar documentos para revalidar el ITIN (LINK TO PREVIOUS BLOG ABOUT WHY IMPORTANT) y al mismo tiempo enfatizar que este proceso aún no está establecido.

Para más información y recursos adicionales visite: http://www.nclr.org/issues/economy/employment/save-tax-credits/

Decoding the Tax Deal: What It Means for Latinos and What Lies Ahead

Photo: http://401kcalculator.org, Creative Commons

Photo: http://401kcalculator.org, Creative Commons

With the New Year just around the corner, many of us are working to finish projects and tie up loose ends before heading off on vacation. Congress just did the same. Before leaving for the year, Congress passed a $680 billion tax deal making a number of credits permanent, including improvements to the refundable Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that were set to expire in 2017.

The CTC and EITC help keep low-income working Latino families out of poverty. Because of this legislation, about four million Latino working families, including nine million children, will not lose any of their tax credits. The EITC amounts to as much as $6,143 per family, while the CTC can add up to $1,000 per child. These credits are especially valuable to the Latino community because more than 40 percent of Latino workers earn poverty-level wages.

Even as we celebrate this victory, we are concerned by a number of restrictions targeting hardworking immigrant taxpayers. Some of these changes in the law will keep some from receiving credits and make it harder for other immigrants to access credits for which they are eligible. For example, anyone who receives a new Social Security number (SSN), regardless of immigration status, cannot claim the EITC retroactively (a process called “look-back”) after April 15, 2016. Most other filers remain eligible to claim their EITC for up to three previous years. The previous law allowed people with new SSNs to claim the EITC retroactively as well. Another change targeting immigrants is the fact that anyone who receives a new Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) cannot claim the CTC or AOTC retroactively after April 15, 2016.

Other changes may result in challenges for immigrants that depend on an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to pay taxes and receive credits available to workers. Some of these changes are based on guidance on the ITIN application process issued by the Internal Revenue Service in 2012. Since then, there has been a drop in ITIN applications, leaving some to wonder whether the guidance is making it too hard to get an ITIN. One of these changes includes the requirement for new ITIN recipients to reapply on a recurring basis to keep their ITIN. There are processing delays for ITIN applications under the current system; adding ITIN revalidation could worsen those delays and keep hardworking Latino immigrants from credits available to them.

The dedication and work of NCLR Affiliates and partners helped to successfully push for Congressional action to make tax credits for working families permanent. More work lies ahead to make sure the Latino community can maximize credits under the new law. The lead up to tax season offers the opportunity to make sure Latinos know their eligibility and how to claim credits successfully. There will also be a need to help ensure the new ITIN requirements are implemented fairly and effectively. To that end, the Latino community should be prepared to work with the Treasury Department on implementation. These and other efforts will help make sure now-permanent tax credits continue to make a difference in the lives of millions who are working but still struggling to get by.

For more information about the new tax package and its impact on Latinos read our new fact sheet—The Congressional Tax Package and Latinos: What You Need to Know.

What Trump Gets All Wrong About Immigration and Taxes

(Cross-posted from the Citizens for Tax Justice Blog)

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Photo: Gage Skidmore.

Donald Trump’s recently released framework for immigration reform includes misleading statements about “illegal immigrants” claiming refundable tax credits. Trump claims that “illegal immigrants” received $4.2 billion in “free” tax credits in 2011 and proposes to pay for part of his immigration proposal by accepting the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)’s “recommendation” to eliminate tax credit payments to these individuals. It’s hard to know where to start in deconstructing the inaccuracies in Trump’s statement.

First, the use of the word “free” is highly misleading, as undocumented immigrants do pay a significant amount in local, state, and federal taxes.  An analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimated that in 2012, undocumented immigrants paid $11.8 billion in state and local taxes (including about $7 billion in sales and excise taxes, $3.6 billion in property taxes, and $1.1 billion in income taxes). On top of this, the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Chief Actuary estimated that in 2010, unauthorized workers (who may be undocumented or in the country legally but without permission to work) paid $12 billion in Social Security payroll taxes net of benefits received. Since most unauthorized workers are not eligible for Social Security benefits, this group only received approximately $1 billion in benefits for the $13 billion paid in.

Second, the $4.2 billion figure that Trump references is from a 2011 TIGTA report that actually states that families with an unauthorized worker received $4.2 billion in 2009 (not 2011) through the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit (known as the Additional Child Tax Credit). While this may sound the same on the surface, there are a few things that should be noted. As the report explains, these credits were claimed by taxpayers using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which the IRS issues to individuals not eligible for a Social Security Number. ITINs are issued without regard to immigration status to people not authorized to work in the United States, so this group includes not just undocumented immigrants but also individuals who have immigrated legally but aren’t legally able to work.

Labor-Day-Banner-Photo-4Taxpayers using an ITIN are prohibited from receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) but are allowed to claim the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Worth up to $1,000 per qualifying child, the CTC is intended to offset the costs of raising children. Families who owe less in taxes than their eligible Child Tax Credit amount can receive the difference through the Additional Child Tax Credit, which is paid out with their tax refund. Since the CTC is intended primarily to benefit children, it makes sense that it is the children’s immigration status, not the parents’, that qualifies a family to receive the credit, and a qualifying child can be a citizen, a U.S. national, or a resident alien. And although some portion of the $4.2 billion in Additional Child Tax Credits could be going to families with undocumented parents, nearly 80 percent of the children of undocumented immigrants are U.S. citizens.

It is also worth noting that the refundable tax credits like the EITC and CTC have immense benefits for the children in the families that receive them. There is a growing body of research showing that these credits improve educational and health outcomes for children and result in them working hard and having higher earnings as adults.

Third, while Trump says that his plan would “accept the recommendation” of TIGTA to eliminate tax credit payments to illegal immigrants, the 2012 TIGTA report that he references makes no such recommendation. In actuality, the report recommends that the IRS implement procedures to reduce the number of fraudulent ITIN applications that it approves. TIGTA’s main concern here is that people are using fraudulent documents to obtain an ITIN and using it to file fraudulent tax returns (e.g. claiming tax refunds for non-existent persons), not the use of ITINs by undocumented immigrants.

GuardRailWorkers_12_2_2014Finally, if the concern is the $4.2 billion revenue loss, Trump should look to comprehensive immigration reform that allows a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which would actually increase revenues at the federal, state, and local levels. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the 2013 Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill would have decreased the deficit by $197 billion over ten years, as newly legal immigrants would pay $459 billion in additional taxes, while the increased government expenditures for benefits would only increase by $262 billion. Additionally, ITEP estimated that granting citizenship to all undocumented immigrants would raise more than $2.2 billion annually in state and local revenues. These revenue increases would occur because more immigrants would then be paying taxes on their income and because citizenship is likely to boost wages and therefore increase income, sales and property taxes. Trump might want to consider these benefits instead of spending all his time planning for that wall.

For more on Trump’s tax proposals, click here.