DMI Blog

Elana Levin

Undocumented Immigrants Pay Taxes, Invest in America

Many people would do anything to avoid paying taxes. But one group of patriotic Americans are eagerly waiting in line to contribute their investment in America's infrastructure -- immigrants! Lead New York Times story "Tax Returns Rise for Immigrants in U.S. Illegally" demonstrates one more example of how undocumented immigrants want to be law abiding. From the story

In the 2005 tax year, the last for which such data is available, 1.9 million returns were filed with the primary taxpayer’s using an individual taxpayer number, known as an ITIN, up 30 percent from 2004... In Baltimore, a community agency offering free tax help that was deserted the day after 69 people were rounded up in immigration raids elsewhere in the city was crowded again within 24 hours.

DMI's immigration report "Principles for an Immigration Policy to Strengthen and Expand the American Middle Class" shows that "the average immigrant pays $1,800 more in taxes than she receives in government benefits -- a lifetime tax contribution of $80,000 more than she and her immediate descendents receive in benefits. Undocumented immigrants alone are estimated to have contributed nearly $50 billion in federal taxes between 1996 and 2003. Immigrant tax contributions finance vital middle-class goods like public schools and Social Security."

Income taxes are just one of the many taxes that immigrants pay. A great study by the Urban Institute shows that

undocumented immigrants pay the same real estate taxes - whether they own homes or taxes are passed through to rents - and the same sales and other consumption taxes as everyone else. The majority of state and local costs of schooling and other services are funded by these taxes. Additionally, the U.S. Social Security Administration has estimated that three quarters of undocumented immigrants pay payroll taxes, and that they contribute $6-7 billion in Social Security funds that they will be unable to claim (Porter 2005).

Ahh taxes, just one more thing that everyone in this country has in common. Well actually, not so much the super-rich either as the NY Times David Cay Johnstonreported

So many superrich Americans evade taxes using offshore accounts that law enforcement cannot control the growing misconduct, according to a Senate report that provides the most detailed look ever at high-level tax schemes.

In conclusion it seems that undocumented immigrants are behaving more patriotically by investing in America than rich tax dodgers do. As one immigrant interviewed in today's Times piece said "I feel it's my responsibility to pay." If only more corporations could be convinced to feel the same.

Elana Levin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 9:33 AM, Apr 16, 2007 in Immigration | Tax Policy | public services
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