There are a number of misconceptions around taxes. Most people do not realize that they have any importance for immigration purposes. They might be in for a surprise when it comes to an RFE or a denial that is given based on tax-related reasons. Here are some key points to know.
- You do not have to be legal or have a social security number to file taxes. The large majority of Americans do not know that unlawfully present individuals do and must file taxes. At the same time, some undocumented people think that because they do not have a social security number, they cannot file taxes. Both are incorrect. It is absolutely necessary that, regardless of your immigration status, you are filing your tax returns on an annual basis.
- Taxes are scrutinized for a number of Immigration Applications, including N400 (Citizenship), Waivers, and a number of other discretionary applications, including Affidavits of Support for others. Therefore, both the petitioner as well as the beneficiary’s tax history is important. Additionally, even the Joint-Sponsor, who has simply agreed to assist on someone else’s application will have his or her taxes carefully assessed.
- Taxes tell a story. This is one official document that gives you your story. You say that you have been happily married for the last 10 yrs, but in your taxes you report 2 different addresses for each of you. Suddenly, your story is less than believable. Now you may be doing a number of things to save money, but for Immigration purposes, your taxes are more believable than your words. Pay attention to the story your taxes tell.
- Who are you reporting as your dependent? Some people think that just by sending money to someone or by paying someone’s expenses, they can list that person as a dependent. Some accountants might not even question it. However, here, pay close attention to the law. Who are you permitted to list as a dependent? If you do not know, contact a tax attorney. Listing a dependent who is not legally qualified to be a dependent, may run you in trouble as it can be seen (and often is) as a sign of bad moral character.
- Married? Do not even THINK about filing as Head of Household. Filing as head of household may give you a nice fat check, but it is the #1 way to get in major tax-related trouble. Not only will your immigration attorney ask you to amend all your past tax returns, you will be stuck with paying interest on all that payment that you receive in addition to having to pay it all back. Do not even think about it. If an accountant or an agent suggests it, report him or her to the IRS.