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How Do Immigrants Pay Taxes? A Complete Guide

How Do Immigrants Pay Taxes

As a country of immigrants, the United States has always welcomed people from all over the world seeking a better life or fleeing hardship. 

As they build their lives in the US, immigrants are expected to fulfill their financial obligations to society by paying taxes just like any other taxpayer. 

However, navigating the complex US tax system can be challenging, especially for newcomers who may lack familiarity with the laws and procedures. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how immigrants pay taxes and fulfill their obligations to society in the United States.

How Do Immigrants Pay Taxes? Tax Contributions by Undocumented Ones

Despite their lack of legal status, undocumented immigrants contribute to the US tax system in various ways. 

According to a 2017 report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants paid over $11 billion in state and local taxes in 2016 alone, and around 8 million undocumented workers paid Social Security and Medicare taxes. 

This is because many undocumented immigrants work and pay taxes using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs), which are issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to individuals who are not eligible for Social Security numbers.

It is important to note that using an ITIN does not confer legal status or provide a pathway to citizenship. 

However, many undocumented immigrants choose to pay taxes to demonstrate their willingness to contribute to society and to build their case for immigration reform.

Federal Tax Obligations

Federal Tax Obligations for New Immigrants

New immigrants to the United States are required to fulfill their federal tax obligations, which can be confusing and overwhelming for those unfamiliar with the tax system. 

Generally, immigrants are subject to the same federal income tax laws as US citizens, but there are some differences in procedures and requirements. 

Specifically, new immigrants who come to the US to work and earn income are required to file a federal tax return if their gross income meets the filing threshold, which is based on their filing status, age, and income.

New immigrants should also be aware of their tax rights and benefits, such as the ability to claim dependents, exemptions, and credits. 

For example, eligible immigrants may be able to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is a refundable tax credit for low-income working taxpayers. Immigrants must have a valid Social Security number or an ITIN to claim the credit.

State and Local Taxes for Immigrants

In addition to federal taxes, immigrants may be required to pay state and local taxes depending on where they live and work. States vary in their tax laws and procedures, but generally, immigrants are subject to the same state and local tax laws as US citizens. 

Some states, such as California, offer tax benefits to immigrants, such as the California Earned Income Tax Credit, which is a state-level version of the federal EITC.

It is important for immigrants to research and understand their specific state and local tax obligations to ensure compliance with the law. This may include paying income tax, sales tax, property tax, or other taxes depending on their circumstances.

Employment Taxes for Immigrants

Immigrants who work in the US are required to fulfill their employment tax obligations, which include Social Security and Medicare taxes. 

These taxes are withheld from employees’ paychecks and go towards funding social security and healthcare programs for eligible recipients. 

Immigrants who use ITINs to work in the US are also required to pay these taxes, regardless of their legal status.

It is important for immigrants to understand their rights and benefits when it comes to employment taxes. 

For example, eligible immigrants who pay Social Security taxes for at least ten years may be eligible for social security benefits, such as retirement or disability benefits.

Tax Benefits and Credits for Immigrants

The US tax system offers various tax benefits and credits to eligible taxpayers, including immigrants. 

For example, eligible immigrants may be able to claim the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which is a credit for taxpayers who have children under age 17. 

The credit is refundable up to $1,400 per qualifying child and is available to taxpayers with earned income above a certain threshold.

It is important for immigrants to understand their eligibility for tax benefits and credits, as they can greatly reduce their tax burden and increase their refund amount. 

The IRS provides resources in multiple languages to help immigrants understand their tax benefits and claiming procedures.

Common Challenges and Solutions for Immigrants

Immigrants may face various challenges when it comes to paying taxes in the United States, including language barriers, limited access to information and resources, and fear of deportation. 

However, there are many solutions available to help immigrants overcome these challenges and fulfill their tax obligations.

For example, the IRS offers free tax assistance programs for eligible taxpayers, including the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. 

These programs provide free tax preparation services to low-income taxpayers, seniors, and limited-English-speaking taxpayers.

Immigrants can also seek help from community organizations, legal clinics, and tax professionals who specialize in serving immigrant populations. 

It is important for immigrants to seek help from trustworthy and reputable sources to avoid scams or fraud.

Immigrants' Tax Contributions

Impact of Immigrants’ Tax Contributions

Despite the challenges and obstacles they face, immigrants’ tax contributions play a vital role in supporting the US economy and social services. 

According to a report by the National Immigration Forum, immigrants contributed $405 billion in federal taxes in 2017, which represents 23% of all federal revenue that year. 

This revenue supports programs such as national defense, healthcare, education, and social security.

Furthermore, immigrants also contribute to local economies through their spending, entrepreneurship, and job creation. 

A report by the New American Economy found that immigrant-owned businesses generated $1.7 trillion in revenue and employed over 4.7 million people in 2019.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can undocumented immigrants obtain a taxpayer identification number?

Yes, undocumented immigrants who do not have a Social Security number and are not eligible for one can obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS. 

ITINs are used for tax purposes only and do not provide legal status or confer eligibility for government benefits.

Do immigrants pay the same tax rates as U.S. citizens?

Generally, immigrants are subject to the same federal income tax rates as US citizens. Their tax liability is affected by their filing status, income level, and eligibility for tax benefits and credits.

How does the tax filing process differ for immigrants?

The tax filing process for immigrants is generally the same as for US citizens, with some exceptions. Immigrants who use an ITIN to file their taxes must attach a completed Form W-7 to their tax return. 

Additionally, some immigrants may have special forms or schedules to file depending on their immigration status or visa type.


Immigrants’ tax contributions play a vital role in supporting the US economy and social services. 

Despite the challenges they face, including a complex tax system and legal barriers, immigrants demonstrate their willingness to contribute to society by fulfilling their tax obligations. 

By understanding their tax responsibilities and seeking help when needed, immigrants can navigate the tax system and access the benefits and credits available to them. 

By doing so, they make an important contribution to building a better future for themselves and for the country that welcomes them.