Despite laws that regulate immigration and require new residents to apply for work visas or temporary residential status, many illegal immigrants live and work in the United States. Some of these immigrants are married to citizens. Marrying a citizen does not automatically change an illegal alien's status, but it does create complex tax issues for both members of the couple.
Everyone who earns enough income is legally responsible for filing an income tax return. This basic law from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax code applies to illegal immigrants, married and unmarried, working on the United States. Immigrants who receive wages under the table don't have taxes withheld, but those who work for legitimate employers pay into Social Security and have taxes withheld from each paycheck. According to MSNBC, while many illegal immigrants choose not to file tax returns, others do so to claim refunds. Married immigrants have the additional incentive of protecting a spouse from tax liability, since tax penalties for nonpayment would apply to both members of a couple.
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Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
IF you marry an illegal immigrant, your spouse will not be able to get a Social Security number for tax purposes. Instead, to comply with the IRS tax code, your spouse will need to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). This number functions like a Social Security number, providing a means of identifying your spouse's tax return and supporting documents in the tax system. An ITIN will allow you to file taxes for yourself and your spouse based on your combined, or separate, income. It will also allow you to apply all tax withholdings from your paychecks throughout the previous tax year, resulting in the lowest tax liability.
The IRS is not required to track the immigration status of taxpayers or report illegal immigrants who file returns or apply for ITINs to other government agencies. This allows illegal immigrants to file along with their citizen spouses without worrying about repercussions such as deportation. Immigrant spouses and citizens are equally liable for reporting their income and paying applicable taxes. This means that when an illegal immigrant's employer reports wages paid to the IRS, the illegal immigrant's earnings must show up on an individual income tax form, or a joint form filed with a spouse, to avoid detection and penalties.
Like other married couples, couples that consist of a citizen and an illegal immigrant have the option of filing jointly or filing separately but claiming married status. Filing as a married couple using either option requires a valid marriage license, which citizens and illegal immigrants can obtain legally. As long as the illegal immigrant spouse has a valid ITIN, either type of return is valid and can produce a tax refund, either for the individual of the couple jointly.