When undocumented immigrants file taxes, their returns are primarily filed under a special number. According to federal data, the number of those returns has decreased, as well as the number of requests for those specific numbers.
The information seems to point to undocumented immigrants’ choice to not sign up with the Internal Revenue Service for the numbers, known as the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). The unwillingness to do so, tax preparers say, is due to the belief that obtaining legal status is out of reach.
H&R Block senior tax advisor in New Jersey, Jose Mauricio Lopez, said, “There was hope, when President Obama got elected, and he promised immigration reform, that there would be a way for people to legalize, but people got disillusioned when they saw nothing happening.”
The catch-22 is that while undocumented immigrants are discouraged by the lack of comprehensive immigration reform and don’t sign up for ITIN’s believing there will never be a way for them to change their status, they are actually hurting their chances of becoming legalized citizens as proof of having paid taxes can help them qualify for legalizing their status.
“There are several reasons,” said Lopez. “People are discouraged, they don’t see hope for becoming legal, the economy is not improving. They talk of returning to their homelands, and don’t feel the urgency as much to get the ITIN.”
Since the IRS does not ask about immigration status they are unsure of exactly how many people with ITIN’s are unauthorized immigrants, but officials say they believe most of the people using them are illegal.