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Latino Daily News

Monday April 18, 2011

Unauthorized Immigrants Pay Taxes Too

Tax Day is an appropriate time to underscore the often-overlooked fact that unauthorized immigrants pay taxes. The unauthorized, like everyone else in the United States, pay sales taxes. They also pay property taxes—even if they rent. At least half of unauthorized immigrants pay income taxes. Add this all up and it amounts to billions in revenue to state and local governments.

Today, the Immigration Policy Center releases estimates produced by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) of the state and local taxes paid in 2010 by households that are headed by unauthorized immigrants. Collectively, these households paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes. That included $1.2 billion in personal income taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes, and $8.4 billion in sales taxes.

These figures should be kept in mind as politicians and commentators continue with the seemingly endless debate over what to do with unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States. In spite of the fact that they lack legal status, these immigrants—and their family members—are adding value to the U.S. economy; not only as taxpayers, but as workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs as well.

These estimates are based on a model developed by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).  The ITEP methodology relies on three pieces of data: 1) an estimate of each state’s unauthorized population; 2) the average family income for unauthorized immigrants; and 3) state-specific tax payments. 

Of course, it is difficult to know precisely how much these families pay in taxes, because the spending and income behavior of these families is not as well documented as is the case for U.S. citizens.  But these estimates represent a sensible best approximation of the taxes these families likely pay.

Estimates of each state’s unauthorized population are from the Pew Hispanic Center and based on 2010 Census data.
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