April 20, 2006

EVERYONE pays taxes...

As recent protests around the country illustrate, immigration is a hot button issue.

Many policymakers have openly questioned whether or not documented and undocumented workers are taking advantage of government services (health care, education, etc) and aren't doing their part to pay into the system. Most would agree that it's pretty impossible to quantify the amount of services a person (immigration status aside) receives for tax dollars paid. However, one aspect of this debate can be quantified and should be considered as this debate rages on, and it's this - documented and undocumented immigrants do pay taxes.

A study from the Georgia Budget and Tax Policy Institute found that an average undocumented family in Georgia contributes between $2,340 and $2,470 in state and local taxes.

At a minimum, it's pretty impossible in most states to not pay sales taxes on items purchased. I've never known a cashier to ask to see someone's green card before allowing someone to buy groceries. Even if immigrants don't own a home they probably still pay property taxes, since most agree that property taxes are included in rent payments. Again, land lords don't usually ask for green cards and we can assume that undocumented immigrants do pay property taxes as well.

There's further evidence that documented immigrants who work not only pay sales and property taxes - but they pay federal and state income taxes too.

As this debate continues, it's important to note that undocumented and documented immigrants contribute financially to federal and state governments.

Parts of this post were originally published in CTJ's Tax Digest, a weekly email that highlights state and federal tax trends across the country. If you'd like to subscribe to the digest send an email to: ctj@ctj.org


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