Should I Get an ITIN & File Taxes? What Is My Duty to File Taxes as A Noncitizen?

February 12, 2020
Aaron Lawee

Who Needs to File Taxes in the United States?

If you earn income in the United States, there is a good chance you need to file tax returns. While certain people may not need to file tax returns, the vast majority of people who receive income in the United States must report their earnings to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Importantly, this requirement is not based on citizenship or immigration status – it applies equally to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, temporary workers, and undocumented people. If you want to see whether you are required to file taxes in the United States based on your income level, you can go to this website:

How Do I File Taxes Without A Social Security Number?

People often wonder how to file taxes without a social security number. Or worse, they assume they cannot (or do not need to) file taxes if they do not have one. For this reason, the IRS created a substitute for a social security number, called an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). If you do not have a social security number, or do not qualify for a social security number, you can obtain an ITIN if you are required to file a tax return or can be claimed as dependent on someone else’s tax return. Please note that an ITIN does not give you authorization to work in the United States; it is simply a way to file your taxes. Information about applying for an ITIN can be found on the IRS website here:

Does My ITIN Expire?

Yes, your ITIN may expire if you had not recently used it to file a tax return or for various other reasons. If you have an ITIN, we strongly recommend you check whether your particular ITIN must be renewed before filing your taxes in 2020. Additional information about whether your ITIN has expired and must be renewed can be found here:

What Happens If I Don’t File Taxes?

In addition to facing fines, or even jail time in certain cases, failure to file tax returns can also have important immigration impact. Here are some ways in which filing taxes can help your immigration matters:

  • – Good Moral Character: Some applications require that you demonstrate good moral character. If you do not file taxes correctly, an immigration judge or officer may find that you do not have good moral character.
  • – Hardship: Some applications require that you demonstrate hardship to a family member, and showing your taxes is a good way of proving your income and that you can support your family members.
  • – Discretion: Most immigration applications are approved at the discretion of a judge or officer. If you have not filed taxes, a judge my choose to deny your case as a matter of discretion, even if you otherwise qualify.
  • – Proof of relationship: If you must prove that your marriage is real (“bona fide”), filing taxes jointly can help prove your relationship.

As you can see, filing taxes may be important for your immigration case. Thankfully, it is easy to do, even if you do not have a social security number or lawful status in the U.S. We hope the information above is helpful in figuring out how to obtain an ITIN to file taxes. If you have any questions about how filing taxes can benefit your immigration case, contact an experienced immigration attorney at Minsky McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.

The material contained in this alert does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation. The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

© 2023 Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. All rights reserved. Information may not be reproduced, displayed, modified, or distributed without the express prior written permission of Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.

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