Tax Information for Farmworkers and Immigrant Workers

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Filing Your Tax Returns

Most workers must file a federal tax return in the U.S., even if they are not authorized to work in the U.S. Most states, including Michigan, also require workers to file a state tax return. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is generally prohibited from sharing taxpayer information with federal agencies, including Immigration, but that could change.

The amount of income you earned determines if you have to file a return. Even if you did not earn enough to be required to file taxes, you may still want to file a tax return. You might receive a refund if you had taxes withheld from your pay. Also, reporting your taxes can be helpful in your or your family’s immigration case in the future.

If you are an H-2A worker and you and your employer agree not to withhold taxes from your paychecks, you may still owe taxes on your earnings and be required to file a tax return. Your employer cannot remove your tax liability; they can only choose not to withhold taxes from your paycheck.

Social Security Numbers and Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers

It is illegal to put a false Social Security number on your tax return. If you or your dependent does not qualify for a Social Security number, you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS. Having an ITIN does not make you eligible to apply for a job or a driver’s license.

The ITIN application usually has to be filed with a tax return. Whether your dependents need ITINs depends on your filing status and the tax credits you are claiming. 

Free Tax Preparation and Filing Services

You can file a tax return electronically for free. Read Getting Your Taxes Done for Free to learn about free tax services. The IRS authorizes certain free tax preparation sites to review ITIN application documents directly. This makes applying for or renewing an ITIN easier. Visit VITA Sites that Offer CAA Services for a list of these sites.

Do not use a “Rapid Refund” or an “Instant Refund.” These are not actually refunds. These are high‑interest loans from your tax preparer. When your actual refund arrives from the IRS, your preparer will keep a large percentage of it to pay for the loan. To learn more, read The High Cost of Refund Anticipation Loans and Checks.

Notices and Letters from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

If you receive a letter from the IRS, talk to a lawyer or tax expert right away or contact the IRS at 1 (800) 829-1040. You can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area.

Do not call the number on the letter or provide your personal information without verifying the letter is actually from the IRS. The IRS usually will not call you on the phone. Learn more about how to Avoid Scams.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a credit for working individuals with families. To receive it, you must have a valid Social Security number, not an ITIN. To claim your children, they must have lived with you in the U.S. for at least six months of the year. Also, your spouse and your children whom you use to claim the credit must have Social Security numbers that are valid for work. To learn more, read The Earned Income Tax Credit.

The majority of this information was provided by Farmworker Legal Services (FLS). FLS is a legal aid office with lawyers and other legal staff who provide free legal assistance and referrals to migrant and seasonal farmworkers throughout Michigan.