A growing number of non-citizens have been victimized by the practices of unscrupulous tax preparers. Tax preparers in the United States are not regulated, meaning that they do not need a license from the government in order to operate. While most tax preparers in the United States are honest and provide candid advice based on the law, a significant number of tax preparers target immigrant communities, prey on non-citizens’ lack of experience with U.S. taxation regulations, and trick or mislead non-citizens into making serious errors on their tax returns. These errors can lead to non-citizens obtaining much higher tax refunds than they were actually entitled to receive and, often, this leads to non-citizens being accused of tax fraud.
Reporting incorrect financial or personal information to the IRS on tax returns can have very serious repercussions for an immigration case. Immigration law considers tax fraud to be a crime of moral turpitude and an aggravated felony, and convictions for tax fraud can lead to non-citizens being placed in Removal Proceedings and deported from the United States.
Even if you are never convicted of tax fraud, immigration officials can use your tax returns as a way to challenge your moral character during an immigration case. Many immigration cases require that an applicant prove that he is a person of “good moral character.” If your tax returns contain errors that suggest fraud, you could be denied political asylum, cancellation removal, or even naturalization, even if you were never convicted of tax fraud.
Serious, frequently made errors on tax returns include:
- Incorrectly filing taxes under “Head of Household Status. A taxpayer is not eligible to file as Head of Household if he or she is married, not legally separated, and lived with his or her spouse for at least one day during the last six months of the year. In certain situations, incorrectly filing as Head of Household can lead to a taxpayer receiving thousands of dollars in tax credits through the Earned Income Tax Credit, money to which that taxpayer was not entitled. If you claimed Head of Household Status when you were not eligible to do so, you may have committed tax fraud.
- Claiming Child Tax Credits for Children that did not live with you. A taxpayer is only eligible to claim a Child Tax Credit for a dependent that lived with him or her for more than six months in a year. If you claimed a Child Tax Credit for a dependent, you have represented to the IRS that the dependent lived with you for more than six months of the year. If this is not the true, then you may have up to collected $1,000 per child per year to which you were not entitled.
- Understating Income. All of a taxpayer’s income needs to be reported on tax returns, even cash payments. Unscrupulous tax preparers often give poor advice regarding cash income, leading to non-citizens reporting unrealistically low incomes on their returns. Even if your tax return is never challenged by the IRS, an immigration judge or a USCIS officer might notice that the income that you reported to the IRS could never realistically have supported a household of your size, and they can use this information against you in your immigration case.
If you have an immigration case pending before either the Immigration Court or USCIS and you think that your tax returns might contain serious errors, you may need the assistance of experienced immigration attorneys. Contact Immigration Solutions LLC at 617-536-0584, firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send us a note here.