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Tax Information for Farmworkers

If you receive a letter from the IRS, you should talk to a lawyer right away. Use Find a Lawyer to look for lawyers in your area.

Filing Your Tax Returns

Federal law requires most workers to file a federal tax return, 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 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 a return, you should file a return if you had taxes withheld from your pay, because you might qualify for a refund. Reporting your taxes can also be helpful in your or your family’s immigration case in the future.

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 Internal Revenue Service (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. It is IRS policy not to share any information with Immigration. Your relatives abroad can also apply for an ITIN in order to be listed as a spouse or dependent on your return. It is illegal to put a false Social Security number on your tax return.

If your spouse does not have a Social Security number and lives with you in the U.S., you cannot file your return as “Head of Household.” You must file as “Married Filing Jointly” or “Married Filing Separately.”

Tax Credits and Penalties

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a credit for working individuals and 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 valid Social Security numbers. To learn more, read Meet the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Even if your children only have ITINs, you can still claim them as dependents, and you may still be eligible for other credits, like the Child Tax Credit.

If you have authorization to work in the U.S. (for example: citizens, lawful permanent residents, H2A/H2B guestworkers, recipients of TPS or T or U visas), you could face a tax penalty if you do not have health insurance required under the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”).

Tax Preparation and Filing

You can file a tax return electronically for free. Read Getting Your Taxes Done for Free to learn about free tax services.

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.

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.