IRS Commissioner: Paying Taxes Is Pathway to Citizenship for Illegal Aliens

Elizabeth Harrington | April 5, 2012 | 8:31pm EDT
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IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman. (AP Photo)

( – Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman said Thursday that paying taxes is a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens.

At the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., 12 days before this year's tax-filing deadline (Apr. 17), Shulman was asked about what his agency is doing to collect taxes from illegal aliens.

“You know, it’s a great question,” he said. “One of the pathways to citizenship that people believe is a good one is--even if you’re not in this country legally--to pay taxes.”

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“And so our job is to make sure, if you work in this country and you have a tax obligation, that you file a tax return,” said Shulman. “That’s what we try to do. And so our job is around exactly what whoever wrote the question asked, which is to make sure taxes are paid. We’re not responsible for the other pieces of immigration law, immigration policy.”

Illegal aliens do not have legitimate Social Security Numbers that entitle them to work in the United States--or to file federal tax returns. IRS and Social Security Administration records show that every year many millions of people file taxes using Social Security Numbers that either were never issued by the government or do not match the name of the person using it.

In 2006 testimony in the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, Deputy Social Security Commissioner James Lockhart said that in 2003 alone 8.8 million W-2 forms had been filed on which the Social Security Number and name did not match and after investigation the government could not attribute the W-2 to a known taxpayer. The Social Security Administration, he said, believed the principal cause of these no-match W-2s was "unauthorized work" being done by illegal aliens.

"For the latest year we have information, which is taxpayer year 2003," Lockhart testified, "we had about 8.8 million or 3.7 percent of the total W-2s remained in the suspense file."

"Our inspector general, Pat O'Carroll ... and many others believe that this growth is due to unauthorized work by non-citizens, and that stronger worksite enforcement is needed," said Lockhart.

The IRS has interpreted the Internal Revenue Code to mean that the Social Security Administration cannot inform the Department of Homeland Security even about employers who are filing large numbers of W-2s on which the Social Security Number and name do not match.

Current IRS Commission Shulman, however, views it is an act of good citizenship when a foreign national working in the United States illegally files a tax return.

“I think you actually have a lot of people in this country who pay taxes who aren’t here legally," Shulman said at the press club. "[They] file returns so they can show a track record of being good citizens.”

IRS tax forms. (AP Photo)

“The people who are being good members of society, the people who do that, obviously, are contributing to the national defense, they’re contributing to our roads, they’re contributing to our schools, and that’s just what we want,” he said.  “And so we try to run the system in a really fair way that allows everybody to pay taxes who needs to pay taxes.”

The topic of Shulman’s discussion at the National Press Club was the  “sustained arc of progress” at the IRS.

According to the Pew Research Center, there were 11.2 million illegal immigrants living in the United States as of March 2010. A report released by the Immigration Policy Center analyzing data for that same year found that households headed by illegal immigrants paid a combined total of $11.2 billion in taxes, including $1.2 billion in personal income taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes, and $8.4 billion in sales taxes.

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