Advocates, Democratic Politicians Want Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit For Illegal Immigrants

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Picture this:  an earned income tax credit for illegal immigrants.

That is what one coalition, including the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Center, are pushing for on Beacon Hill, as State House News Service reports.

They want the state’s earned income tax credit to cover everyone who files taxes with an individual tax identification number. That includes many illegal immigrants, especially ones who are in the country illegally as a result of a visa overstay, as NewBostonPost has previously noted.

Currently, a person must be a citizen or a nonresident alien to be eligible for the earned income tax credit because the state level credit standards are nearly identical to the federal standards.

If it were to happen, Massachusetts would become the sixth state to do so; the others are Colorado, California, Maryland, Washington, and New Mexico. 

Advocates for immigrants argue that illegal immigrants pay $185 million in state and local taxes each year. These taxes include consumption taxes — including sales tax — as well as state income tax in the case of illegal immigrants who file tax returns with their individual tax identification numbers.

However, those who oppose illegal immigration say illegal immigrants are a net loss to government revenues. The Federation for American Immigration Reform calculated that illegal immigrants already cost the Bay State $1.8 billion per year.

Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance told NewBostonPost that advocates for illegal immigrants are prioritizing the wrong people.

“While the EITC is a valuable policy to help lift people out of poverty, it should first be available to American citizens who desperately need it,” Craney said by email.

Matthew Tragesser, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said the proposed tax credit for illegal immigrants doesn’t put Americans first, which he argued American public policy should.

“This proposal would compensate those who are not only in the country illegally but are also holding a job illegally,” Tragesser told NewBostonPost in an email message. “Some 90 percent of ITIN filers for tax credits are illegal aliens, according to data from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Though some of these individuals pay some taxes, it doesn’t exempt them from the rule of law where federal and immigration laws have been violated.” 

“The state tax credit is finite,” he added. “There are many law-abiding U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants in Massachusetts who would likely need this assistance more than ever after the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Jessica Vaughn of the Center for Immigration Studies, which calls for fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those who come, said an earned income tax credit for illegal immigrants will hurt American workers.

“Illegal immigrants should not be receiving the earned income tax credit because it is not legal for them to be earning income here,” Vaughn told NewBostonPost in an email message. “The way these programs work, it will enable many illegal workers to begin receiving tax credit payouts, even if they owe no taxes – in other words, it is a government handout, not truly a tax credit. 

“Further, allowing illegal aliens to participate in these programs that are meant to help U.S. workers at the lower ends of the pay scale is essentially endorsing their presence here,” she added. “That destroys the integrity of our legal immigration system, displaces U.S. workers from jobs, depresses wages, and imposes more burdens on other taxpayers.  We should not have policies and handouts that allow illegal aliens to live here as if they were here legally – that just encourages more illegal immigration.”

More than 375,000 Massachusetts families already use the state’s earned income tax credit. These families earn up to $57,000 each year. The state benefit is 30 percent of the federal benefit, so it ranges from $160 on the low end to close to $2,000 on the high end.

MassBudget estimates that about 13,200 more families would use it if the state expanded the eligibility to include people here illegally, at a cost of more than $9 million each year.

“From the scale of our roughly $50 billion budget, not a lot of money, but a huge difference for those working families,” Phineas Baxandall, an analyst with the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, told State House News Service.

However, the bills that the coalition supports not only expand the eligibility for the credit, but also the amount a person can receive.

Two such bills, S.1841 and H.2871, were filed (respectively) by state Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) and state Representative Andy Vargas (D-Haverhill) in the House and state Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) in the Senate. These bills establish a minimum credit of $2,400 per family and would phase out at $75,000.

Supporters of these measures also want the state earned income tax credit to be 50 percent of the federal credit — if it otherwise would exceed the state minimum. So if the federal earned income tax credit a family received was $5,000, the state would give that family $2,500.

Giving 13,200 illegal immigrant families even $2,400 per year would cost the state $31.68 million.

The coalition expects that the Joint Committee in Revenue of the Massachusetts Legislature will hear the bills later in the year.

“We’re talking about families and children, people who are part of the fabric of our community and are paying their dues,” Natalicia Tracy, of the Brazilian Workers Center, told State House News Service.

Decker, Vargas, and DiDomenico could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.


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