The Fine Print: The "Must Pay Their Taxes" Provision in the Obama Amnesty

By David North, January 31, 2013

You might have gotten the impression that the White House is proposing that the newly amnestied millions will have to pay their taxes in order to secure legal status.

You would be wrong.

The Obama administration is proposing a three-step legalization program; in the first, the alien gets a provisional legal status that prevents deportation and allows legal work. That is the all-important part of the program for the illegals.

In the second step, the alien may seek a green card after "getting in line", and in the third step there is naturalization for those who apply for it.

But according to the "Fact Sheet" issued by the White House on January 29, only at the second step of the route, the green card stage, do the former illegals need to pay their taxes, or as the fact sheet puts it:

Those applying for green cards must pay their taxes … register for Selective Service (where applicable), pay additional fees and penalties, and learn English and U.S. civics …

Which means that those in the provisional status will need to do none of those things in order to avoid deportation or to work legally.

Why not apply those sensible provisions right at the start? (Not that there should be such a program, under any circumstances.)

Returning to taxes: Are the green card applicants supposed to file a return for work in the year prior to the application? For all the years that they have lived here illegally? Or something in between?

Do they get to file the relatively friendly 1040, which citizens and green card holders file, or must they file the less generous form for non-green-card aliens, the 1040NR.

If their employers did not pay the employer's side of Social Security (FICA) taxes, will the newly amnestied have to — as they should — file as independent contractors (on Schedule C) and pay FICA at the (higher) rates set for such independent contractors?

In short, will these rules be firm ones, leading to substantial collections, or will they be blurred away by waivers and administrative fuzziness? One does not know, but one has reason to worry.

Incidentally, back to the language of the fact sheet and the use of the term "U.S. civics".

Only the most globally focused residents of this country would need the "U.S." in that phrase. We're going to teach the civics of Brazil to the newly amnestied? Of course not.

For those of us who took civics in American high schools, the only country dealt with was America — but perhaps the current set of White House writers have more cosmopolitan educations and, for them, inserting "U.S." before "civics" is a necessary clarification.