This is a very common question that both prospective as well as current clients ask us in anticipation of their N-400 naturalization interview. While it never hurts to bring the tax returns, the issue is whether an officer will expect that they be furnished during the course of the examination. In some cases, an officer will ask to see them and in other cases, not always. If one has always filed taxes and complied with the IRS, then there should be little cause for concern. On the other hand, if one has not filed taxes when required to, or if there are inconsistencies on the returns, the application for naturalization may be jeopardized.
What do tax returns show?
Tax returns not only reflect the earnings of the applicant (which are not necessarily relevant to the application-in other words, one is not required to make a certain amount of money in order to become a US Citizen), but also reveal a lot of other useful information that pertain to questions on the N-400. Some of the information that the returns indicate include but are not limited to:
- Residential address
- Marital Status
- The presence of Dependents
- The presence of children
- Employment and employers
Should any of the information on the returns differ from information on the N-400, an applicant should be expected to explain why. Depending on the circumstances, any irregularity can present a serious issue as to misrepresentation as well as good moral character. In fact, there are questions on the N-400 that specifically pertain to the filing of taxes, and we touched briefly upon the effect of tax problems in an earlier blog.
When are tax returns required?
While an officer may always ask to see an applicant's tax returns, at least for the statutory period, many routinely do not, assuming that the applicant does not have tax issues, which would have to be disclosed on the application. Of course, the practice varies depending on the jurisdiction and individual officer. Some officers, for instance, may not take an applicant at his/her word and may want to confirm that returns were filed-which they are probably entitled to do. However, if an applicant is applying under Section 319, which allows a person to apply for citizenship after being married to a US Citizen for three years, then one should normally expect to present the tax returns at the interview, as they are relevant to the issue of whether the applicant has lived in marital union with the US Citizen spouse. If, for example, the applicant filed separately from the spouse and used an address different than the marital residence, this will likely be an issue that needs to be addressed. If an applicant has been delinquent in the past or owes taxes, then he/she should also expect to furnish tax returns, as they are pertinent to the issue of whether one is presently in good standing with the IRS.
Like anything else, anything that can potentially be an issue should be discussed with an attorney prior to filing. At that point, an experienced lawyer can identify the problem and delve into its ramifications before they develop into serious obstacles. Assuming there are no issues, it is always prudent to bring the tax returns, whether or not they are asked. If there are issues, one should first resolve whether applying is feasible in the first place.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the left. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.