Tax problems potentially can affect one’s eligibility for citizenship. In fact, the newly revised N-400 application has additional questions relating to taxes including the following questions:
6. Do you owe any overdue Federal, State, or local taxes?
7. A. Have you ever not filed a Federal, State, or local tax return since you became a Permanent Resident?
B. If “yes,” did you consider yourself to be a “non-U.S. resident”?
8. Have you called yourself a “non-U.S. resident” on a Federal, State, or local tax return since you became a Permanent Resident?
How are taxes relevant?
In evaluating an applicant’s application for naturalization, the adjudicator or Information Services Officer (“ISO”) must decide whether an applicant has demonstrated good moral character during the statutory period. The statutory period is five years for most applicants and three years for those applying under Section 319 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Someone who does not pay their taxes or who owes back taxes can understandably trigger problems.
Does this mean that someone who has tax problems can never become naturalized? Not necessarily. An ISO may still approve a naturalization petition if he/she is satisfied that the applicant has either filed or paid the deficient taxes, or made arrangements to do so. This is normally demonstrated by official IRS transcripts or official IRS correspondence confirming a payment arrangement.
Things to Watch Out For
Sometime an individual may not even be thinking about taxes when he/she is considering citizenship because the common misconception is that crimes are the only thing to watch out for. However, as some have learned the hard way, crimes are not the only troublesome issues. When it comes to tax compliance, it is important to consider the following questions:
· Have you filed all of your taxes?
· Have you ever filed taxes as a non-resident? If you have, make sure you talk to an immigration attorney about the consequences.
· Have you filed taxes on all of your income? If you have worked abroad or earned income abroad, you may be obligated to pay taxes on that income. Of course, you need to consult with a tax professional to learn what your obligations are
· Have you filed for or claimed deductions or dependents that you were not entitled to?
The point is that if the ISO discovers during the interview any type of irregularities in the tax returns that conflict with the testimony, such inconsistencies or defects may form a basis to deny the application. If you do or suspect that you may have tax problems, it might make sense to consult with a tax professional and straighten out your IRS obligations before sending in that naturalization application.