Throughout the year, clients send me copies of tax returns required in support of their immigration process. At times, clients are dismayed to learn that errors on these tax returns could lead to delays or even denials of requests for immigration benefits, like permanent residence or naturalization. So, as we enter tax season, I urge anyone involved in a U.S. immigration process to please use a qualified tax professional to prepare your tax return

When immigration officials review tax returns, they may be asking several questions, including:

  1. Does this person make enough money to sponsor the immigrant? If not, the person must have enough liquid assets or a co-sponsor whose income will meet the financial requirements of sponsorship. Understandably, most people hope to pay as little as possible in taxes. However, underreporting of income may not only be unlawful under U.S. tax laws but also counterproductive to their U.S. immigration application.
  2. Is this a good faith marriage? When petitioning for a spouse, a tax return can help to prove that the couple married in good faith, essentially meaning with the intention of making a life together. If the sponsor claims to be “Single” on a tax return presented in support of a marriage-based immigration petition, it can seriously undermine the couple’s credibility for a spousal immigration benefit. In general, you can’t be married for purposes of immigration and single for purposes of filing your tax returns.
  3. Is this person willing to follow the laws of the United States? Often, immigration officials have discretion to grant or deny an immigration benefit. If the immigration official thinks the person lied to the Internal Revenue Service, they may wonder if the person is being truthful in the immigration process. Unfortunately, glaring errors on a tax return could make an immigration official less inclined to give someone the benefit of the doubt when most needed.

Of course, U.S. tax and immigration laws are extremely complex, and it is easy to make honest mistakes. Yet the stakes in immigration cases are often so enormously high that it is critical to work with qualified tax professionals who are committed to filing proper and accurate returns. It can be the difference between winning and losing your immigration case. Please!