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Taxes and Naturalization

Information on navigating taxes and the naturalization process

How do taxes work with the naturalization process?

As part of the naturalization process, an applicant needs to include various supporting documents with their U.S. citizenship application, including evidence of their tax history. It’s important that your taxes are straightened out as you proceed with the naturalization process because it negatively impacts your good moral standing requirement.

Whether or not you’re a U.S. citizen, you are required to pay taxes that are applicable to you based on your residency. If you’re not in good standing with your taxes because you failed to pay them or file them, this can be fixed by working with the Internal Revenue Services (IRS). Once those issues are resolved, you can move forward with your Application for Naturalization, also known as Form N-400.

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About U.S. Taxes

The U.S. tax system is not known for being simple. Ask any U.S. citizen and they will quickly confirm the rumors you’ve heard.

That’s why it’s especially important as an immigrant and U.S. resident to have a good understanding of how to do your taxes in the United States, especially if your goal is to become a naturalized citizen.

U.S. citizens file their federal and state taxes annually, which are typically due on tax day on April 15. However, they can be due quarterly depending on a person’s income level and work status. Most citizens file on their own using tax software or tax documents directly from the IRS, but they can also have their taxes done by a tax professional. Depending on factors such as their income, dependents, work expenses, and charitable giving, residents either owe taxes due to underpayment or get a tax refund due to overpayment.

Paying taxes is an integral part of being an American resident and citizen. Taxes support local and federal services that you benefit from when you become a U.S. citizen.

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Process of Filing Taxes

Residency Status

Your tax status is entirely dependent on your residency and what type of visa you are on. The IRS determines this using the Green Card Test and the Substantial Presence Test.

To be considered a resident alien for U.S. Federal Tax purposes, you must be allowed to live in the U.S. permanently according to immigration laws under the Green Card Test. For the Substantial Presence Test, you must be in the United States for at least 31 days in the current year and 183 days in the two years prior plus the current year for a total of three years.

If you do not fit under these parameters, you are considered a nonresident alien for U.S. Federal Tax purposes.

Resident Alien

A resident alien is taxed nearly the same as a U.S. citizen and must report all types of income including wages, compensation, interest, dividends and more from across the globe. You can even claim the same deductions as a U.S. citizen. You must be considered a resident alien for the entire tax year.

Nonresident Alien

A nonresident alien is also subject to filing a tax return if they have conducted any business that year in the U.S. and other parameters. To claim refunds or deductions, you have to file a tax return.

Since nonresident aliens are not considered U.S. citizens under U.S. Federal Tax purposes, they do not need to pay Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) Taxes and you can qualify for a FICA Tax refund. In order to do that, you’ll want to work directly with your employer or the IRS to receive your refund.

In order to gain U.S. citizenship, it is important to stay on top of filing your taxes. If you have trouble, meet with a tax professional.

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Taxes for Citizenship

Form N-400

As part of the Application for Naturalization (Form N-400), tax returns are needed. You are eligible to file an N-400 if you are at least 18 years old and:

  • have had a green card for five years (if married to a U.S. citizen, three years)
  • or, you’re applying based on appropriate military service.

If you are filing your N-400 based on marriage, it must be deemed authentic. Part of that process involves providing three years of tax returns, either joint tax returns or tax transcripts.

Regardless of how you file, all applicants are required to provide proof of IRS tax payments or any overdue tax obligations with federal income tax returns for the past five filing years unless you’re applying based on marriage, then it’s three years.

This is especially important if you’ve traveled abroad for at least six months. If you have traveled abroad for over six months, but less than a year, you must also provide income tax returns or transcripts to prove you’ve maintained permanent residency in the United States. You’ll want to provide five years of these statements unless you’re applying through the marriage of a U.S. citizen, then it’s three.

While it’s best to have all of your taxes paid when filing the N-400, not everyone does. If you have overdue taxes, file them immediately and work with a trusted tax professional. If you have the ability to pay them off immediately, do so.

If not, individuals can work with the IRS to set up a payment plan. From there, you’ll want to get letters from the tax authority that you filed the correct forms and returns and that you’ve paid them off or have made an agreement on the payment plan. This will help U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) understand that you are working toward your good moral character requirement.

You can get a thorough overview of the entire N-400 and everything you need for it when you visit our resource guide.

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