Last month, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) announced on the Senate floor, at a time where billionaires are avoiding taxes by denouncing their citizenship, that its the American way to avoid taxes. The speech was an attempt for the Senator and the Republican party to shield their presidential contender, Mitt Romney, from Obama campaign's recent strategy of hammering Romney on hiding assets overseas in well-known tax havens like Switzerland.
In 2011, undocumented people paid over $11.2 billion in taxes. Every tax season has seen undocumented immigrants eagerly waiting in line to pay taxes. Mitt Romney can't have it both ways: on the one hand Romney wants to nationalize Arizona's discriminatory SB1070 "show me your papers" laws; however, on the other hand he refuses to show the public his own papers: his tax returns.
While there is nothing wrong with working hard and achieving the American dream and wealth, the country has seen an increase in public stories of wealthy Americans, or former Americans in the case of Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, manipulating and avoiding the law to avoid taxes. Indeed, Senator Graham did not place the blame on these "patriotic" Americans but on Congress for enacting labyrinthine tax rules. He applauded Romney and others for taking advantage of loopholes, like the Romney's $77,000 tax deduction for their horse that competed in dressage at the Olympics. These are tax breaks that working Americans, small businesses, or undocumented workers cannot hope to ever take advantage of. Even while not eligible for many of the benefits of the taxes they pay, undocumented workers continue to contribute into a tax system that is willing to look the other way on their immigration status.
Some undocumented immigrants use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) but others also use an Employer Identification Number (EIN) demonstrating that undocumented immigrants are increasingly starting businesses and creating jobs. Undocumented immigrants have and are paying taxes as a symbol of their contribution to the United States.
Undocumented immigrants pay between $6 billion and $7 billion into the Social Security trust fund each year in addition to Medicare and unemployment insurance taxes the undocumented immigrants pay on the more than $72 billion in wages employers reported paying to individuals without Social Security numbers in 2009--the latest data available from the Social Security Administration. This is in stark contrast to wealthy Americans and American companies who are consistently avoiding taxes at any cost. Undocumented immigrants also pay federal, state, and local sales and excise taxes on food, clothing, gasoline, cigarettes and alcohol as well as state and local property taxes.
Of course, there are costs in government services that undocumented immigrants use. But rather than simply taking a free ride, undocumented immigrants are doing their part to offset the cost while they eagerly await full participation as American citizens to fulfill their full tax obligations. While the current Republican party and Mitt Romney appear to condone tax evasion as an American tradition, the new generation of aspiring Americans are willing to renew a sense of duty and responsibility to our country and our tax system. For those willing to live in the past, destinations like Switzerland or the Cayman Islands appear to be ideal destinations.
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