Surprise! Undocumented Immigrants Paid $11.2 Billion In Taxes, General Electric Paid Nothing

2 May

by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org

This past month, there was a great deal of outrage over General Electric who, despite having made $14.2 billion in profits, paid zero U.S. taxes in 2010. In fact, General Electric received tax credits of $3.2 billion from American taxpayers.

Meanwhile, a study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy challenges the notion that illegal immigrants come to the U.S. to freeload. According to the New York Daily News, the study says unauthorized immigrants paid $11.2 billion in taxes last year:

ITEP estimates that households that are headed by undocumented immigrants (which may include members who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants) paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes last year. That included $1.2 billion in personal income taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes and $8.4 billion in sales taxes.

Here’s more from the columnist:
To no one’s surprise, taxes are still as certain for working people – and whatever is left of the middle class – as they ever were. But for, well, GE and other corporate giants, the only certainty is that many found ways to contribute as little to the country’s coffers as possible.
At the same time, Republicans in Washington are involved in a mighty struggle to protect the tax breaks of the country’s richest 2%, while happily proposing to cut the most basic social services to Americans who really need them.

To be fair, corporations also pay state and local taxes of several types. But in a political environment where taxes are regarded as the rich man’s curse, it’s illuminating to place these numbers in juxtaposition.

ITEP bases its figures of what immigrants pay taxes based on the following factors:

  • Sales tax is automatic, so it is assumed that unauthorized residents would pay sales tax at similar rates to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants with similar income levels.
  • Similar to sales tax, property taxes are hard to avoid, and unauthorized immigrants are assumed to pay the same property taxes as others with the same income level. ITEP assumes that most unauthorized immigrants are renters, and only calculates the taxes paid by renters.
  • Income tax contributions by the unauthorized population are less comparable to other populations because many unauthorized immigrants work “off the books” and income taxes are not automatically withheld from their paychecks. ITEP conservatively estimates that 50 percent of unauthorized immigrants are paying income taxes.

While it’s impossible to estimate exactly how much in taxes undocumented immigrants paid, what is clear is that undocumented immigrants are paying more taxes than General Electric, which paid absolutely nothing. This raises the question of who really is leaching off the American system: undocumented immigrants who pay their taxes and are typically too afraid of being deported to receive public assistance or corporations that pay nothing while receiving billions in credits.

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