Whether the new bipartisan Senate immigration bill amounts to little more than amnesty for the 15 to 20 million illegal aliens residing in the U.S., as critics charge, the measure does offer one kind of amnesty – tax amnesty.
According to the Boston Globe, the Bush administration insisted on the removal of a provision in the initial version of the bill, proposed by Kennedy (D-Mass.), requiring payment of back taxes and any related fines to the Internal Revenue Service as part of the road to citizenship.
While the issue of tax liability was raised during the announcement of the immigration reform proposal on Thursday, the response of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff left some ambiguity.
Referencing illegals who hoped to attain legal status under the Senate bill, Chertoff said, “You’ve got to pay your taxes.”
An inquiry yesterday to the White House by the Globe clarified that Chertoff was only referring to future taxes, not unpaid past taxes.
“It is important that the reformed immigration system is workable and cost efficient,” spokesman Scott Stanzel said. “Determining the past tax liability would have been very difficult and costly and extremely time consuming.”
Illegals applying for a green card to become a legal U.S. resident would have to pay a $5,000 fine, noted Stenzel, but it had nothing to do with taxes owed.
According to Kennedy’s office, Chertoff had called for the tax provision to be removed, saying it would be “too challenging to accurately determine the amount of an applicant’s back taxes” because many do not receive paychecks, making an accurate audit difficult.
Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, expressed surprise the requirement had been removed. While acknowledging the difficulty of accurately determining tax bills for illegals, he estimated the figure would be in the tens of billions of dollars with a similar amount for penalties.
“I can tell you, most law-abiding taxpayers would find that provision totally distasteful,” Sepp said . “I doubt that many citizens are willing to swallow that special treatment.”
As WND reported last month, a Heritage Foundation study found a household headed by an individual without a high school education, including about two-thirds of illegal aliens, costs U.S. taxpayers more than $32,000 in federal, state and local benefits. That same family contributes an average of $9,000 a year in taxes, resulting in a net tax burden of $22,449 each year.