House Advances Proposal to Provide Relief for Thousands of Immigrant Taxpayers

Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Members of the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee voted Tuesday night to move forward with a proposal to provide relief for thousands of tax-paying immigrants, paving the way for a floor vote.

Senate Bill 218, a child tax credit proposal introduced by Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery) was amended in the Senate last week to provide tax relief to taxpayers who were left out of the recently passed RELIEF Act because they don’t have a Social Security number.

Advocates and Democratic lawmakers have warned that people who file taxes using individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITIN) weren’t just left out of the state’s billion dollar relief act, but have also been excluded from receiving federal aid and unemployment benefits throughout the pandemic.

The proposal, as amended by the Senate and approved by the House committee in a 13-8 vote, would extend the state’s expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to ITIN filers for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 tax years.

It also would provide a child tax credit to all taxpayers who make a federal adjusted gross income of $6,000 or less and have a dependent child under the age of 17 with a disability. The credit is equal to $500 per each qualified dependent child.

ITIN filers are a broad group of taxpayers, including undocumented immigrants and “some people who are lawfully present in the U.S., such as certain survivors of domestic violence, Cuban and Haitian entrants, student visa–holders, and certain spouses and children of individuals with employment visas,” according to the National Immigration Law Center.

Del. Julie Palakovich Carr (D-Montgomery County), lead sponsor of the House version of the bill, said more than 86,000 ITIN filers paid more than $330 million in state and local taxes last year, including more than $100 million in income tax.

“A Marylander is a Marylander no matter what type of tax id number they have,” Palakovich Carr said.

The vote to advance the proposal came after lengthy testimony from immigrant rights groups and activists, who emphasized that many ITIN filers are essential workers who’ve been left out of emergency relief proposals across the country.

“Covid doesn’t discriminate,” Pablo Blank, director of immigrant integration at CASA de Maryland, said. “It affects all Marylanders regardless of whether they pay taxes with an ITIN or a social security number.”

Blank said relief for ITIN filers would also mean direct and indirect relief for people who file taxes with Social Security numbers. Families with a mixed immigration status, where one spouse uses an ITIN and the other a Social Security number, are currently excluded from the EITC. ITIN filers who are parents of U.S. citizens are also left out.

Amanda Rivera, a Montgomery County resident, is in that situation. She told lawmakers that she’s a lawful permanent resident and pays taxes with a Social Security number, but because her husband has an ITIN they can’t take advantage of the EITC. Rivera and her husband have two kids together who are both U.S. citizens.

“When we started talking about the pandemic, we realized that my family was not going to receive any support,” Rivera said. “We felt discriminated that we weren’t being included.”

Jeniffer Ventura, a CASA member and senior at James Hubert Blake High School in Montgomery County, said her mother has paid taxes for decades with an ITIN number, but has been without government help throughout the pandemic.

“I should be worried about colleges, scholarships and my future,” Ventura said. “I shouldn’t be worried about if my mom and I can afford rent.”

Maryland isn’t the first state to consider expanding on the EITC: Jackie Vimo, a policy analyst for the National Immigration Law Center, said California and Colorado recently passed legislation to expand EITC benefits to ITIN filers.

Del. Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany County) raised questions over how the state would budget for the ever-shifting number of ITIN filers in the state. Palakovich Carr noted that the number of ITIN filers varies from year to year. There were more than 86,000 ITIN filers in Maryland last year, according to Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D).

The EITC expansion is expected to cost the state more than $65 million in general fund revenue in 2021, according to a Department of Legislative Services analysis of the bill.

“It’s difficult to forecast the fiscal impact of something when you don’t really know how many people are going to get it, Buckle said.

The emergency proposal could come up for a floor vote this week.

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