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Bill Would Open Tax Credit to Undocumented Washingtonians

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Monday, February 3, 2020   

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Washington state lawmakers want to open up a working class tax credit to more residents, including people who are undocumented, student visa holders and some survivors of domestic violence.

Although the Working Families Tax Credit was passed in 2008, it has yet to receive funding -- presenting a major roadblock for lawmakers on this issue.

Despite this challenge, lawmakers are hoping filers who use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN, in place of a Social Security number also can benefit from the program.

State Rep. My-Linh Thai, D-Bellevue, one of the bill's sponsors, says folks who are undocumented and working are contributing to the economy.

"They are working and paying tax in our system," she points out. "So, to me, it's a matter of fairness and making sure that those who deserve the benefits that the state put out for people receive them as well."

Supporters of the Working Families Tax Credit say it could help balance Washington's regressive tax code, where the majority of the burden falls on low-income Washingtonians.

The Senate version of this bill is scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday.

According to the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, the Working Families Tax Credit would reach about 30% of residents and provide an average income boost of $350. The group also finds expanding the credit to ITIN filers would benefit 53,000 households.

"Folks filing with an Individual Tax ID Number are people who are largely immigrant populations who have proactively signed up with the federal government for the purpose of paying their federal income taxes," says Misha Werschkul, the center's executive director.

Werschkul notes domestic violence survivors use an ITIN to protect their identity from their abusers.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates in 2017, undocumented immigrants in Washington contributed more than $300 million in local and state taxes.

"People that are undocumented are our friends, our neighbors, they're our family members, and they're really an important part of our community -- not to mention that they play a really important economic role in all kinds of fields," points out Robin Engle, communications and development director of OneAmerica, a group that advocates for immigrant rights.


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