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For The Second Year, Undocumented Workers Can Access California Earned Income Tax Credits

A copy of a IRS 1040 tax form.
Tax credits can be a source of extra income
(Suzanne Levy
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Monday is tax day, and advocates for low-income taxpayers are reaching out to immigrant communities to remind them about changes, which began last year, that let undocumented workers earn certain income tax credits. The credits can translate intoup to thousands of extra dollars.

This is the second year that Californians with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number — known as an ITIN — may qualify for these tax credits under a state law that Governor Newson signed in 2020.

An ITIN is used by taxpayers who lack a Social Security number, and the bulk of ITIN taxpayers are undocumented workers.

The state law allowed ITIN holders to qualify for the California Earned Income Tax Credit, which was created in 2015 but at that time excluded ITIN taxpayers.

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It also allowed those who file with an ITIN access to the Young Child Tax Credit for parents of kids under 6. Both are available to families that earn a maximum of $30,000 per year.

Sabrina De Santiago, policy director for the anti-poverty nonprofit Golden State Opportunity, said undocumented parents whose children are U.S. citizens are also eligible for the federal child tax credit, which was raised last year. All these credits can add up in tax savings and refunds, she said.

“The California earned income tax credit, the young child tax credit and the child tax credit for their citizen children can mean thousands of dollars for a family,” De Santiago said.

In order to obtain the state tax credits, people must make sure to file their California income tax returns, she said.

Helping Families Climb Out Of Poverty

De Santiago said Golden State Opportunity, which has offices in Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Francisco, has partnered with community organizations around the state to let people know about the changes, and what they qualify for.

“They have layered the tax outreach into the work that they're doing now,” De Santiago said, “so everybody who comes through their doors hears about these programs.”

One key outreach goal is to help people who don’t yet have an ITIN apply for one, so that they can file and benefit next year. The idea, Santiago said, is to help families climb out of poverty.

She said that with both the California and federal earned income tax credits, “we have seen…where people who receive the tax credit are lifted out of poverty, can have better health outcomes, have better educational outcomes.”

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And it’s not a handout, as she pointed out: for example, undocumented workers contribute billions to Social Security — but they can’t receive benefits.

For people filing at the last minute, L.A. County has a resource where taxpayers can locate free tax preparation assistance. According to the county, about a third of the listed sites will reopen in May to assist those who didn’t file by the deadline.

What questions do you have about immigration and emerging communities in LA?

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