The Post Discovers Taxes

This morning the Washington Post reported on a study of taxes paid by immigrants in the Washington, D.C. area. The study was financed by the Washington Area Partnership for Immigrants. The Post’s article was headlined, with perhaps deliberate ambiguity: “Study: Immigrants Pay Tax Share.”

I found the study, and the Post’s report on it, interesting in several respects. First, it confirms that illegal immigrants (in contrast to legal immigrants) do not pay their proportional share of taxes. The study concluded that native-born citizens and legal immigrants pay around one-third of their total incomes in taxes, while illegals pay only 19%. This calculation was based on the assumption that 45% of all illegal immigrants are “off the books” employees whose employers do not withhold on their behalf. But that is only an assumption; as the Post says, “Reliable numbers are hard to find.”

The second point I found interesting is that the Post acknowledges (indeed, trumpets) the array of state, local and federal taxes that we all pay:

Together with immigrants who hold temporary protected status, illegal immigrants in the region paid about $1 billion in taxes in 1999, the study found. That is because there are other taxes unrelated to income: All buyers pay sales tax on new television sets, and tenants generally pay property tax in their rent.

“There’s sales tax, there’s property tax, there’s consumption taxes on alcohol, on cars, on gasoline, on utilities,” said Jeffrey S. Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center who co-authored the report.

I hope the Post will remember that next time it’s writing about Americans being undertaxed.

One more thing: it appears that some people, at least, live pretty well “in the shadows”: the report says that the households of illegal immigrants and those with temporary protected status earned an average of $53,000 in 1999.

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