Commentary

Unauthorized immigrants v. millionaires: Remarkable numbers on who pays more in taxes

The next time your immigrant-bashing relative or neighbor lays a line on you about those “mooching, good-for-nothing ‘illegals,'” take a moment to inform him or her of the powerful facts in the chart and text below. As the good folks at Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy explained earlier this week:

“Unauthorized immigrants pay a larger share of their income in state and local taxes than the nation’s top earners, and immigration reform would improve state and local finances across the country, a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) finds….

Unauthorized immigrants pay sales taxes when they buy goods and services, property taxes (mostly passed along through their rent), and income taxes when employers withhold them from their paychecks — even those who don’t file income tax returns, although between about half and three-quarters do.

Among ITEP’s key findings:

  • Unauthorized immigrants paid about $11.7 billion in state and local taxes in 2014.
  • They pay about 8 percent of their income, on average, in state and local taxes, significantly higher than the 5.4 percent that the average taxpayer in the top 1 percent pays. (See chart.)
  • Comprehensive immigration reform would further boost the state and local taxes that these immigrants pay by allowing them to come out of the shadows and work legally. ITEP estimates that granting lawful permanent residence to all unauthorized immigrants who are now in the country would lift state and local tax collections by about $2.2 billion a year and raise the effective state and local tax rate that these unauthorized immigrants pay to about 8.6 percent from about 8 percent.”

Of course, the remarkable truth revealed in this study is also the case when it comes to poor and middle class native born Americans — both of whom pay more of their incomes in taxes than the billionaire plutocrats like those who inhabit the Trump junta and even many of the conservative, upper-middle class burghers who run the North Carolina General Assembly.

The bottom line: Keep these facts handy and don’t let conservatives get away with their mythology about who pays for government in our country and the supposedly “terrible tax burden” that impacts Americans (and North Carolinians) of wealth.

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