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Tax expert: Some undocumented immigrants not filing for fear of deportation

Irma Ornelas, who prepares taxes at Paisano tax center in Arvin, Calif., speaks April 18, 2017, about fear of filing among some undocumented immigrants. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing is certain, expect death and taxes.”

But for Irma Ornelas, who prepares taxes at Paisano tax center in Arvin, there is uncertainty in her client base. She has seen a 20 percent decrease in filings this tax season.

"With all of the political changes in this country, many people are scared," Ornelas said in Spanish. “They believe if they file their taxes, immigration agents will have their address on file and will go to their homes."

Ornelas has prepared taxes for more than three years, and she works closely with the immigrant community, farmworkers and people who are undocumented.

She said she believes the decrease of people filing their taxes in her community is because they are fearful of deportation.

But not everyone is paralyzed by that fear. Maria, whose last name will remain anonymous, said she believes filing her federal income taxes is her duty and the right thing to do.

"The community helps us a lot," Maria said. “We live in this community, and we have to support in any way we can."

People like Maria, who are living in the United States while being undocumented, help pay for billions of dollars each year in state and local taxes.

Reports from the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy say at least 50 percent of undocumented immigrants currently file income tax returns using individual tax identification numbers (ITIN). Many people who do not file income tax returns still have taxes deducted from their taxes.

If you missed the deadline to file your taxes, you can file an extension on the IRS website.

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