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Rodolfo Trujillo has been helping documented and undocumented clients file their taxes in the Twin Cities for the past 30 years.

Trujillo, 62, said a major misconception among many people is that undocumented workers aren’t required to file or pay taxes. Undocumented workers and business owners contribute taxes to the local and federal government each year, he said.

According to the IRS website, undocumented workers who don’t have a valid social security number can fill out a W-7 form to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which is used to file their federal and state tax returns.

Trujillo and other workers at Trujillo’s Services, located at 420 East Lake Street in Minneapolis, specialize in filing taxes for undocumented clients. Workers with an ITIN can file taxes and either receive a tax refund or pay the government if you owe taxes, according to Trujillo. The deadline to file individual tax returns in the United States is April 18, for 2023.

Trujillo recently spoke with Sahan Journal about what undocumented workers should know about filing their federal and state taxes. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Are you required to file taxes even if you’re undocumented?

The requirements are the same as documented people. We’re all required. If we earn a certain amount of income, then we are required to file whether you’re documented or undocumented. It makes no difference.

What documents do you need to file your taxes?

They’re required to file for an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), and basically, the ITIN is just a number with the same number of digits as a social security number. 

The difference between an ITIN and the social is an ITIN always begins with a nine. Social security numbers don’t begin with a nine; they begin with every other number but nine. 

And if it’s an adult, you’ll need a valid passport. That could be a standalone document. And if you don’t have a passport, you’re going to need two types of documents. A document could be a birth certificate and identification that’s considered official in your country.

What documents do you need to prove your income?

The same W-2 that you’re working with.

(NOTE: Trujillo said workers can use the W-2 tax form provided by their employer as long as they also have an ITIN. The worker’s ITIN doesn’t have to match the social security number on the W-2 form in order to file taxes, since many undocumented workers provide employers a false social security number that is listed on their W-2 forms.)

Can the federal government use the address on your tax forms for deportation proceedings?

No, the Privacy Act of 1974 actually is a federal law that protects individuals.

(NOTE: According to the IRS website, there are disclosure laws in place that prohibit the release of your tax return information to other federal agencies.)

Should all undocumented workers file taxes?

I recommend that they do it. Some people just do taxes if they’re gonna get money back. But I recommend that everybody do it for this reason. One, we’re obligated to do it. Okay, that should be enough reason. 

But if that’s not even enough reason for some people to want to do their taxes, or give them enough incentive, what happens if they’re going to adjust their immigration status? They’re going to ask you for two, three, or four years of tax returns. So, if you ever wanted to adjust their status from an undocumented status to a documented status, the tax returns are required.

Can undocumented workers file their taxes via an app? What are the pros and cons?

Okay, pro for doing it yourself? It’s cheaper. Now you got these applications where they charge $20-30 to get your taxes done online. The con is that if you have a situation which requires a little bit more expertise, maybe you don’t have that expertise. And you need to consult with somebody that has that expertise. That would be the con. 

And that’s where we come in, you know? I’ve been doing taxes since 1993, and I was trained with the IRS in 1983. I have a lot of experience. I don’t think there’s a situation I haven’t seen.

What other uses does the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number have?

You can buy a home. You can get a loan if you put 10-20 percent down. Some banks require 10, others require 20. With an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), they can start a business. You don’t have to be documented.

Can undocumented business owners file taxes, too?

Yeah, they’re filing 1099’s. They’re made for subcontractors, and these people are filing *1099’s, and they’re putting their expenses down. I have three ITIN holders—roofers—they’re making net profit $300,000 or more as an undocumented roofer, and they’re contributing to society.

What are some misconceptions about undocumented taxpayers you’d like to clear up?

I want people to know that the undocumented people are the ones that are really producing in this country. I know many people that have two and three jobs, and contrary to what most Americans believe, these people are not entitled to welfare. They’re not. They’re entitled maybe for their children who were born here, they’re entitled to get some help for the children, but not for themselves. 

They’re not even entitled to unemployment. You’re not entitled to Social Security, or Medicare, or unemployment.

CORRECTION: The story has been updated to reflect that subcontractors file 1099 forms.

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Alfonzo Galvan is a reporter for Sahan Journal, covering work, labor, small business, and entrepreneurship. Before joining Sahan Journal, he covered breaking news and immigrant communities in South Dakota,...