Generally, an applicant who fails to file tax returns or fails to pay taxes as required may not meet the good moral character requirement for naturalization. In short, this can be a reason for a denial. However, this doesn’t mean that all cases are denied. In some situations, it is possible to successfully file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, even with overdue taxes.
This discussion is not for people who have deceitfully evaded tax collection. For the purposes of naturalization, tax evasion (over $10,000) can be considered an “aggravated felony” in the immigration context. An applicant who has been convicted of an aggravated felony on or after November 29, 1990, is permanently barred from establishing good moral character for naturalization.
Good Moral Character
In evaluating an applicant’s Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization), the USCIS officer must determine if an applicant has demonstrated good moral character during the statutory period. The statutory period is five years for most applicants and three years for those married to a U.S. citizen (and applying under INA §319). Therefore, a naturalization applicant who has failed to file a tax return or has not paid all taxes as required can receive a denial.
In evaluating your good moral character, USCIS will take a look at your tax history. The USCIS officer who reviews your case will want to make sure that you’ve filed income tax returns (if required) and have met your obligations to pay income taxes.
Good People, Bad Situation
Unfortunately, even people with the best intentions can get into tax trouble. If taxes were under paid during the year or other circumstances result in a large tax bill, many Americans find themselves unable to pay the entire bill. In short, sometimes good people end up with tax problems. This is especially common for people with small businesses.
The USCIS officer must consider the totality of the circumstances and weigh all factors, favorable and unfavorable, when considering reformation of character in conjunction with good moral character within the relevant period. The following factors may be relevant in assessing an applicant’s current moral character and reformation of character:
- Family ties and background;
- Absence or presence of other criminal history;
- Employment history;
- Other law-abiding behavior (for example, meeting financial obligations, paying taxes);
- Community involvement;
- Credibility of the applicant;
- Compliance with probation; and
- Length of time in United States.
Filing N-400 with Overdue Taxes
Ideally, you can pay your overdue taxes before filing Form N-400. Obviously, eliminating the problem is the best solution. However, that’s not always possible. Sometimes a tax bill can take several years to pay off. The important thing is that you have an agreement with the IRS (or applicable tax authority) and make timely payments according to the plan.
In fact, according to USCIS, an applicant who did not originally file tax returns or did not pay the appropriate taxes may be able to establish good moral character by submitting a letter from the tax authority indicating that:
- The applicant has filed the appropriate forms and returns; and
- The applicant has paid the required taxes, or has made arrangements for payment.
If you haven’t already, file any overdue tax returns. Work with a tax professional who can help you file the appropriate forms to request a payment plan.
Before filing your application, it’s recommended that you build a history of on-time payments. In other words, wait a minimum of six months after the agreement is in place and make all payments as required. You’ll need to submit evidence that you’ve adhering to the agreement.
Speak to Attorney
It is possible to successfully file N-400 with overdue taxes. However, we always recommend that you speak to an immigration attorney first. Your situation may be different than the one described above. Further, USCIS officers have a lot of discretion in determining good moral character. An attorney can help you make the best presentation. Find an immigration attorney >>
Recommended Article: For more information how taxes affect immigration, read U.S. Taxes and Immigration Consequences