Tue | Mar 20, 2018

Immigration Corner | Will we have tax trouble?

Published:Tuesday | June 21, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I am a Jamaica national who lives and works in The Cayman Islands. My fiancÈ (an American citizen) and I are planning to get married in August. Our plan is for me to relocate to the United States (US) to live with him. I have a visitor's visa and I know that in order for me to live in the US, my husband will have to apply for a green card for me.

The problem is that my husband has not filed any annual taxes for the past three years. He is self-employed in the construction field but does not have a registered company. He works and is paid directly. Also, we are planning to purchase a home in the US. How will his not filing taxes for the past three years affect me applying for my green card and purchasing a home?

- S.C.


Dear S.C.,

As the petitioner, your husband is required to file an Affidavit of Support (AOS) during the filing process for you to become a permanent resident (green card holder) in the US. That AOS has to be accompanied by several documents, including the petitioner's most recent income tax return. If the petitioner did not earn income during the relevant period, a tax return is not required and a sworn affidavit as to why the petitioner did not file a tax return must be submitted with the AOS. If the petitioner has no income or insufficient income, a joint financial sponsor can be used to satisfy the actual AOS requirements.

All US persons - citizens and permanent residents - who earn income are required to file income tax returns every year. If a person is unsure of whether he has have earned income, the individual should consult a certified public accountant (CPA) to ensure that he complies with tax filing requirements. Self-employed persons certainly have to file their income taxes. In some instances, although not her husband is self-employed, the person/company for whom he worked may have reported the amount paid him to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The US has very serious consequences for people who do not file tax returns. However, the US also has several compliance mechanisms for those who have fallen behind in their taxes and allows for the filling of tax returns for past years and the payment of unpaid taxes. The IRS does offer payment plans if you are unable to pay all the taxes owed to the US government.

In applying for a mortgage to purchase a home, the company that will issue the mortgage will need the applicant's tax returns - proof of income and ability to repay the loan. Your fiancÈ should contact a CPA to file his past tax returns as soon as possible and avoid the consequences of failure to file and to be able to file the application for your green card.

n Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida. info@walkerhuntington.com.