Immigrants and Workers Whose First Language is Not English

FACT:

According to the 2013 American Community Survey, more than 61 million people reported speaking a language other than English at home.

Workers who are not proficient in English often earn lower incomes and may not understand that they can qualify for the EIC and the CTC. It is especially important for outreach messages to emphasize that immigrants who are legally authorized to work and have Social Security numbers (SSNs) may be eligible for the EIC, and that families may qualify for the CTC even if all family members do not yet have SSNs. Conducting outreach only in English will miss eligible workers who can greatly benefit from this information and assistance.

  • Use bilingual materials. This kit includes flyers, posters, and envelope stuffers in English and Spanish. Flyers in 19 additional languages also are available on our website at www.eitcoutreach.org.
  • Dispatch bilingual staff or volunteers to explain the tax credits and answer questions at presentations to community groups or in one-to-one conversations. Immigrant workers may have trouble understanding complex tax rules or they might have been denied other public benefits, such as SNAP (formerly called food stamps) or Medicaid, in the past and might assume they do not qualify for tax benefits. Immigrants may incorrectly believe that claiming tax benefits could jeopardize their immigration status or their ability to become a citizen.
  • Provide information about the EIC and the CTC through Newcomers Clubs, settlement houses, immigrant aid associations and legal services. Organizations such as Catholic Charities, Jewish Family Services, and Mutual Assistance Associations (MAA) provide helpful services to refugees. To find the MAA in your state, visit www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/resource/mutual-assistance-associations.
  • Partner with organizations that are likely to have bilingual and bicultural staff, including educational and social programs sponsored by churches, mosques, or synagogues. Encourage schools to provide bilingual material about the tax credits, and work with English as a Second Language (ESL) programs or migrant education coordinators. Community events, such as health fairs, educational programs, job fairs, or holiday festivals also present outreach opportunities.
  • Enlist businesses in immigrant communities, such as ethnic grocery stores or restaurants, barber shops, or nail salons. They are important places to display posters and flyers and to talk directly to customers.
  • Promote multi-lingual free tax help in the community. Immigrant workers and workers who have limited English proficiency may be especially vulnerable to ill-trained or dishonest commercial preparers. To provide an alternative, encourage trusted institutions in the community to establish VITA sites and recruit VITA volunteers. When advertising VITA sites, indicate which sites provide services in languages other than English.
  • Work with non-English language media. Many non-English speaking communities have their own radio and TV programs and newspapers. Encourage news coverage, run ads, write articles, and develop public service spots on the tax credits. Identify the best times for broadcasting. For example, farm workers may listen to the radio in the pre-dawn hours before beginning work in the fields. For information on Spanish language media, contact National Council of La Raza at (202) 785-1670 or comments@nclr.org. For other non-English media by language or ethnicity, visit New America Media at news.newamericamedia.org/directory. Note: Membership is required to access some features.
Tax Credit Outreach IN ACTION

The United Way of Fresno County (UWFC) provides free tax preparation at its 14 VITA sites. UWFC works with the Mexican Consulate in Fresno, California, to reach the immigrant population and workers whose first language is not English. The Mexican Consulate in Fresno handles Mexican American affairs in seven counties, encompassing much of California’s Central Valley. The Mexican Consulate provides clients information on how to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and encourages them to visit UWFC for application assistance and for free tax preparation. The ITIN allows immigrants without citizenship to pay their taxes.

During the 2014 tax season, UWFC promoted its 14 VITA sites by giving out English- and Spanish-language brochures to its community partners to distribute. UWFC also developed a partnership with labor unions in Central Valley that work with large populations of immigrants to promote free tax services.

Each of UWFC’s VITA sites had Spanish- and Hmong-speaking volunteers who assisted non-English speakers with their taxes. UWFC also partnered with deaf and hard of hearing services to provide American Sign Language interpreters (ASL). Special sessions with ASL interpreters could be scheduled for people who came on days when interpreters were not present.

In 2014, UWFC filed 6,450 tax returns, which generated about $9 million in tax refunds.

Contact: Mary Ronell, UWFC, (559) 243-3660, mronell@unitedwayfresno.org

Glad You Asked That!

Q: Can immigrant workers get the EIC?
A: Many immigrants who are legally authorized to work can get the EIC. The immigrant worker, his or her spouse, and children listed on the Schedule EIC must each have a valid Social Security number that permits work in the U.S. The “qualifying children” must have lived with the worker in the U.S. for more than six months of the year. Also, the worker’s main home must be in the U.S.

Q: Can immigrant workers get the CTC?
A: If they qualify, immigrant workers can get the CTC if they or their qualifying children have either a valid SSN (including a non-work SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). The child must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien who lives in the U.S.