On the March 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly and former CNN host Lou Dobbs suggested that undocumented immigrants “dodge taxes,” with O'Reilly asserting that the notion that they pay taxes is “crap.” In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office and the Social Security Administration, undocumented immigrants pay all kinds of taxes, including individual income, sales, property, and social security taxes.
O'Reilly: “You know it's crap” that undocumented immigrants pay taxes
From the March 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
DOBBS: I think people have to understand clearly and unequivocally that this is not a substitute for border security, nor port security. We still have to survey what is happening with cargo being brought into this country. We still have responsibility for the security of our borders.
O'REILLY: Right. But it's getting better down on the southern border. I mean, that fence is working, and partially due to the economy, there are much fewer aliens. But, look, here's the big deal on this ID card: the money that would come in to the U.S. Treasury would be enormous because you can't dodge taxes anymore. You can't get paid off the books anymore --
DOBBS: Bill, what are you talking about?
O'REILLY: -- you know.
DOBBS: All of the open borders advocates -- all of the unconditional amnesty advocates say that illegal immigrants are already paying taxes.
O'REILLY: No, that's all talk. You know it's crap.
In fact, undocumented immigrants do pay taxes
CBO: "[I]mmigrants pay individual income, sales, and property taxes." In a December 2007 report detailing the impact of undocumented immigrants on the budgets of local and state governments, CBO found that "[a]ccording to available estimates," there were about “12 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States” at the time and “those immigrants pay individual income, sales, and property taxes.” CBO further reported that “the IRS estimates that about 6 million unauthorized immigrants file individual income tax returns each year. Other researchers estimate that between 50 percent and 75 percent of unauthorized immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes.”
From the CBO report [footnotes omitted]:
According to available estimates, there are about 12 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States. Federal, state, and local governments spend public funds that benefit those immigrants, and those immigrants pay individual income, sales, and property taxes. Most available studies conclude that the unauthorized population pays less in state and local taxes than it costs state and local governments to provide services to that population. However, those estimates have significant limitations; they are not a suitable basis for developing an aggregate national effect across all states.
CBO also stated:
Data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) suggest that some unauthorized immigrants use false or fraudulently obtained Social Security numbers (SSNs) to satisfy paperwork requirements during the hiring process and that employers use those numbers to withhold federal, state, and local income and payroll taxes for employees. Workers who do not qualify for SSNs can use Individual Tax Identification Numbers issued by the IRS to file tax returns, make payments, and apply for refunds. Although there are no reliable data on unauthorized immigrants' rate of compliance with tax laws, the IRS estimates that about 6 million unauthorized immigrants file individual income tax returns each year. Other researchers estimate that between 50 percent and 75 percent of unauthorized immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes. For example:
The SSA assumes that about half of unauthorized immigrants pay Social Security taxes.
Several of the states whose estimates CBO reviewed used a model developed by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) to determine state and local taxes paid by unauthorized immigrants. ITEP assumes a 50 percent compliance rate for income and payroll taxes.
Researchers from the Urban Institute, the Migration Policy Institute, the Pew Hispanic Center, and the Center for Immigration Studies have assumed a 55 percent compliance rate for income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes.
As part of a larger study on migration, the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California at San Diego conducted a survey of unauthorized immigrants and found that, in 2006, 75 percent had taxes withheld from their paychecks, filed tax returns, or both.
SSA: “Among illegal immigrants, SSA actuaries currently assume that about half actually pay social security taxes.” In a December 2005 brief by the Social Security Advisory Board on immigration, the section examining the impact of immigration effects on social security finances stated that "[a]mong illegal immigrants, SSA actuaries currently assume that about half actually pay social security taxes although they are very unlikely to collect benefits."
CBPP: "[U]nauthorized immigrants paid as much as $13 billion in Social Security payroll taxes in 2007." In a November 2008 piece summarizing a report on immigration by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, senior fellow Paul N. Van de Water wrote that, according to Stephen Goss, Social Security's chief actuary, “unauthorized immigrants paid as much as $13 billion in Social Security payroll taxes in 2007. About $1 billion in benefit payments were made based on unauthorized work.”
From Van de Water's November 20, 2008, post:
The presence of unauthorized (undocumented) workers in the United States also has a positive effect on the financial status of Social Security. The earnings of unauthorized workers are less likely to be reported for tax purposes than the earnings of the rest of the population and even less likely to result in future benefits, according to Social Security's chief actuary. Although the magnitudes cannot be precisely determined, the actuary has estimated that unauthorized immigrants paid as much as $13 billion in Social Security payroll taxes in 2007. About $1 billion in benefit payments were made based on unauthorized work (for example, survivor benefits paid to U.S. citizens who were dependents of deceased individuals who had made payments into the Social Security system while performing unauthorized work). Thus, undocumented immigrants improved Social Security's cash flow by an estimated $12 billion in 2007.
The New York Times also reported in an April 2005 article: " 'Our assumption is that about three-quarters of other-than-legal immigrants pay payroll taxes,' said Stephen C. Goss, Social Security's chief actuary, using the agency's term for illegal immigration."
Dobbs' long history of immigration misinformation
Dobbs has a long history of spreading immigration misinformation and conspiracy theories. He has routinely discussed the North American Union conspiracy theory, incorrectly claimed that undocumented immigrants drain social services and don't pay taxes, and repeatedly amplified the falsehood that undocumented immigrants are disproportionately violent. He has been an unrepentant purveyor of hateful attacks, fraudulently claiming, for example, that immigrants are spreading leprosy and seek to reconquer the southwestern United States. And in 2009, he legitimized the thoroughly debunked birther conspiracy theory concerning the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate.