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GOP rep urges Trump to prevent illegal immigrants from claiming tax credits

GOP rep urges Trump to prevent illegal immigrants from claiming tax credits
© Greg Nash

Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) is urging President Trump to take actions to prevent immigrants in the country illegally from claiming the child tax credit.

“Most Americans are astonished to learn that each year billions of taxpayer dollars are given out to people who are in our country illegally,” Messer said in a news release. “This is just one example of how our broken tax and immigration systems continue to incentivize immigrants to come here illegally. It’s long past time to change it.”

The request from Messer — a member of the House GOP leadership team who is eyeing a Senate run in 2018 — comes as Trump has made tax reform and curbing illegal immigration two of his top priorities. Trump has already issued executive orders to direct federal agencies to start work on a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to strengthen immigration enforcement.

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The child tax credit benefits low- and middle-income families. Families that have a greater credit amount than tax liability can get a refund for the difference.

Under current law, taxpayers do not have to have Social Security numbers to claim the credit on their returns, though they can only claim the credit for dependents who are U.S. citizens, nationals and alien residents. A 2011 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that people who weren't authorized to work in the United States were paid $4.2 billion in refundable child tax credits during the 2010 tax-processing year.

Messer has introduced legislation that would bar taxpayers who don't have Social Security numbers from claiming the child tax credit. In a letter sent to Trump on Saturday, he asked Trump to take executive actions to prevent undocumented immigrants from getting the credits while Congress works on passing his bill.

Messer asked Trump to take steps to bar the IRS from allowing individuals without Social Security numbers that are valid for employment from claiming the credit. He also asked Trump to have the Office of Management and Budget designate the credit "as a high priority program to subject the program to greater levels of oversight and review in an attempt to reduce the volume of improper payments made by the program."

Last year, the House Ways and Means Committee approved on a party-line vote legislation to require Social Security numbers for taxpayers claiming the refundable child tax credit. Democrats opposed the measure, saying that the bill would hurt 3 million children, most of whom are citizens with undocumented parents.