Does Social Security depend on illegal workers?

The New York Times reports that federal investigators are identifying massive numbers of illegal workers by checking the Social Security numbers that the workers have reported to their employers. Apparently, the employers assume, or pretend, that the numbers are valid and pay Social Security taxes, just as they do for their legal employees. We can add this to the list of ways in which illegal immigrants pay taxes:

  • They pay sales taxes whenever they make a purchase.
  • Just like other renters, they pay real estate taxes indirectly through their landlords, who figure this tax into the rent. Of course, if any own real estate directly, then they pay the tax directly.
  • And now it is increasingly clear that large numbers contribute to the Social Security system. (This means that their employers almost certainly also take out income taxes, too, since they are treating all of their workers as if they were legal.)

This last point might be more important than it appears. Because their identification numbers are bogus, these workers will never receive Social Security benefits, even though they are contributing to the fund. How much less solvent would the Social Security fund be without illegal workers’ donations?

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