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Tax and immigration law have a shared interest in defining community. In order to implement a tax, we must know who belongs to the taxable community. At the same time, immigration law must define and administer the requirements for membership in the national community. Despite the differing objectives of tax and immigration law—raising revenue and deciding who may enter, remain, and become a citizen in the United States, respectively—both of these regimes uses a concept of citizenship to define their respective communities. Starting from this common thread of the relevance of citizenship to both immigration and tax law, this Article draws upon social theory on citizenship to explore the many links between these seemingly disparate areas of law. Examination of these connections—what this Article calls the tax-immigration nexus—reveals that both areas of law draw upon the other to define citizenship. The interplay of tax and immigration citizenship yields important insights for tax law and policy. One of these insights is that the use of tax compliance as a factor in immigration status, for example, revoking green card status for certain violations of the tax code, is inconsistent with widely-held objections to the taxation of U.S. citizens living abroad. Both green card holders and U.S. citizens living abroad represent examples of people who blur the line between citizen and noncitizen and their similarities and dissimilarities compel re-evaluation of the current tax regime. This Article argues that there are good reasons to treat potential taxpayers who occupy this blurred space in a consistent manner. Along that line, this Article posits possible reforms to the taxation of lawful permanent residents that would help resolve the inequities within the tax-immigration nexus, as well as avenues for further research.


Originally published in the Denver Law Review Volume 94, Issue 2 2017