What Tax Documents Are Best to Submit With Form I-864, and Where Do I Get Them?

How many years' federal tax info to supply along with a Form I-864, and how to get IRS tax transcripts.

If you are sponsoring family members for green cards in the U.S., you will most likely have to prepare an Affidavit of Support on their behalf, using USCIS Form I-864. In reading the instructions, you might notice you have several options for providing the necessary federal tax information: such as submitting one, two, or three years' returns, and submitting them either in the form of a copy of what you sent the IRS or requesting an IRS tax transcript. What's best? Does it matter? That's what this article will address.

How Many Years' Proof of Tax Filing to Give U.S. Immigration Authorities

Although the U.S. petitioner of an immigrant does have options in the case of supplying financial documentation with the USCIS Form I-864 that must be filled out, some options might be more convincing than others.

USCIS gives U.S. sponsors the choice of submitting only one year's tax information or submitting up to three years' worth. You'll want to make a strategic decision here, based on your income history over the last three years.

If, for example, you've been promoted at your job for the last three years, so that your current year's income is higher than the previous two years', there's no reason to submit anything more than the most recent year's tax returns.

If, by contrast, you had a difficult year last year; perhaps were out of work due to an illness or furlough; but the previous two years' tax returns show a more "normal" (and higher) income stream for you, it would be wise to submit those as well.

In What Format You Should Supply Proof of Tax Filing to U.S. Immigration Authorities

As to the form for submitting the required information with Form I-864, copies of your own tax returns are acceptable, but U.S. immigration officials know that it wouldn't take much for someone to forge these. Therefore, they prefer to receive tax transcripts, which are generated by the IRS and show detailed information of your federal tax filings.

And there's a practical reason to prefer submitting tax transcripts: they show all the information in one place. If you choose to instead file copies of your returns, you'll additionally need to include copies of your W-2s (from your employer), any 1099s, and any other schedules you filed.

The IRS offers a free online portal at which you can download and print your tax transcript immediately. Go to its Get Transcript page.

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