Improving the U.S. Guest Worker System Through Tax and Social Welfare Reform
Posted: 22 Sep 2018
Date Written: 2014
This paper examines the shortcomings of present tax and social welfare treatment of unskilled temporary workers in the United States. Uncovering systematic overtaxation and undersupport for migrant workers' financial stability, the paper then explores the effect of these policies on immigration outcomes. Informed by empirical research on migration decision-making, this paper argues that current tax and social welfare policies create disincentives for return migration by exacerbating financial insecurity, a main driver of migration in the first place. Further, systematic exclusion from tax benefits and social welfare protection violates migrant workers' internationally recognized right to equal treatment under the law. I present evidence that supporting migrant workers' financial stability, in part by promoting remitting to and saving in home countries, would improve incentives for return migration while simultaneously protecting migrants' rights and dignity. Although a guest worker policy regime that incentivizes return migration while simultaneously respecting migrants' rights has proven elusive, policymakers need not prioritize one goal at the expense of the other. I propose policies that correct the flaws of the current system through targeted tax incentives and provision of social welfare benefits in home countries.
Keywords: Remittances, Tax, Tax Policy, Migration, Guest Worker
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