Immigrant's Spouse Holds Out In IRS Stimulus Check Row 1 Immigrant's Spouse Holds Out In IRS Stimulus Check Row

By Jennifer Doherty

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Law360 (June 3, 2021, 5:09 PM EDT) —
The last plaintiff standing in a proposed class of married couples of mixed immigration status who lost out on COVID-19 stimulus payments shot back at the Internal Revenue Service‘s call to dump her suit, reiterating her constitutional claims after the rest of her party dropped out.

Ohio resident Juana Rueda has declined to join more than a dozen other U.S. citizens and their immigrant spouses who voluntarily dropped their claims against the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS in April citing amendments to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act.

On Wednesday, Rueda pushed back against the IRS’ renewed call to toss her case, saying that her complaint centers on the “separate and unequal” frameworks that the IRS applied to determine which couples qualified for advance tax refunds before the first round of stimulus checks went out last year.

“Defendants mischaracterize plaintiff Rueda’s lawsuit as seeking to restrain the assessment and collection of income taxes,” she told a Maryland federal court.

Rueda restated her argument, previously affirmed by the court in August, that the suit does not challenge her family’s tax bill, which would be barred under the Anti-Injunction Act and Declaratory Judgment Act, as the IRS asserted last month.

“The original CARES Act denied a tax credit to plaintiff Rueda and similarly situated individuals based on requirements this court found plaintiff Rueda plausibly alleged violated the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees, the fundamental right of marriage, and the freedom to intimate association,” she said.

Because Rueda’s husband uses an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number — an identifier used by foreign nationals who lack U.S. work authorization or, in some cases, lawful immigration status — they were ineligible for the advance refund under Section 6428 of the tax code.

In its most recent motion to dismiss, the IRS disputed Rueda’s claim that Section 6428 discriminates against individuals like her based on their choice of partner, arguing that the regulation held up under rational basis review and did not interfere with her decision to get married or burden the couple after they wed.

For the other couples in the class, the CARES Act amendments that former President Donald Trump signed into law in December resolved their discrimination claims, according to their motion for voluntary dismissal earlier this year. The amended act no longer requires both spouses to have provided valid social security numbers on joint tax filings to receive stimulus funds.

However, those changes were not enough to rectify the financial injury that the original CARES Act caused her family, according to Rueda.

Last year, but for her husband’s immigration status, Rueda’s family would have qualified for $2,400, plus an additional $500 for each of their three children, based on their 2019 tax returns. Since then, one of her children has turned 17, making him too old to qualify for the $500 benefit as assessed based on their 2020 return.

“Although the CARES Act amendments extended eligibility for tax credits to plaintiff Rueda, her fundamental right of marriage is infringed upon because her marriage continues to be treated differently than other marriages,” she told the court. Specifically, “she is unable to receive the same tax credit for her son that other parents received.”

Counsel for Rueda and the government did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Rueda is represented by Robert P. Newman of the Law Office of Robert P. Newman PC, and Thomas A. Saenz, Belinda Escobosa Helzer, Andres Holguin-Flores, Nina Perales, Fátima Menéndez, Samantha Serna and Andrea Senteno of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The government is represented by Christopher James Williamson, Jordan A Konig and Nishant Kumar of the U.S. Department of Justice‘s Tax Division.

The case is Juana Rueda et al. v. Janet Yellen et al., case number 1:20-cv-01102, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

–Editing by Steven Edelstone.

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