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How To Obtain An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

What is ITIN?

An ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, is a tax processing number that became available on July 1, 1996, for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouse, and dependents. The ITIN is only available to individuals who cannot get a Social Security Number (SSN). It is a 9-digit number, beginning with the number "9", formatted like a Social Security Number (NNN-NN-NNNN). The temporary IRS Number previously assigned is no longer valid.

What is the Purpose of an ITIN?

ITINs are only used for Federal Income Tax purposes. The issuance of an ITIN does not:

  • entitle the recipient to Social Security benefits or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC);
  • create an inference regarding the individual's immigration status; or
  • give the individual the right to work in the U.S.

When completing the tax return (1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040NR EZ), the individual will enter their ITIN in the space for the SSN.

How do I Know if I Need an ITIN?

If you must file a U.S. tax return or you are listed on a tax return as a spouse or a dependent and you do not have, and cannot obtain, a valid Social Security Number, you must apply for an ITIN. The IRS no longer accepts "SSA205c", "applied for", "NRA", blanks, or previously issued IRS temporary numbers. Include your ITIN on the return to ensure prompt processing and receipt of any refund. New Internal Revenue Regulations require including a valid Tax Identification Number (TIN) on all U.S. Federal Income Tax Returns. Each person listed on the return must have a valid TIN (either an SSN or an ITIN). If a return requesting a refund is filed without an SSN or ITIN for the primary filer and spouse, the refund will be delayed until they obtain the Identification number. If a dependent SSN/ITIN is missing, the exemptions will be denied and refunds will be adjusted accordingly. If you were previously issued a temporary IRS Number, you must now apply for an ITIN.

How do I Apply for an ITIN?

To obtain an ITIN, you must complete IRS Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. You may complete and sign a Form W-7 for a minor dependent. However, other dependents and spouses must complete and sign their own Forms W-7. The Form W-7 requires documentation substantiating foreign/alien status and true identity for each individual. If you, your spouse and/or dependents need ITINs, you may submit separate Forms W-7 and documentation at the same time. You may either mail the documentation, along with the Form W-7, to the Philadelphia Service Center, present it at IRS walk-in offices, or process your application through an Acceptance Agent authorized by the IRS.

Are ITINs Valid for Work Purposes?

No. ITINs are only used for Federal Income Tax purposes. Alien individuals who are legally admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence or other categories which authorize U.S. employment are eligible for Social Security Numbers (SSNs). Individuals who are eligible for SSNs are ineligible for ITINS.

What are Acceptance Agents?

Acceptance Agents are entities (colleges, financial institutions, accounting firms, etc.) who are authorized by the IRS to assist applicants in obtaining ITINs. They review the applicants documentation and forward the completed Form W-7 to IRS for processing.

For more information on ITINs check out Publication 1915, Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.


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