An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is issued by the IRS to immigrants and nonresident aliens who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible for, a Social Security number (SSN). For example, immigrants in the U.S. who have applied for legal status to work or reside in the U.S. would need an ITIN to file a tax return while waiting for a decision. The ITIN is used in place of an SSN on a tax return to identify a taxpayer, a spouse, or dependent without an SSN who is listed on the tax return. The U.S. considers filing tax returns an indication that an immigrant applying for legal status is seeking to comply with his or her tax responsibilities.
To file a tax return, taxpayers enter their ITIN in the space for the SSN on the tax return. An ITIN can also be used to claim the Child Tax Credit (CTC). To claim the CTC, a taxpayer and qualifying child must have either an SSN or an ITIN and will enter it on Schedule 8812 “Additional Child Tax Credit.” A qualifying child for the CTC must be either a U.S. citizen or a resident alien living in the U.S. (While children with ITINs living in Mexico or Canada can be claimed as a dependent, they cannot be claimed for the CTC.)
An ITIN does not:
- Enable receipt of Social Security benefits
- Allow taxpayers to claim the EITC or permit a child with an ITIN to be claimed for the EITC. A valid SSN and authorization to legally work in the U.S. are required for the EITC.
- Change the individual’s immigration status
- Mean that the individual is an undocumented worker
- Give the individual the right to work in the U.S. Any individual who is eligible to be legally employed in the U.S. must have an SSN. A worker with an ITIN should not provide it to an employer in place of an SSN, since this would indicate to the employer and to the Social Security Administration that the worker is not authorized to work.
APPLYING FOR AN ITIN
Anyone who wants to file a tax return but cannot obtain a valid SSN must complete IRS Form W-7, “Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.” Form W-7 must be submitted to the IRS with a completed tax return and documents verifying identity and foreign status. The instructions for Form W-7 describe which documents are acceptable. Parents or guardians may complete and sign a Form W-7 for a dependent under age 18 if the dependent is unable to do so, and must check the parent or guardian’s box in the signature area of the application. Other dependents and spouses must complete and sign their own Forms W-7.
There are three ways tax filers can complete the ITIN application:
- Taxpayer Assistance Centers. Select IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers have staff who can help individuals prepare W-7 forms, determine which documents are acceptable, and verify the validity of identification documents.
- Acceptance Agents. An Acceptance Agent authorized by the IRS may examine identification documents, certify that they are valid, and send the application to the IRS. (For dependents applying for an ITIN, the Agent must send to the IRS the original documents or copies certified by the original issuing agency.)
- Self-preparation. Individuals may apply directly to the IRS. Form W-7’s must include original documentation or copies of these documents certified by the issuing agency. Photocopies and notarized copies of documentation are not accepted. All documents must be mailed with the tax return to the IRS Service Center in Austin, Texas (the address is in the Instructions for Form W-7 and is different from the address to mail tax returns only for processing). This office can be reached at (800) 829-1040.
Note: There is risk of delay in the IRS returning the supplied documentation, or it being lost, so applying through an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center or with the help of a Certified Agent is recommended.
Upon approving the application for the ITIN, the IRS will process the tax return and send a letter to the taxpayer, or the Certified Agent, containing the ITIN number(s) for use on subsequent tax returns.
Acceptance Agents are authorized by the IRS to assist applicants in completing applications for ITINs. Some Acceptance Agents do not prepare tax returns. In that case, the completed Form W-7 certified by the Agent may be taken to a VITA site or commercial tax preparer and submitted with the tax return. Acceptance Agents may be found at colleges, financial institutions, accounting firms, nonprofit agencies and some Low Income Taxpayer Clinics. Commercial tax preparers who are Acceptance Agents often charge a fee that can range from $35 to $150 for completing the Form W-7. There is no fee for applying directly with the IRS.
Visit Acceptance Agent Program on the IRS website for a list of Acceptance Agents by state that is updated quarterly. Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) may also be able to help identify local Acceptance Agents.
To become an Acceptance Agent, an organization must:
- Complete an Acceptance Agent training
- Submit the Application IRS Form 13551, IRS Application to Participate in the IRS Acceptance Agent Program (this applies to both new and renewing applicants)
- Attach the certification form for each authorized representative
- Complete forensic training and submit certificate of completion
For more information on becoming an Acceptance Agent, see Domestic and/or International Tax Professional – How to Become an Acceptance Agent for IRS ITIN Numbers.
For questions, contact:
ITIN Policy Section
Telephone: (404) 338-8963
Fax: (404) 338-8793