An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the sole purpose of filing tax returns (and it is not related to the United States Custom Immigration Service or the Social Security Administration). An ITIN does not provide the right to work or live in the United States.
An ITIN is a nine-digit number beginning with the number “9”, has a range of numbers from “70” to “88” for the fourth and fifth digits. (i.e. 9XX-7X-XXXX)
Who needs an ITIN?
Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers were created for foreign investors and visitors who owe taxes but are not eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN). ITINs have recently been the subject of much scrutiny as a large number of undocumented aliens were able to obtain Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers. ITINs enable undocumented immigrants to legally file taxes in the United States, even if they lack the appropriate immigration status. ITINs are issued to persons that are unable to obtain a valid United States Social Security number. If a person is eligible to obtain a social security number, the IRS will not issue an ITIN unless it can be documented that the Social Security Administration denied a request for a social security number. Individuals needing an ITIN include:
- A nonresident alien individual eligible to obtain the benefits of a reduced rate of withholding under an income tax treaty
- A nonresident alien is required to file a U.S. tax return or filing a U.S. tax return only to claim a refund
- A nonresident alien electing to file a joint tax return with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or resident alien
- An alien individual claimed as a spouse for an exemption on a U.S. tax return
- An alien individual claimed as a dependent on another person’s U.S. tax return (must prove that the dependent is a resident in the United States, Mexico or Canada)
- A nonresident alien student, professor, or researcher filing a U.S. tax return or claiming an exception to the tax return filing requirement, or
- A party to a foreign person’s disposition of U.S. real property interest.
Obtaining an ITIN
You must file Form W-7, Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, to apply for an ITIN, and show that you have a federal tax purpose for seeking the ITIN. Along with the completed Form W-7, you will submit identity documents, and either a federal tax return, or other documentation to show the federal tax purpose for which you need the ITIN.
ITIN v. SSN
If an ITIN holder later becomes eligible for and receives a valid social security number (SSN), he or she must notify the IRS ITIN unit in writing of the valid social security number. The social security number will become the primary number for IRS purposes and must be used for all future filing purposes. The IRS will void out the ITIN and all prior tax information under the ITIN will be associated with the new social security number.