An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who are not eligible to obtain a Social Security number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration. This includes non-United States citizens and individuals who have not been admitted by the United States for permanent residence or received authorization for employment.
The IRS issues ITINs to help individuals comply with the U.S. tax laws and to provide a means to efficiently process and account for tax returns and payments. ITINs are issued to both resident and nonresident aliens, regardless of immigration status.
ITINs do not serve any purpose other than federal tax reporting. An ITIN does not indicate entitlement to social security benefits. It also does not change immigration status or provide the right to work in the United States.
Why Get an ITIN?
Various situations exist where someone is not eligible to obtain a Social Security number but nevertheless is required to furnish a federal tax identification number or file a federal tax return. It is these situations which triggers the need for an ITIN.
Here are examples of situations where an ITIN is needed:
- A nonresident alien individual claiming reduced withholding under an applicable income tax treaty.
- A nonresident alien individual not eligible for an SSN who is required to file a U.S. federal tax return, or who is filing a U.S. federal tax return only to claim a refund.
- A nonresident alien individual not eligible for an SSN who elects to file a joint U.S. federal tax return with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or resident alien.
- A U.S. resident alien who files a U.S. federal tax return but who isn’t eligible for an SSN.
How to Get an ITIN
The applicant completes and mails Form W-7 to the IRS in order to apply for an ITIN.
Documentation must be mailed to the IRS along with Form W-7 to establish identity and foreign status. This includes an original or certified copy of a passport or a combination of other specified documents. To qualify as a certified copy, the document must be from the original agency that issued the document and contains an official stamped seal from the agency. Notarized copies will not be accepted. All documents mailed to the IRS with Form W-7 must be current (meaning, not expired).
Unless certain exceptions apply, a completed US federal income tax return must also be mailed to the IRS with Form W-7.
The Best Way to Get an ITIN
Once Form W-7 is submitted to the government, including all supporting documentation and a tax return, the IRS will return the original documents to the applicant within 60 days. However, being without a passport or other valuable documents is often a major concern to applicants for an ITIN. In such cases, there are solutions.
In Person. If an ITIN applicant does not want to mail their passport and other documents to the IRS and wait 60 days for their return, then the applicant may go to a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers. These centers are located in major cities throughout the United States, including Atlanta and Chicago. The staff at the center will verify passports and other documents and return them to the applicant immediately. Service at the centers is by appointment only. The in person procedure is not available to applicants who do not live near a center or who are not in the United States.
Certifying Acceptance Agent. A Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA) is able to verify passports and other documents and prepare and submit Form W-7 on behalf of the ITIN applicant. Certified Acceptance Agents can be found in cities around the world.
Our firm, Massey and Company CPA, provides a unique ITIN Application Service. Because we are a tax CPA firm with a Certifying Acceptance Agent on staff, we are able to do the following for our clients in countries around the world:
- Prepare the ITIN application
- Review passports and other certified documents for authenticity
- Return the documents immediately to the applicant
- Prepare the US tax return to submit with the ITIN application
- Submit the ITIN application to the IRS
In our experience, this is the most efficient and cost effective solution for most ITIN applicants. And it avoids the problem of mailing valuable documents to the government and having them out of the applicant’s possession for months at a time.
Timing. The IRS responds to ITIN applications in about 7 weeks. Processing time increases to 9-11 weeks for applications submitted during peak processing periods (January 15 through April 30) or for those filing from overseas.
Massey and Company CPA is a boutique accounting firm located in Atlanta providing tax and accounting services to small businesses and individuals throughout the United States and around the world.
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