US Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

When a taxpayer who files a return, a statement or other document with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States of America or is subject to US withholding requirements by a third party must include a taxpayer identification number (TIN) for securing proper identification. A TIN can be either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). An ITIN is issued to individuals who have US tax reporting or filing requirements and are ineligible to obtain an SSN. An ITIN is arranged the same as a SSN, begins with a 9, is issued by the Internal Revenue Service and is used for tax processing.

ITINs are used by the IRS for processing your tax returns and payments. The number does not qualify you to work in the U.S. or provide eligibility for Social Security benefits; it is only for federal tax reporting purposes.

ITINs expire after five years. Individuals who still need ITINs would have to reapply at the end of each five-year period.


1. Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service. It is a nine-digit number that always begins with the number 9 and has a 7 or 8 in the fourth digit, example 9XX-7X-XXXX.

The IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, a Social Security Number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

ITINs are issued regardless of immigration status because both resident and nonresident aliens may have U.S. tax return and payment responsibilities under the Internal Revenue Code.

Individuals must have a filing requirement and file a valid federal income tax return to receive an ITIN, unless they meet an exception.

2. Uses of an ITIN

ITINs are for federal tax reporting only and are not intended to serve any other purpose. An ITIN does not authorize work in the U.S. or provide eligibility for Social Security benefits or the Earned Income Tax Credit. ITINs are not valid identification outside the tax system.

The IRS issues ITINs to help individuals comply with U.S. tax laws and to provide a means to efficiently process and account for tax returns and payments for those not eligible for Social Security Numbers.


3. Person who needs an ITIN

The IRS issues ITINs to foreign nationals and others who have federal tax reporting or filing requirements and do not qualify for SSNs. A non-resident alien not eligible for an SSN, who is required to file a U.S. tax return only to claim a refund of tax under the provisions of a U.S. tax treaty, needs an ITIN.

Examples of individuals who need ITINs include:

  1. Non-resident aliens filing a U.S. tax return and not eligible for an SSN.
  2. U.S. resident aliens (based on days present in the United States) filing a U.S. tax return and not eligible for an SSN.
  3. Dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen/resident alien.
  4. Dependent or spouse of a non-resident alien.
  5. Visa holder.


4. Return Filing Notes

You should complete Form W-7 which is the official IRS form required to be submitted in order to get issued an ITIN as soon as you are ready to file your federal income tax return, since you need to attach the return to your application.

If you meet one of the exceptions and do not need to file a return, submit Form W-7, along with the documents required to meet your purpose for needing an ITIN, as soon as possible after you determine that you are covered by that exception.

You can apply for an ITIN any time during the year; however, if the tax return you attach to Form W-7 is filed after the return’s due date, you may owe interest and/or penalties. You should file your current year return by the April 15 deadline to avoid this.


5. Documents required for apply for ITIN

Individuals apply for an ITIN by submitting Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The application must include documentary evidence to establish proof of identity and proof of foreign status (passport, birth certificate, work permit, etc.). The documentation must be original; copies are not accepted.

As an alternative to mailing to the IRS original documents, foreign nationals may request ITINs through an IRS certified acceptance agent (CAA). CAAs verify and certify the authenticity of an individual’s status and identity. In this case, only the completed W-7 form and a certification statement are forwarded to the IRS.


6. ITIN Application Timeframe

If you qualify for an ITIN, starting for the date of submission of application to IRS, it normally takes at least 6 weeks for IRS to review your application. Once your application been approved, IRS will send the approval notification to applicant.