What Is an ITIN and Do I Need One?

What Is an ITIN and Do
I Need One?

ITIN is an Internal Revenue Service acronym for a U.S. Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. It is a unique number assigned to individuals who are required to file income tax in the United States but who do not have and/or are not eligible to have a Social Security Number (SSN).

Generally speaking, all legal U.S. residents are required to have a Social Security Number, which is issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSNs are used, among other things, to identify U.S. taxpayers and their tax returns.

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U.S. Tax ID number for non-residents

U.S. Tax ID number for non-residents

However, since non-resident (and some resident) aliens may not legally obtain an SSN and because U.S. law requires a tax identification for all federal tax returns, the IRS issues ITINs for all others who are required to pay taxes.

Also, spouses and dependents of ITIN holders must apply for their own, individual numbers.

Unlike an SSN, an ITIN is not an authorization to work in the United States, nor may the number be used for personal identification. Neither does an ITIN provide Social Security benefits or Earned Income Tax Credits. It is an assigned number only for processing federal taxes – nothing more.

For these reasons, the IRS does not issue a card with an ITIN number as the SSA does with a Social Security Number.

Individual taxpayers must have either an SSN or an ITIN but may not have both.

ITIN application

ITINs are obtained directly from the IRS on a simple, one-page Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The instructions at the beginning of the W-7 remind applicants not to request an ITIN if they already have an SSN and that “Getting an ITIN doesn’t change your immigration status or your right to work in the United States.”

Applicants are required to identify themselves on the W-7 as one of the following.

  • a Nonresident alien required to get an ITIN to claim a tax treaty benefit;
  • a Nonresident alien filing a U.S. federal tax return;
  • a U.S. resident alien (based on days present in the United States) filing a U.S. federal tax return;
  • a Dependent of U.S. citizen/resident alien;
  • the Spouse of U.S. citizen/resident alien;
  • a Nonresident alien student, professor, or researcher filing a U.S. federal tax return or claiming an exception;
  • a Dependent/spouse of a nonresident alien holding a U.S. visa.

You DON'T need an ITIN if:
  • you do NOT need an ITIN if you have an SSN;
  • are not required to file a U.S. Federal tax return;
  • will not be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s Federal tax return.

Note: Any ITIN not used at least once in three years will automatically expire. A new ITIN may be obtained by filing a new W-7 with the IRS.

attorneys at ACS Inc., and our entire staff at ACS Inc., are prepared to answer your questions about ITINs and assure that you have all the information necessary to secure one if you need one.

Disclaimer: The article contains general information and does not include legal advice on a particular case.