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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT ITINs
What is an ITIN? An ITIN is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. It is a nine-digit tax processing number that is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who are not eligible to obtain an SSN. If you do not qualify for a Social Security Number (SSN), you may be eligible for an ITIN. By law, an alien individual cannot have both an ITIN and an SSN.
Can an ITIN be used as a valid form of ID? An ITIN is intended to be used for federal tax purposes only and is not intended to serve any other purpose because the IRS does not apply the same standards in validating the authenticity of identity documents as governmental agencies that provide genuine identity certification. ITIN applicants are not required to apply in person. For these reasons, ITINs are not considered valid identification for anything outside the tax system, and ITINs should not be offered or accepted as identification for non-tax purposes.
The IRS issues ITINs regardless of immigration status because both resident and nonresident aliens may have responsibilities to file U.S. tax returns and payment liabilities under the Internal Revenue Code. To receive an ITIN, Individuals must have a filing requirement and file a valid federal income tax return, unless an exception applies.
Why apply for an ITIN? ITINs are issued to help individuals comply with the U.S. tax laws, and to provide a way for the IRS to efficiently process and account for tax returns and payments for individuals not eligible for SSNs. ITINs are issued to foreign nationals and others who have federal tax reporting or filing requirements and do not qualify for SSNs. The IRS processes returns showing SSNs or ITINs in the blanks where tax forms request SSNs. The IRS will no longer accept or process forms indicating that an SSN has been applied for or if the space is left blank.
If you are required to furnish a federal tax identification number or file a federal income tax return, but you do not have an SSN and are not eligible to obtain an SSN, you must apply for an ITIN. Do not file a Form 2-7 if you have an application for an SSN pending. Complete Form W-7 only if you have been notified that an SSN cannot be issued.
How do you get an ITIN? You must apply by filing a revised Form W-7 (Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) and attach a federal income tax return to the Form W-7. Include your original or certified proof of identity documents. Applicants who meet an exception to the requirement to file a tax return (according to the instructions for Form W-7) must provide documentation to support the exception. Do not mail the tax return to the address listed in the Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ instructions. Instead, send the tax return, Form W-7 and proof of identity documents to:
The Austin ITIN Unit issues all numbers by mail. The process usually takes about 4-6 weeks. Alternatively, you can visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center for in-person help with ITIN applications on a walk-in or appointment basis in the US.
What documents are acceptable to prove an applicant’s identity and foreign status? The ITIN applicant must provide acceptable proof of your foreign status and identification. There are 13 acceptable documents that may be used. An original, or a certified or notarized copy, of an unexpired passport is the only document that is considered a “stand-alone” document because it proves both foreign status and identity.
What documents are acceptable to prove identity and foreign status when applying for an ITIN? The IRS will accept certified or notarized copies of two or more of the following documents if you do not have a passport:
Unacceptable documents include: National health cards from Canada, Smile Safe Kids cards, Identi-Kids or US Aid cards. None of these are considered acceptable documentation to apply for an ITIN.
When should you apply for an ITIN? You can apply for an ITIN any time during the year. During tax season, you should complete Form W-7 as soon as you are ready to file your federal income tax return, since you will need to attach your tax return to the application. If the tax return you attach to Form W-7 is filed after the tax return’s due date, you may owe interest and/or penalties. Therefore, if you want to avoid interest and/or penalties, you should file your current year tax return on or before the April 15 deadline.