How to Obtain an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

How to obtain an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

Are you ineligible for a Social Security Number but need to fulfill tax obligations or engage in financial transactions? Then you may obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to complete these tax-related tasks.

This unique identifier is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to non-resident aliens, undocumented immigrants, and others who may not be eligible for an SSN.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explain how to obtain an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), demystifying the process and providing a step-by-step roadmap for individuals seeking this essential tax identification number.

Understanding the Need for an ITIN

The primary purpose of an ITIN is to facilitate tax compliance for individuals who may not qualify for an SSN. It allows them to fulfill tax obligations, report income, and comply with tax laws.

Additionally, an ITIN is often required for various financial transactions, such as opening a bank account, applying for a mortgage, or securing a loan.

Several categories of individuals may need an ITIN. These include:

Non-resident Aliens: Individuals who aren’t eligible for an SSN and are not residents for tax purposes in the United States.

Spouses and Dependents: Non-resident alien spouses and dependents of U.S. citizens or resident aliens often need an ITIN to be included on joint tax returns.

Foreign Investors and Business Owners: Non-resident aliens engaging in business activities, investing, or earning income in the United States may require an ITIN.

Students and Scholars: Non-resident alien students and scholars who receive scholarships, grants, or stipends may need an ITIN to fulfill tax obligations.

ITIN Application Process

Obtaining an ITIN involves a systematic application process. You might feel overwhelmed at first when thinking about all you have to do, but we have broken it down here into a step-by-step guide. This will help you navigate through the procedure more easily. 

Step 1: Determine Your Eligibility

Before applying for an ITIN, ensure that you are eligible. Individuals who are eligible for an SSN should not apply for an ITIN. Eligibility criteria include:

  • You are a non-resident alien who is required to file a U.S. tax return
  • You are a U.S. resident alien filing a return and not eligible for an SSN
  • You are a dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen or resident alien

Step 2: Complete the W-7 Form

The IRS Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, is the official document required to apply for an ITIN. You can obtain this form on the IRS website or by contacting the IRS directly. The form is available in English and Spanish.

Step 3: Gather Necessary Documentation

Accompanying your W-7 form, you must submit original identification documents or certified copies. These documents should verify both your identity and foreign status. Acceptable documents include:

  • Passport (the most preferred and primary identification document)
  • National identification card
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) photo identification
  • Foreign voter registration card
  • Civil birth certificate

Ensure that the documents are current, unexpired, and support your identity and foreign status.

Step 4: Prepare Your Federal Tax Return

If you are applying for an ITIN to file a tax return, ensure that you complete the tax return form that corresponds to your filing status (e.g., Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ). Attach the completed tax return to your W-7 form.

Step 5: Choose a Certified Acceptance Agent (CAA) or Mail Your Application

When you complete your application, it’s time for you to mail it in. You can mail your completed W-7 form, along with the required documentation and federal tax return (if applicable), to the IRS address provided in the instructions. 

You can also choose the CAA option. 

Certified Acceptance Agent (CAA)

CAAs are individuals or entities (including some financial institutions) authorized by the IRS to assist applicants in obtaining ITINs. They can help verify your identification documents and assist with the application process.

Here’s how a Certified Acceptance Agent helps in the ITIN application process:

Document Verification

One of the key functions of a Certified Acceptance Agent is to verify the authenticity of the supporting documentation required for the ITIN application.

The agent reviews the applicant’s identification documents, such as a passport or other acceptable forms of identification. They ensure that the documents are valid, unexpired, and support the applicant’s identity and foreign status.

Assistance With Form W-7

The ITIN application is submitted using Form W-7, and completing this form correctly is crucial for a successful application. A CAA assists the applicant in accurately filling out the form, ensuring that all required fields are completed and that the information provided is consistent with the supporting documentation.

ITIN Application Submission

Once the CAA has verified the documentation and assisted with the completion of Form W-7, they submit the application on behalf of the applicant. This can streamline the process and increase the likelihood of a successful application, as the CAA is familiar with the IRS requirements and procedures.

Expedited Processing

While CAAs do not have the authority to expedite the processing of ITIN applications, their involvement may contribute to a smoother and faster process.

By ensuring that all documentation is in order and the application is correctly filled out, CAAs help reduce the likelihood of delays or rejections. This potentially expedites the overall processing time.

Additional Assistance for Special Cases

CAAs are particularly helpful in cases where individuals may face unique challenges, such as language barriers or difficulties in navigating the application process. They can provide additional assistance and support, making it more accessible for individuals who may find the process complex or overwhelming.

Maintaining Professional Standards

Certified Acceptance Agents are required to adhere to professional standards and ethics outlined by the IRS. This ensures that applicants receive accurate information, guidance, and assistance in a manner that upholds the integrity of the ITIN application process.

It’s important to note that while CAAs can assist with the application process, they do not have the authority to make the final determination on ITIN applications.

The IRS retains the authority to approve or deny ITINs based on the information provided and its verification. 

Step 6: Wait for Processing

Once your application is submitted, it undergoes processing by the IRS. The time it takes to receive your ITIN may vary, but the IRS typically aims to process applications within 7 weeks. If you are filing your tax return and need to attach the W-7 form, make sure to file it well in advance to avoid any delays.

Step 7: Receive Your ITIN

Upon successful processing of your application, the IRS will issue your ITIN and mail it to the address provided on your W-7 form. Keep this number secure, as it will be your unique identifier for tax-related purposes.

Additional Tips and Considerations

Apply for an ITIN in a calm fashion and don’t try to do it all at once. The calmer you can be through the process, the more patience you can muster, the better off you will be. 

Here are some additional tips that will ensure success in obtaining an ITIN. 

1. Renewing an ITIN

ITINs that have not been used on a federal tax return at least once in the last three consecutive years will expire. If your ITIN has expired, you’ll need to renew it using Form W-7.

Again, you can do this renewal yourself, or you can hire a CCA to help you with it. 

2. Keep Your Information Updated

It’s essential to keep your contact information up to date with the IRS. If your address changes after you’ve submitted your W-7 form, inform the IRS promptly to ensure you receive your ITIN and any related correspondence.

3. Consider Professional Assistance

If the application process seems complex or if you have specific concerns, consider seeking professional assistance. Many things could potentially go wrong with the application, especially if it’s your first time or you aren’t sure how to fill out lengthy application forms. 

Certified Acceptance Agents, tax professionals, or legal advisors with expertise in immigration and tax matters can provide valuable guidance.

4. Maintain Privacy

Be cautious when sharing personal information. Only share documents and information directly with authorized individuals or entities. The IRS is the only authorized institution to issue ITINs.

If you receive an email that says it’s from the IRS asking you for confidential information, be wary of sharing it. Always check twice before sharing financial information with strangers on the net. Better to be extra cautious in this regard. 

5. Keep Copies of Documents

Maintain copies of all the documents submitted with your W-7 form. Just like you need to keep all your tax documents for at least 3 years after filing your tax return, a similar stance applies to the ITIN as well. 

Having a record of your application and supporting documentation is essential for future reference. 

How to Obtain an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

We have tried to be as detailed as possible with this step-by-step guide on how to obtain an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). Hopefully, you can follow it, successfully obtaining a tax ID number. 

International Tax Consultants (ITC) are here to help you with all your international tax planning needs. We’re prepared to represent your best interests. 

The IRS never forgets or goes away, but the ITC is here to ensure you get past this tax hurdle as well. Contact our team to set up an appointment today. 

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