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How to Get an ITIN in the U.S.

In the United States, taxpayers are identified by unique numbers. For most individuals who are compensated on a wage or salary basis, the numbers assigned to them by the Social Security Administration are sufficient for taxation purposes.

Not everyone who works or earns money in the United States qualifies for a Social Security number; however, just about everyone who earns income is expected to report earnings to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or a state taxation agency. Dealing with the IRS and other tax collection agencies requires an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

A Social Security number (SSN) is considered an acceptable ITIN by the IRS. Certain taxpayers have valid reasons for getting an ITIN, specifically immigrants who do not qualify for an SSN. Immigrants authorized to work or do business in the U.S. are required to report their income and file a tax return even if they are not registered with the Social Security Administration, and they can obtain an ITIN for this purpose.

The most recent amendments in the ITIN request process were implemented by the IRS in early 2013. The steps are as follows:

– Obtain a form W7 from the IRS. This form is available online or from authorized representatives known as acceptance agents.

– Include a valid federal income tax return along with one or more documents that can be used as proof of identification. These documents can be copies certified by foreign embassies or consulates, and it is generally to include more than one.

– If no federal tax return form is available at the time the ITIN is being requested, certain exemptions may apply.

– It is important to remember that the W7, proof of identification and federal tax return should all be mailed to the IRS Service Center in Austin, care of ITIN Operations. The address is P.O. Box 149342, Austin, TX 78714-9342.

-The IRS takes between six to eight weeks to mail a letter with the ITIN. In the past, the IRS issued a green and white wallet-sized card with the ITIN; that is no longer the case.

Modern ITINs expire five years after they are issued. This does not apply to the ITINs issued prior to January 1st, 2013. Tax returns that are mailed along with the W7 form and the identification documents will be processed by the IRS. In some cases, refunds may become available even before the ITIN.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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