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How To Get An ITIN

Some Basics About ITINs

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n individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) is a tax processing number, issued by the Internal Revenue Service, for resident and nonresident aliens, their spouses and their dependents, if they are not eligible for a Social Security number. The ITIN is a nine digit number beginning with the number 9, has a range of numbers from 50 to 65, 70 to 88, 90 to 92 and 94 to 99 for the fourth and fifth digits, and is formatted like a Social Security number (like this: 9XX-7X-XXXX). Only individuals who have a valid tax filing requirement or are filing a U.S. federal income tax return to claim a refund of over withheld tax are eligible to receive an ITIN. ITINs are used for tax purposes only, and are not intended to serve any other purpose. The ITIN does not authorize you to work in the U.S. or to receive Social Security benefits, is not valid for identification outside the tax system, and does not change your immigration status. For links to a bunch of stuff to read about ITINs, go our U.S. Tax Guide for Foreign Nationals, and look under More Information About ITINs.

Do You Need One?

If you do not have a U.S. Social Security number (SSN) and are not eligible to obtain an SSN, but you are required to file a U.S. federal income tax return, be claimed as a spouse or dependent on a U.S. tax return, or furnish a tax identification number for any other federal tax purpose, you need an ITIN. You must have a valid filing requirement and file an original valid U.S. federal income tax return with your ITIN application, unless you meet one of the exceptions listed below. Even if you meet one of the exceptions to filing a tax return, you must still have a valid tax purpose. Here are some examples of who needs an ITIN:

  • A nonresident alien individual not eligible for an SSN who is eligible to obtain the benefit of a reduced tax withholding rate under an income tax treaty.
  • A nonresident alien individual not eligible for an SSN who is filing an application for reduced withholding on the sale of U.S. real property.
  • A nonresident alien individual not eligible for an SSN who is required to file a U.S. federal income tax return or who is filing a U.S. tax return only to claim a refund.
  • A nonresident/resident alien individual not eligible for an SSN who elects to file a joint U.S. federal income tax return with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or resident.
  • A U.S. resident alien (based on the substantial presence test) who files a U.S. federal income tax return but who is not eligible for an SSN.
  • An alien individual eligible to be claimed as a dependent on a US federal income tax return but who is not eligible to obtain an SSN.*

* Note that beginning in 2018, dependency exemptions are no longer allowed. However, dependents who are eligible for the Child Tax Credit or Other Dependent Tax Credit must still have an ITIN by the due date of the tax return. Additionally, if you are claiming one of these credits on your U.S. federal tax return, you must be issued an ITIN by the due date of the return. (See our U.S. Tax Guide for Foreign Nationals under The Tax Return.)

For most of the above purposes, a completed U.S. federal income tax return must accompany Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, to apply for an ITIN, but there are a few exceptions.  For example, if you: 1) receive partnership, rental, or other passive income that is subject to third party withholding; 2) receive compensation or scholarship income and claim the benefits of a treaty exemption; 3) have a home mortgage on real property you own in the U.S. subject to third-party reporting; 4) dispose of real property you own in the U.S. and are subject to withholding by the transferee; or 5) have an IRS reporting requirement as a non-U.S. representative of a foreign country, you can file Form W-7 without a completed U.S. federal income tax return attached.

How Do You Get One?

You must properly complete Form W-7 and attach a valid U.S. federal income tax return, unless you qualify for an exception. You must also attach documentation to establish your identity and your connection to a foreign country (foreign status). A list of 13 documents that will satisfy these requirements is shown in the Instructions for Form W-7. The one standalone document that satisfies both identity and foreign status is a current U.S. passport. If you do not have a current U.S. passport, one of the other documents from the list must be provided to prove foreign status and an additional document must be provided to prove identity.

The Non-CAA Procedure

Only original documents, or "certified" copies of the documents are accepted. A certified document is one that the original issuing agency provides and certifies as an exact copy of the original document, and contains an official stamped seal from the agency. Don't try to send a "notarized" copy. A notarized document is one that the taxpayer provides to a public notary who bears witness to the signing of the official document and affixes a seal assuring that the document is legitimate. These documents will not be accepted, unless you are a U.S. citizen or resident member of the U.S. military and are submitting documentation for a dependent. The IRS promises to return original documents within 60 days through the regular mail service. However, it's always very risky to send original documents to the IRS, especially if you must rely on foreign postal systems.

You can avoid sending original or certified documents through the mail to the IRS by taking your completed tax return and original or certified documents to a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. There they will certify your documentation and forward your tax return to the IRS Service Center. Here is a list of Taxpayer Assistance Center Locations where in-person document review is provided. If you are outside the United States, this option is not plausible. Additionally, the process of obtaining certified documents through the issuing agency is often expensive, time consuming, or sometimes not available.

The CAA Procedure

As Certified Acceptance Agents (CAAs) we can verify your claim of identity and foreign status and submit Form W-7 on your behalf. We are allowed to use Form W-7 (COA) as evidence that we have reviewed and verified your original documentation, or a certified copy from the issuing agency of those documents, through face-to-face or video electronic interviews. We must have your original identification documents in our possession during the interview in order to see the security features and authenticate the documents. That means you must mail your documents to us rather than the IRS. We will return your documents immediately after the interview through your choice of a reliable private carrier. We are required to submit copies of the documents we review, along with the Form W-7(COA). For dependents, we are allowed to authenticate the passport and birth certificate.

How Do You Renew an Expired ITIN? 

The renewal process is the same as the application process, except you do not need to attach your tax return.  If you have an expired ITIN, it would be prudent to renew it before filing your tax return in 2019. Otherwise, you cannot electronically file your return. Also, you could face a delay in your refund and may be ineligible for certain tax credits, such as the Child Tax Credit. Your ITIN must be renewed by the due date for filing your return to claim this credit. The IRS emphasizes that no action is needed by ITIN holders if they don’t need to file a tax return next year.

If your ITIN has not been used on a federal tax return at least once in the last three years, it will no longer be valid for use on a tax return unless you renew it. In addition, if your ITIN was issued prior to 2013 and its middle digits are 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 81, or 82 (example: 9XX-73-XXXX) it will need to be renewed to file a tax return in 2019. The IRS has had a rolling renewal schedule since 2016. ITINs with middle digits 70, 71, 72, 78, 79 and 80 already expired in 2016 and 2017. However, these ITINs can still be renewed.

To make this renewal effort easier and reduce paperwork, the IRS offers a family option for ITIN renewal. If any individual receives a renewal letter from the IRS, they can choose to renew the ITINs of all of their family members at the same time rather than doing them separately over several years. Family members include the tax filer, the spouse and any dependents claimed on their tax return.

 

We Can Help!
CAA ITIN Application or Renewal: $100
(Excluding Postage)

Here's what we do:

  1. If you cannot visit our office in Edina, Minnesota so we can verify your identifying documents, you can send the documents to us by mail or private carrier.
  2. We will schedule a short video conference with you (or your dependents) to confirm your identity.
  3. We will then immediately return your documents through your choice of delivery. This part, you need to pay for.
  4. We will verify your documents showing proof of identity and foreign status, then properly prepare and sign Form W-7 and Form W-7 (COA). If we prepare your tax return or other qualifying document for IRS submission, we will send all documents by Priority Mail to the relevant IRS Service Center.
  5. Here's the best part - we follow up with the IRS to ensure that the ITIN is issued. Unlimited follow-ups are included in the $100 flat fee.

Just submit the contact form, giving us your circumstances for needing an ITIN, and we will take it from there.

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