The IRS announced updated procedures to strengthen the individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) program requirements. According to IR2012-98 and FS2012-11, the new modifications and documentation standards further protect the integrity of the ITIN application and refund processes while helping minimize the burden for applicants.
In May 1996, the IRS issued final regulations (TD 8671) on the requirements for obtaining a new IRS-issued ITIN for non-U.S. citizens. An ITIN is a 9-digit number issued by the IRS to those individuals who are required to have a U.S. TIN but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, a Social Security Number (SSN). ITINs are issued regardless of immigration status because both resident and nonresident aliens may have a U.S. filing or reporting requirement under the Internal Revenue Code. Individuals must have a filing requirement and file a valid federal income tax return to receive an ITIN, unless they meet an exception (e.g., they need an ITIN to claim a treaty benefit).
ITINs are for U.S. federal tax reporting only, and are not intended to serve any other purpose. The IRS issues ITINs to help individuals comply with the U.S. tax laws, and to provide a means to efficiently process and account for tax returns and payments. An ITIN does not authorize work in the United States or provide eligibility for Social Security benefits or the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The IRS issues ITINs to foreign nationals and others who have U.S. federal tax reporting or filing requirements and do not qualify for SSNs. A nonresident alien individual not eligible for an SSN who is required to file a U.S. tax return only to claim a refund of tax under the provisions of a U.S. tax treaty needs an ITIN. Other examples of individuals who need ITINs include:
- A nonresident alien required to file a U.S. tax return
- A U.S. resident alien (based on days present in the United States) filing a U.S. tax return
- A dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen/resident alien
- A dependent or spouse of a nonresident alien visa holder.
Individuals who need an ITIN apply for one by completing and submitting IRS Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (PDF, 38KB) . A valid federal income tax return must be attached to Form W-7, unless the applicant qualifies for an exception, and it must also include an original, notarized, or certified proof of identity and foreign status. An IRS-authorized Acceptance Agent may also assist in obtaining an ITIN.
Highlights of the revised procedures are:
- ITIN applications will continue to require original documentation or copies certified by the issuing agency. Notarized copies of documents are not acceptable for obtaining ITINs.
- Application options for applicants:
Applying directly to the IRS: For those who are applying directly to the IRS for an ITIN, the IRS will continue to accept only original identification documents or certified copies of these documents from the issuing agency with the Form W-7 and federal tax return attached. A full list of acceptable documents is available through the ITIN page on IRS.gov.
Applying through a Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA). CAAs will be required to review original identification documents or copies certified by the issuing agency from applicants, spouses, and dependents. CAAs will be able to certify and then forward proof to the IRS that they have verified the authenticity of the documents supporting the ITIN application for applicants and spouses. This means they will not need to mail original documents such as passports to the IRS, a step previously required. However, ITIN applications for dependents submitted to the IRS by CAAs will continue to require original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency.
Applying through IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs); U.S. Tax Attachés in London, Paris, Beijing, and Frankfurt; and at Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Centers that use CAAs.
- Applying through Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) for foreign students at educational institutions.
For the first time, new ITINs will be issued for a five-year period rather than an indefinite period. According to the IRS Release, this change will help ensure that ITINs are being used for legitimate tax purposes. Taxpayers who still need an ITIN will need to reapply at the end of the expiration period.
The revised and finalized procedures are effective January 1, 2013 in time for the 2013 tax-filing season when many ITIN applications are submitted along with a taxpayer's income tax return.
IR 2012-98 can be accessed here
FS2012-11 can be accessed here
ITIN Information page on IRS web site
IRS Form W-7 can be accessed here (PDF, 38 KB)
and its instructions (PDF, 149KB)
For further information, please do not hesitate to contact us
The information contained herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act on such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the particular situation.