What is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number?

Those who are not eligible for a Social Security card must apply for an individual taxpayer identification number.

An individual taxpayer identification number (ITN) is an identification number issued by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Although US citizens use their social security number for identification when filing income tax returns, people who do not qualify for a social security card may still have tax obligations within the United States. This may be true if they are resident or non-US resident aliens but still need to file an income tax return.

The following people must apply for an individual taxpayer identification number if they do not already have it and need to file an income tax return: resident aliens, non-resident aliens and spouses and dependents of resident and non-resident aliens. Of course, it must be understood that the individual taxpayer identification number does not count as regular identification for most other things. Its use is actually restricted to filling out returns and paying necessary taxes or potentially collecting refunds.

There are several documents you can use to apply for an individual taxpayer identification number, although the best and most accepted is the passport. You will also need to complete a Form W-7, called Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, which you can download (instructions and form) from the IRS website. As application is normally done by mail, you will need to obtain copies of certified or notarized identity documents.

If you do not have a passport, you can use two forms of identification to prove your identity. Examples of appropriate ID documents include state ID cards or driver’s licenses, your home country’s driver’s license, and birth certificates. For the complete list, check the IRS website and remember that you must submit two forms of identification if you do not have a valid passport.

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You may notice when you receive your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number that it will be similar to other people’s ITNs. All ITNs start with 9, for example, and all new ones have nine digits. It is also important to understand that the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number is not a work permit and has no effect on immigration status or permission to work in the United States. It is used solely by the IRS for tax purposes and you should not attempt to use the number as a social security number. Since ITNs start with a 9 and are further identified with a 7 or 8 in the fourth digit, it is quite easy to see that they are not the same as social security numbers.

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