As our founding father Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Although hundreds of years old, this quote still stands today. If you’re an American citizen with an income, it’s safe to assume you know a thing or two about taxes. But what if you’re an immigrant or unauthorized resident who lives in America, makes an income, but can’t get a Social Security Number?
If this is the case, you’ll need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Obtaining one of these is done by completing IRS Form W-7, which enables you to pay the taxes that you are legally required to pay. While this process may sound complicated, it’s rather simple. You can get expert advice from one of our tax professionals or continue reading to learn more about how to get an ITIN.
- What is form W-7?
- What’s an authorized acceptance agent?
- How to apply for an ITIN
- Where do I send my W-7 form?
- How long does it take to get an ITIN number?
- What you can and cannot do with an ITIN
- The Bottom Line
What is form W-7?
Form W-7 is used to apply for an IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). This IRS form can also be used for an ITIN renewal or for an ITIN that has already expired. An ITIN is a nine-digit number that always begins with the number 9 and has a 7 or 8 in the fourth digit (ex. 9XX-8X-XXXX). They are issued by the IRS to people who are not eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN) but are required to identify for U.S. federal tax purposes. You may need an ITIN if you are:
- A nonresident alien who is required to file a US tax return
- A US resident alien who is filing a US tax return (based on your number of days present in the US)
- A dependent or spouse of a US citizen/ resident alien
- A dependent or spouse of a nonresident alien visa holder
- A nonresident alien claiming a tax treaty benefit
- A nonresident alien student, professor or researcher filing a US tax return or claiming an exception
What’s an authorized acceptance agent?
In order for you to apply for an ITIN, you first need to consult with an authorized acceptance agent (AA). An authorized acceptance agent is a person or organization who is authorized by the IRS to help taxpayers obtain an ITIN. These IRS representatives are able to review your ITIN application and issue an ITIN to a person who is not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number.
Certifying Acceptance Agents (CAA) review applicants’ documents and submit the completed W-7 Form, along with additional documents including a certificate of accuracy, copies of required documents, and federal tax returns to the IRS. Additionally, CAAs are able to authenticate all documents for primary and secondary applicants, as well as dependents who have a passport or birth certificate. If a dependent does not have one of these two documents, a CAA must mail the original document or certified copy from the issuing agency to the IRS for approval.
To find a CAA, the IRS has a list of current domestic and international authorized agents through their IRS Acceptance Agent Program. Scroll through the list to find the state or country you are currently in to find contact information for assistance with your ITIN application.
How to apply for an ITIN
Now that you found a CAA to work with, it’s time to begin filling out your W-7 Form. Follow the Form W-7 instructions and fill out every required field. Along with the completed form, you’ll also have to provide supporting documents that verify both your identity and foreign status. Most applicants will have to provide the original documents, not copies. Passports are the easiest document to verify both identity and foreign status. However, if you do not have a passport, you can submit two of the following forms of ID:
- S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) photo identification
- Visa issued by the U.S. Department of State
- S. driver’s license
- S. military identification card
- Foreign driver’s license
- Foreign military identification card
- National identification card (must contain name, photograph, address, date of birth, and expiration date)
- S. state identification card x
- Foreign voter’s registration card
- Civil birth certificate
- Medical records (valid only for dependents under age 6)
- School records (valid only for a dependent under age 18, if a student)
Once you’ve completed your W-7 and found original copies of the required documents, find the tax return that needs an ITIN number, and you’re good to go.
Where do I send my W-7 form?
Now that you have correctly filled out a W-7 form, gathered supporting documents, and prepared a tax return, submit your paperwork to receive approval for an ITIN. There are four ways you can send your W-7 form:
● Send by mail
You can mail your W-7, tax return (if applicable), and supporting documents to the following address:
Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342
● Use a private delivery service
You can also use a private delivery service to submit your paperwork. If you choose to use a private delivery service, mail to the following address:
Internal Revenue Service
Mail Stop 6090-AUSC
3651 S. Interregional, Hwy 35
Austin, TX 78741-0000
● Apply in person
You can also apply for your ITIN in person by visiting a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC). Here, they can verify original documentation and certified copies from the issuing agency for primary and secondary applicants and their dependents. You can only get service at a TAC by appointment, so plan accordingly. Schedule an appointment by calling 844-545-5640 or by visiting the IRS’s list of designated TACs.
Apply through an acceptance agent
The IRS authorizes two types of acceptance agents, which include an Acceptance Agent (AA) or a Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA).
- Acceptance Agents can help you complete your W-7 Form, but will have to submit original documentation from the issuing agency to the IRS for all applicants.
Certifying Acceptance Agents can verify original documentation from the issuing agency for primary and secondary applicants and their dependents, but can only verify passports and birth certificates for dependents.
How long does it take to get an ITIN number?
It will take up to seven weeks for the IRS to notify you of your ITIN application status, or 9-11 weeks during peak times between January 15th and April 30th, or if you’re applying from overseas. If you do not hear from the IRS by the this time, you can call to find out the status of your application at 800-829-1040.
What you can and cannot do with an ITIN
The IRS uses your ITIN for tax purposes only. An ITIN is not an immigration-enforcement tool. Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code states that the IRS is not authorized to release taxpayer information to other government agencies, except to the Treasury Department for investigations that pertain to tax administration or other non-tax criminal investigations. With that being said, an ITIN is simply used to let more people pay into the system, building the tax base.
What you can do with an ITIN
- Open an interest-bearing bank account
- Securing a driver’s license (dependent on state)
- Providing proof of residency
- Some ITIN holders are eligible for the Child Tax Credit (CTC)
What you cannot do with an ITIN
- Your ITIN does not provide legal immigration status
- Your ITIN does not provide work authorization
- ITIN holders are not eligible for all of the tax and public benefits that U.S. citizens receive, such as Social Security
Once you receive your ITIN, you’re able to file your own tax return, or you can consult with a tax advocate to help you with this process. If at any point along the way you face problems with your tax return, you can seek help from tax resolution services who can use your ITIN to solve the issue.
The Bottom Line
Applying for an ITIN is not an extremely difficult process. The only form that needs to be filled out is the W-7 Form, which you can do yourself or get help from an authorized acceptance agent. From there, you’ll need either a passport or two supporting documents that prove your identity and foreign status, along with your tax return that needs an ITIN number, and you’ll be on your way to obtaining an ITIN.