If a taxpayer is not qualified to receive a social security number, they are still able to file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). This unique number is issued by an ITIN Acceptance Agent or the IRS and is used to help foreign individuals comply with U.S. tax laws.
Use the links below to guide you to a specific section or keep reading for a comprehensive explanation of ITIN Acceptance Agents:
- What is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?
- What is an ITIN Acceptance Agent?
- When Do You Need an ITIN?
- How Do You Apply for an ITIN?
- How Do You Become an ITIN Acceptance Agent?
What is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?
An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a nine-digit number that assists foreign taxpayers in filing a tax return. Both resident and nonresident aliens, their spouses, and their dependents can apply for an ITIN if they aren’t eligible for a social security number. Unlike many other forms of identification, an ITIN is solely used for tax purposes. It does not qualify you for Social Security benefits, authorize work in the U.S, or qualify a dependent for Earned Income Tax Credit Purposes.
What is an ITIN Acceptance Agent?
An ITIN Acceptance Agent is a person or organization who is authorized by the IRS to help taxpayers obtain an ITIN.
This IRS representative has the power to review ITIN applications and issue an ITIN to any qualified individual who is not eligible for a social security number. ITIN Acceptance Agents send a completed W-7 form, a certificate of accuracy, copies of required documents, and tax return information or exception documents to the IRS for processing. Keep in mind that IRS authorized ITIN acceptance agents can authenticate all supporting documents for primary and secondary applicants, but only passports and birth certificates for dependents.
The IRS keeps a running list of domestic and international ITIN Acceptance Agents though the IRS Acceptance Agent Program. This resource is updated quarterly and provides basic contact information for each agent on the list.
When Do You Need an ITIN?
Typically, only people who are authorized to work in the U.S—citizens, U.S. nationals, and permanent residents—are allowed to have a Social Security number. This number is then used to identify you and your family to the IRS when you file a tax return. But non-citizens who aren’t legally allowed to work in the U.S. sometimes still need to file a tax return. That’s where an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number comes in.
An ITIN is issued regardless of immigration status and is not shared with other government agencies to assist with deportation cases. You can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number if you are a:
- Resident alien or nonresident alien filing a U.S. tax return
- Spouse of a U.S. citizen or resident alien
- Dependent of U.S. citizen or resident alien
- Nonresident alien professor, student, or researcher filing a return
- Nonresident alien required to obtain an ITIN to declare a tax treaty benefit
- Spouse or dependent of a nonresident alien with a U.S. visa
The IRS only uses an ITIN for federal tax filings, and encourages individuals to apply only when necessary. Once you have been issued an ITIN, you can file a U.S. tax return on your own or seek a tax advocate to help you complete the process. If you are entitled to a refund and have a problem procuring it, tax resolution services can use your ITIN to help solve the issue.
How Do You Apply for an ITIN?
In order to be granted an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, you must complete IRS Form W-7. This form ask for:
- Reason applicant needs an ITIN
- Name and mailing address of the applicant
- Country where the applicant is a citizen
- Applicant’s birth date and location of birth
- U.S. visa number of the applicant, if applicable
- Applicant’s foreign tax ID number, if they have one
- Explanation of documents being submitted to verify the applicant’s identity
Submit the completed Form W-7, the tax return that needs the number, and proof of identification. In order for an ITIN Acceptance Agent to approve your application, you need to prove both your identity and foreign status. A valid passport proves both of these requirements, but there are many other forms of ID that can used to apply for an ITIN. If you don’t have a passport, submit two of the following forms of ID:
- Visa issued by the State Department (proves identity and foreign status)
- Photo ID card from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (proves identity and foreign status)
- U.S. or foreign driver’s license (proves identity)
- U.S. military ID card (proves identity)
- Foreign birth certificate (proves identity and in some cases foreign status)
- Non-driver ID card issued by a U.S. state (proves identity and foreign status)
- Foreign voter registration card (proves identity and foreign status)
- Medical records for children under 6 (proves identity and in some cases foreign status)
- School records for children under 14 or under 18 if still a student (proves identity and in some cases foreign status)
Once you have gathered the proper documentation, an ITIN Acceptance agent can submit your application directly to the IRS. If there are any issues, your agent can communicate directly with the IRS to resolve them.
How Do You Become an ITIN Acceptance Agent?
The IRS typically accepts applications to become an authorized IRS ITIN Acceptance Agent year round. Background checks and tax compliance checks will be a part of the process, and you have to submit at least five W-7 forms a year to remain in the program. In order to become an ITIN Acceptance Agent, you have to complete four key steps:
- Complete the mandatory Acceptance Agent Training
- Fill out Form 13551 and attach the fingerprint card
- Attach the certification form for each person listed in block 5 of the application
- Undergo forensic training and submit the original certificate of completion along with Form 13551