With tax season fast approaching, it’s essential for workers without a Social Security Number to understand how to file taxes with an ITIN.
We know this can be intimidating, so we’ve made it simple. Here’s how an ITIN can benefit you and how to get started applying for one.
What are ITINs and who uses them?
An ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, is a number issued by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to people without a Social Security Number so they can pay their taxes.
People who use an ITIN include undocumented immigrants and their dependents, as well as some people who are legally in the U.S., such as certain survivors of domestic violence, Cuban and Haitian immigrants, student visa holders, and some spouses and children of people with employment visas.
ITINs may also be used for opening a bank account, in employment dispute settlements, or for obtaining a mortgage.
Why do undocumented immigrants need an ITIN?
Using an ITIN to file taxes helps show the U.S. government that a person is of “good moral character,” complies with tax laws, and contributes to the economy. It is also a good way to document a person’s work history and presence in the United States.
All of this can benefit immigrants who have an opportunity to legalize their immigration status and become U.S. citizens, or who might be able to legalize their status under any future immigration reform.
In addition, people who file tax returns using an ITIN can claim economic supports like the Child Tax Credit, which allows a credit against income tax in the amount of $1,000 for each qualifying child who is a dependent of the taxpayer. Taxpayers may also be eligible to claim tax credits for U.S. citizen children who are eligible for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Is it safe for an undocumented immigrant to get an ITIN?
Yes. The IRS has strong privacy protections and is forbidden by law from disclosing a taxpayer’s information, even to other governmental agencies.
How do I apply for an ITIN?
Most people send their application for an ITIN along with their tax return. So first you’ll need to complete a tax return. The IRS has information on filing your taxes and the forms you’ll need here. Note that you can’t file electronically when you’re applying for an ITIN, but after you receive an ITIN, you can e-file in future years.
You’ll also need to fill out a W-7 form, which can be found here on the IRS’ website. (If you submit a W-7, all later notifications you receive will be in English. If you prefer to receive them in Spanish, submit a W-7(SP). The instructions for filling out a W-7(SP) are here.)
In addition, you’ll need to prove your identity and foreign national status using a passport or a combination of documents. The qualifying documents – which must be original, or certified copies from the issuing agency – are listed on the W-7 instruction form under “How to Apply.”
You can apply by mail, but be aware that if you’re sending original documents, they may not be returned to you for 60 days. You can apply in person at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center and your documents will be immediately returned to you. You can also apply through an Acceptance Agent authorized by the IRS.
Please read the IRS’ instructions for submitting the W-7 along with your income tax return and the correct document(s) to ensure that your application for an ITIN is valid.
If, after reading the instructions, you have additional questions, you can call 800-829-1040 for IRS assistance.