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Tax Topic #857 2008 Tax Year

Topic 857 - Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
(ITIN) - Form W-7

A taxpayer identification number must be furnished on all returns, statements, and other tax–related documents and must be given upon request to any other person who must include it on a return or statement. For most individuals this is a Social Security Number, or SSN. If you are a foreign person who does not have and is not eligible to get an SSN you must use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN.

Individuals needing an ITIN include:

  1. A nonresident alien individual eligible to obtain the benefits of a reduced rate of withholding under an income tax treaty,
  2. A nonresident alien required to file a U.S. tax return or filing a U.S. tax return only to claim a refund,
  3. A nonresident alien electing to file a joint tax return with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or resident alien,
  4. An alien individual claimed as a spouse for an exemption on a U.S. tax return,
  5. An alien individual claimed as a dependent on another person's U.S. tax return,
  6. A nonresident alien student, professor, or researcher filing a U.S. tax return or claiming an exception to the tax return filing requirement, or
  7. A party to a foreign person's disposition of U.S. real property interest.

The ITIN is issued for federal tax purposes only. It does not entitle you to Social Security benefits, and does not make you eligible for the earned income credit. The ITIN creates no inference concerning your immigration status or your right to work in the United States.

You must file Form W-7 (PDF), Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, to apply for an ITIN, and show that you have a federal tax purpose for seeking the ITIN. Along with the completed Form W-7, you will submit identity documents, and either a federal tax return, or other documentation to show the federal tax purpose for which you need the ITIN.

The identity documents are needed to verify both your identity and your foreign status; one must include a recent photograph. If you submit an original valid passport (or a notarized or certified copy of a valid passport) you do not need to submit any other documents. If you do not submit a passport document, you must provide a combination of documents (at least two or more) that are current and that (1) verify your identity (that is, contain your name and a photograph), and (2) support your claim of foreign status.

If the ITIN is for a dependent, the documentation must prove that the dependent is a resident in the United States, Mexico or Canada. If the dependent is a minor, the documentation must establish the relationship between the dependent and the representative signing the application on the dependent's behalf. Such documentation could include a birth certificate, adoption papers, or other court-appointed papers showing legal guardianship. In the case of dependents that are residents of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) or India, refer to Publication 519 for additional documentation that may be required.

In addition to a passport, examples of acceptable documentation include: national identification card (showing photo, name, current address, date of birth and expiration date); civil birth certificate; foreign driver's license; or visa. A complete list of acceptable documentation can be found in the instructions to the Form W-7. The documents must be originals or certified copies.

You can apply for your ITIN by mail or in person at any IRS Tax Assistance Center in the United States. If you apply in person, your documents will be reviewed and returned to you. Publication 1915 (PDF), Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, has a list of IRS offices abroad which can accept Form W–7. If you apply by mail, use the address shown in the Form W–7 instructions and in Publication 1915. After reviewing your application, your documents will be returned to you. If your original documents have not been returned within 60 days, you may call 800–829–1040 (in the United States), or 215–516–2000 (outside the United States), to find out about the status of your documents. It takes approximately 4 to 6 weeks for the IRS to notify you in writing of your ITIN.

For more information, refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: December 22, 2008

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