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Understanding Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers

Law Office of Layne C. Savage March 18, 2022

Business Acronym ITIN as Individual Taxpayer Identification NumberIf you’re an immigrant in the United States and you do not qualify for a Social Security number (SSN) but need to pay taxes, you can apply for what is known as an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

An ITIN provides a way to meet one’s tax obligations. It does not serve as a work authorization in the U.S., provide eligibility for Social Security benefits, or qualify you for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

If you or a loved one is facing immigration issues in or around Providence, Rhode Island, or in nearby communities, contact the Law Office of Layne C. Savage for experienced and compassionate legal counsel. Attorney Layne C. Savage has helped immigrants and their families navigate the legal system for more than 10 years. She stands ready to help you and your family members achieve a positive result.

Qualifying for a Social Security Number

The ITIN serves as a means to meet your tax obligations if you do not yet qualify for a Social Security number. To qualify for Social Security, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), you must “provide at least two documents to prove age, identity, and U.S. citizenship or current lawful, work-authorized immigration status.” A work visa or green card would be one.

In some cases, the SSA may issue a Social Security card for a non-work-related reason, but it will be clearly marked that you are not authorized to work in the United States.

Qualifying for an ITIN

The Internal Revenue Service says the following categories of persons are eligible for an ITIN so they can meet their tax obligations:

  • Nonresident aliens who are required to file a U.S. tax return

  • U.S. resident aliens who are (based on days present in the United States) filing a U.S. tax return

  • Dependents or spouses of a U.S. citizen/resident alien

  • Dependents or spouses of a nonresident alien visa holder

  • Nonresident aliens claiming a tax treaty benefit

  • Nonresident alien students, professors, or researchers filing a U.S. tax return or claiming an exception

Applying for an ITIN

Applicants must fill out a Form W-7 and submit it to the IRS with a completed tax return. The IRS maintains a list of 13 documents that can verify one’s identity and “foreign status.” Another way to apply for an ITIN is by using an authorized Acceptance Agent (AA) or a Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA). The AA will need to forward certifying documents with the application, while the CAA can certify the verifying documents without having to forward them.

Applicants may also apply in person at a Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC), which is staffed by persons who are authorized to authenticate the applicant’s documents.

Other Purposes of an ITIN

Having an ITIN can also help a foreign national:

OBTAIN AN INTEREST-BEARING ACCOUNT: The ITIN can be used to open a checking or savings account that earns interest.

SECURE A DRIVER’S LICENSE: Some states allow the use of an ITIN instead of an SSN to obtain a driver’s license.

PROVIDE PROOF OF RESIDENCE: Having tax returns filed using an ITIN can also be used as proof of residing in the United States.

Privacy Issues

The IRS does not share tax-filing information with any immigration enforcement agency. Taxpayer privacy is an integral part of the U.S. tax system.

The Internal Revenue Code states that the IRS is not authorized to release taxpayer information to other government agencies except for providing information to the U.S. Department of the Treasury for investigations that pertain to tax administration or under a federal court order related to a non-tax criminal investigation.

Legal Advocacy You Can Trust

The Law Office of Layne C. Savage is dedicated to helping individuals and families navigate the U.S. immigration system. If you or a loved one in the greater Providence, Rhode Island area, or the greater Boston, Massachusetts area, need assistance with an immigration issue, contact the Law Office of Layne C. Savage. She stays current with all laws and regulations and can work with you to help achieve a positive resolution to your issue.