It’s April in America, and that means one thing: tax season is in full swing.
In the United States, all earned annual income must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). But if you aren’t a U.S. citizen, how can you fulfill that obligation?
While U.S. Citizens and legal permanent residents use their Social Security Number (SSN) to file taxes, non-citizens are required to use another form of identification: the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
Issued by the IRS, an ITIN is built for one primary purpose: to enable non-citizens to file taxes regardless of their immigration status. That means both documented and undocumented immigrants can request and obtain an ITIN.
With an ITIN, you may also be able to open an interest-bearing bank account, to apply for a credit card, to buy a car, and to receive access to personal loans. Some states (including California, New York, and Illinois) will even accept your ITIN when you apply for a driver’s license.
Read on for a quick explanation of the complete ITIN application process.
Who Can Apply for an ITIN
According to the IRS, you are eligible for an ITIN under the following circumstances:
- If you do not have a SSN (and are not eligible to obtain one)
- If you are a nonresident who is required to file a U.S. tax return
- If you are the dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen or resident
- If you are the dependent or spouse of a nonresident visa holder
- If you are a nonresident student, professor, or researcher filing a U.S. tax return
- If you are a nonresident foreign national who owns, invests, and/or receives taxable income from a U.S. business
Your ITIN application will not affect your immigration status or ever be used against you.
Millions of people in the United States file their annual taxes without a Social Security Number. In 2015, the IRS reported that nearly half of undocumented immigrants in America filed tax returns using an ITIN, amounting to over $12 billion in taxes.
How To Apply For An ITIN
The ITIN application process is relatively simple, and you can apply any time of the year.
You have two options on how to proceed: applying by mail or applying in person.
In both situations, the IRS requires you to provide at least two documents from the following list of identification:
- A U.S. Department of State-issued visa
- U.S. driver’s license
- U.S. state identification card
- Foreign driver’s license
- Photo ID issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- U.S. military identification card
- Military identification card (foreign)
- Foreign civil birth certificate
- National ID card featuring your name, address, date of birth, photo and expiration date
- Foreign voter’s registration card
- Foreign school records (for dependents who are students and under 18 years of age)
Again, you only need two documents from this list to apply for your ITIN.
- Apply By Mail: Send your W-7, tax return, proof of identity, and foreign status documents to:
Internal Revenue Service
Austin Service Center
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342
This is the only time you will use this address to file your tax return. After you receive your ITIN, you will receive new instructions on how to file tax returns the following year.
- Apply In Person: Rather than send your identification documents by mail, you can also apply in person. There are two kinds of facilities that you can visit. If you are already in the United States, you can go to a local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center Office. Click here to find the nearest location.
If you are currently living outside of the U.S., you can visit an IRS-authorized Certifying Acceptance Agent. Click here to view the list of acceptance agents both in America and around the world.
Whether you apply by mail or in person, you can expect to receive your ITIN number within seven weeks of your application submission. If you experience significant delays or need additional help, you can check the status of your application by calling the IRS toll-free at (800) 829-1040.
While ITINs do not technically have expiration dates, they will need to be renewed every five years. If you don’t use your ITIN for three consecutive years, the IRS will then consider it defunct.
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