How to file taxes if you are an immigrant and do not have a social security number.
What is an TIN?
An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN or a TIN) is a tax processing number issued by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A TIN consists of nine digits, beginning with the number nine (i.e., 9XX-XX-XXXX). Since 1996, the IRS has issued ITINs to taxpayers and their dependents who are not eligible to obtain a Social Security number (SSN).
Why does the IRS issue TINs?
All wage earners—regardless of their immigration status—are required to pay federal taxes. The IRS provides TINs to people who are ineligible for an SSN so that they can comply with tax laws.
Who uses an TIN?
Taxpayers who file their tax return with a TIN include undocumented immigrants and their dependents as well as some people who are lawfully present in the U.S., such as certain survivors of domestic violence, Cuban and Haitian entrants, student visa–holders, and certain spouses and children of individuals with employment visas. As of January 2021, the IRS reported that there were 5.4 million active TINS
Once a person who has been issued a TIN is eligible to apply for an SSN, the person may no longer use the TIN.
What is an TIN used for?
TINs are issued by the IRS specifically as a means to pay federal taxes. While the IRS issues them solely for this purpose, TINs may sometimes be accepted for other purposes, such as for opening an interest-bearing bank account, in employment dispute settlements, or for obtaining a mortgage.
Why do undocumented immigrants need a TIN?
In addition to being required to pay taxes, immigrants benefit from filing income tax returns because:
It demonstrates that they are complying with federal tax laws.
Filing federal taxes is a way for immigrants to further contribute to the economy.
It is one way that people who may have an opportunity to legalize their immigration status and become U.S. citizens can prove that they have “good moral character.”
Immigrants can use tax returns to document their work history and physical presence in the U.S. In order to be eligible for legal immigration status under any future immigration reform, people who currently are unauthorized to be in the U.S. most likely will have to be able to prove that they have been employed and have lived continuously in the U.S. for a certain number of years.
People who file tax returns can claim crucial economic supports, such as the Child Tax Credit, including the refundable portion (also known as the Additional Child Tax Credit).
Filing a tax return is required in order to be able to claim insurance-premium tax credits for family members—often U.S. citizen children—who are eligible for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”). These tax credits are necessary to help make health insurance affordable to people who otherwise would not be able to buy it.
Individuals who are eligible to file their taxes with a TIN can establish that they are eligible for an exemption from the ACA’s individual mandate, which requires that people have health insurance. Undocumented immigrants are excluded from all ACA benefits, so they are not eligible to buy health insurance through the ACA’s health care marketplace, even at full cost.
Immigrant workers who receive settlement payments as a result of an employment-related dispute will be subject to the maximum tax withholding rate, unless they have a TIN. For example, for a worker with a TIN, the withholding on back wages paid to the worker because of a settlement will be based on the worker’s family status and the number of exemptions the worker can claim. By contrast, if the worker did not have a TIN, the withholding would be figured as if the worker were single with no exemptions. Similarly, for workers without TINs, the withholding on payments other than wages, e.g., on payments for punitive damages, is figured at the “backup withholding” rate of 28 percent, whereas workers who have TINs ordinarily would have no withholding on such nonwage payments.
Do TIN-filers pay taxes?
Yes. That is the whole point.
Is it safe to use a TIN?
Generally, yes. The IRS has strong privacy protections in place to ensure that immigrants who report their income and file their taxes are not at risk of having their information shared. Under Internal Revenue Code section 6103, the IRS is generally prohibited from disclosing taxpayer information, including to other federal agencies. However, certain exceptions apply. For example, the IRS is required to disclose taxpayer information to certain U.S. Treasury Department employees when they request it for tax administration purposes or to other federal agencies if it’s needed for a nontax criminal investigation and a federal court has ordered that it be provided.
What documents DO I NEED TO APPLY FOR a TIN?
If under 6 years of age: A U.S. medical record, U.S. school record, or U.S. state
identification card that lists the applicant’s name and U.S. address, or a U.S. visa.
- If at least 6 years of age but under 18 years of age: A U.S. school record, U.S. state
identification card, or driver’s license that lists the applicant’s name and U.S. address, or
a U.S. visa.
- If 18 years of age or older: A U.S. school record, rental statement from a U.S. property,
utility bill for a U.S. property, or a U.S. bank statement, U.S. state identification card or
driver’s license that lists the applicant’s name and U.S. address, or a U.S. visa.
TIN applicants are required to provide proof of their identity, foreign nationality status, and residency. (Proof must be submitted that any applicant claimed as a dependent resides in the U.S., unless they are from Mexico or Canada or are a dependent of U.S. military personnel stationed overseas.) In 2015, Congress codified the severe restrictions that the IRS had put in place on the types of documents that new ITIN applicants may present.
In order to apply for an TIN, the applicant must:
(1) complete a Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, along with their federal income tax return, and
(2) prove their identity and foreign nationality status by providing a combination of original documents (see the table below) or certified copies of the documents. (A certified copy is one that the original issuing agency provides and certifies as an exact copy of the original document and that contains an official stamped seal from that agency. Notarized copies are not acceptable.)
The IRS will accept only a combination of the 13 documents listed in the table below as proof of identity and/or foreign nationality status. Applicants who can present a passport have to present only one document. Otherwise, they will need to present at least two documents or certified copies of at least two documents.
An applicant can apply for an ITIN by mail, in person through a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC), or with the help of an Acceptance Agent (AA) or a Certified Acceptance Agent (CAA) authorized by the IRS. An applicant who resides outside the U.S. may apply by mail or in person to an IRS employee or a designated U.S. diplomatic mission or consular post.
Applicants who apply for an TIN by mail directly with the IRS must submit either the original of each supporting document or a certified copy of each supporting document.
How long does it take to receive a TIN?
At the time of publication, TIN processing is taking approximately 9 to 11 weeks. Any original documents or certified copies submitted in support of an TIN application should be returned within 14 weeks. People who do not receive their original and certified documents within 14 weeks of mailing them to the IRS may call 1-800-908-9982 to check on their documents’ whereabouts.
Who processes TIN applications?
All TIN applications are processed by the TIN unit in the IRS Submission Processing Center in Austin, Texas. Tax returns attached to the ITIN applications are “sent for processing.” Tax examiners in the ITIN unit review TIN applications and supporting documentation. Based on the tax examiner’s review, the application will be either:
- assigned — the IRS mails a notice with the assigned ITIN to the applicant;
- rejected — the IRS mails a notice informing the applicant (a) that the ITIN application was rejected, (b) the reason for the rejection and (c) that the applicant must file another application to reapply for an ITIN; or
- suspended — the ITIN application is suspended because of a procedural issue or because it has questionable information. (IRS guidelines define a questionable application as one for which the tax examiner identifies one or more discrepancies on the application. A procedural issue is one in which the applicant did not properly complete the application or did not attach the required documentation to the application.)
Where to apply?
Option 1 – By Mail
Mail 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
You will only file a tax return to the address above once––when you file Form W-7 to get an
ITIN. In subsequent years, when you have an ITIN, you will file your tax return as directed in the
form instructions, and you will not need to renew your ITIN every year. Note that the IRS is
currently experiencing delays in issuing ITINs, and it is taking longer than usual to process
applications. If you will need your original documents for any purpose within 14 weeks of
submitting your ITIN application, you may wish to wish to pursue Options 2 or 3 below.
You may also choose to submit certified copies of documents from the issuing agency instead of
original documents. Original documents you submit will be returned to you at the mailing
address shown on your Form W-7. You don’t need to provide a return envelope. Applicants are
permitted to include a prepaid Express Mail or courier envelope for faster return delivery of
their documents. The IRS will then return the documents in the envelope provided by the
If your original documents aren’t returned within 14 weeks, you can call the IRS (in English or
Spanish) at 800-908-9982 (U.S. only) or for international, call 267-941-1000 (this is not a tollfree number).
Option 2 — IN-PERSON
Apply for an ITIN in-person using the services of IRS-authorized Certifying Acceptance Agent
(CAA). This will prevent you from having to mail your proof of identity and foreign status
documents. CAAs may be nonprofits or for-profit tax preparation companies. Note: While the
IRS does not charge a fee for applying for an ITIN, CAAs may charge—you should ask up front
about any fees. You can find information about a CAA near you by following this link:https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/acceptance-agent-program