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IRS Announces Revisions to ITIN Applications


A Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) is an identification number used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the administration of tax laws. It is issued either by the Social Security Administration (SSA) or by the IRS. A Social Security number (SSN) is issued by the SSA whereas all other TINs are issued by the IRS.

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced several steps to strengthen controls over the issuance of Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers. The changes will help ensure that ITINs are issued for their intended tax administration purpose for administering the tax code and not for other reasons, such as providing personal identification. In addition, the IRS is taking steps to help ensure that applicants can continue to obtain ITINs without undue burden.

Beginning today, new ITIN applicants must use a revised Form W-7, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number Application. ITIN applicants also must provide proof that the ITIN will be used for tax administration purposes. For applicants seeking an ITIN in order to file a tax return, the return must be filed along with the W-7.

“About one-quarter of the ITINs issued for tax return purposes never actually find their way onto a tax return,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. “The steps taken today ensure ITINs will be issued only to those seeking to comply with their tax obligations.”

Federal law requires individuals with U.S. income, regardless of immigration status, to pay U.S. taxes. The ITIN, a nine-digit number that begins with the number 9, was created for use on tax returns for those taxpayers who do not qualify for a Social Security Number. The IRS has issued 7 million ITINs since 1996.

However, some ITINs issued by the IRS do not appear in tax filings or tax reporting documents and may have been procured solely to serve as a form of identification. Earlier this year, the IRS issued letters to all governors and state motor vehicle departments advising that ITINs were not designed to serve as personal identification and would not be suitable for determining identification of applicants for driver’s licenses.

After a review of the ITIN program, the IRS will implement these changes effective immediately:

  • All new ITIN applicants will have to show a federal tax purpose for seeking the ITIN. For those seeking an ITIN to meet their income tax filing obligations, this will require attaching a federal tax return to the Form W-7 when they are ready to file their tax return with the IRS.
  • ITIN applications without proof of need for tax administration purposes will be rejected.
  • The IRS will reduce to 13 from 40 the number of documents it will accept as proof of identity to obtain an ITIN. The 13 acceptable documents are listed in the new Form W-7 instructions.
  • The IRS also will change the appearance of the ITIN from a card to an authorization letter to avoid any possible similarities with a Social Security Number card.

A small number of non-U.S. residents apply for an ITIN to report income under a tax treaty, and a small number of U.S. resident and non-resident applicants apply for an ITIN to report income from a U.S. bank or brokerage account. Neither type of applicant will be required to file a tax return along with their ITIN application. Non-resident applicants will be required to furnish evidence of their ownership of the asset that gave rise to the reporting obligation. Resident applicants will be required to furnish evidence of actual rather than intended ownership of the bank or brokerage account.

The IRS will continue to help individuals who seek ITINs comply with the tax laws. The IRS has found no indication of any differences in accuracy rates between tax returns filed with ITINs and tax returns filed with SSNs. The agency understands the need to continue to monitor challenges posed by ITINs, and will do so over the course of time.

The IRS will continue to review ways to improve Form W-7 and will conduct a public comment period until June 15, 2004. The IRS will be publishing an announcement in the Internal Revenue Bulletin that will ask for comments on the revised form and the application process. Internal Revenue Bulletin 2004-2, to be published on Jan. 12, 2004, will give instructions on when and how comments may be submitted.

Additional information is available at IRS.gov where English and Spanish versions of the Form W-7 are available. A list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) also is available

Taxpayer Identification Numbers

  • Social Security Number "SSN"
  • Employer Identification Number "EIN"
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number "ITIN"
  • Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions "ATIN"
  • Preparer Taxpayer Identification Number "PTIN"

Note: The temporary IRS Numbers previously assigned are no longer valid.

Do I Need One?

A TIN must be furnished on returns, statements, and other tax related documents. For example a number must be furnished:

When filing your tax returns - A change in IRC section 6109 regulations in 1996 mandates the use of a TIN on tax returns.

When claiming treaty benefits - There was a change in the IRC section 1441 regulations in 2001 which mandates the use of a TIN in order to claim tax treaty benefits. A TIN must be on a withholding certificate if the beneficial owner is claiming any of the following:

  • Tax treaty benefits (other than for income from marketable securities)
  • Exemption for effectively connected income
  • Exemption for certain annuities

When Claiming Exemptions for Dependent or Spouse:

You generally must list on your individual income tax return the social security number (SSN) of any person for whom you claim an exemption. If your dependent or spouse does not have and is not eligible to get an SSN, you must list the ITIN instead of an SSN. You do not need an SSN or ITIN for a child who was born and died in the same tax year. Instead of an SSN or ITIN, attach a copy of the child's birth certificate and write Died on the appropriate exemption line of your tax return.

How Do I Get A TIN?


You will need to complete Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card (PDF). You also must submit evidence of your identity, age, and U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status. For more information please see the Social Security web site.

Form SS-5 is also available by calling 1-800-772-1213 or visiting your local Social Security office. These services are free.


An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is also known as a federal tax identification number, and is used to identify a business entity. It is also used by estates and trusts which have income which is required to be reported on Form 1041, U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts (PDF). Refer to Employer ID Numbers for more information.

The following form is available only to employers located in Puerto Rico, Solicitud de Número de Identificación Patronal (EIN) SS-4PR (PDF).


An ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, is a tax processing number only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a Social Security Number (SSN). It is a 9-digit number, beginning with the number "9", formatted like an SSN (NNN-NN-NNNN).

To obtain an ITIN, you must complete IRS Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (PDF) . The Form W-7 requires documentation substantiating foreign/alien status and true identity for each individual. You may either mail the documentation, along with the Form W-7, to the address shown in the Form W-7 Instructions, present it at IRS walk-in offices, or process your application through an Acceptance Agent authorized by the IRS. Form W-7(SP), Solicitud de Número de Identificación Personal del Contribuyente del Servicio de Impuestos Internos (PDF) is available for use by Spanish speakers.

Acceptance Agents are entities (colleges, financial institutions, accounting firms, etc.) who are authorized by the IRS to assist applicants in obtaining ITINs. They review the applicant's documentation and forward the completed Form W-7 to IRS for processing.

NOTE: You cannot claim the earned income credit using an ITIN.

Foreign persons who are individuals should apply for a social security number (SSN, if permitted) on Form SS-5 with the Social Security Administration, or should apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) on Form W-7. Effective immediately, each ITIN applicant must now:

  • Apply using the revised Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number; and
  • Attach a federal income tax return to the Form W-7.

Applicants who meet an exception to the requirement to file a tax return (see the instructions for Form W-7) must provide documentation to support the exception.

New W-7/ITIN rules were issued on December 17, 2003. For a summary of those rules, please see the new Form W-7 and its instructions.

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