If you’re a US citizen who regularly files taxes, you likely have a Social Security number. But if you’re a non-citizen, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) still expects you to report taxes every year — for which you’ll need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
What Is an ITIN Number?
As the name implies, an ITIN is a dedicated tax ID number that allows individuals to report their earnings, expenses and deductions to the IRS. These unique numbers are reserved for U.S. taxpayers who are unable to obtain a traditional Social Security number. Note, however, that having an ITIN doesn’t necessarily qualify one to work or reside in the United States. These numbers only exist for federal tax reporting purposes.
Who Needs an ITIN?
According to the IRS, Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers are for a range of non-U.S. citizens, including:
- Non-resident aliens who are required to obtain ITINs for tax treaty benefits
- Non-resident aliens who must file U.S. federal tax returns
- Spouses and dependents of U.S. citizens
- Spouses and dependents of resident aliens
- Spouses and dependents of non-resident alien visa holders
- Non-resident alien researchers, professors or students
If you already have (or qualify for) a Social Security number, you are not eligible for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
How to Get an ITIN Number for Non-Resident Aliens
In order to apply for an ITIN number, qualifying non-resident aliens must submit an original copy of IRS W-7 Form, along with proof of identity – including either a passport or at least two separate documents to confirm foreign status. These materials are normally sent along with the non-resident alien’s U.S. tax return for that year to the IRS ITIN Operations Center at:
Internal Revenue Service
Austin Service Center
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342
How Long Does It Take to Obtain an ITIN?
Assuming you qualify for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (and you follow the W-7 form instructions correctly), you should receive an ITIN within seven weeks. But due to potential processing delays, it’s advisable that you add some extra wiggle room. This is especially true if you’re mailing your ITIN application to the U.S. from overseas as an expat or non-resident.
How Long Does It Take to Renew an ITIN?
If you already have an ITIN but fail to submit a U.S. tax return in any given calendar year, your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number may expire. If this happens, you’ll need to resubmit all your materials – along with your most recently completed U.S. federal tax return. The standard processing time is still seven weeks, although the IRS points out that delays can last up to 11 weeks if the renewal paperwork is received during peak tax time (January 15 to April 30).
Even though the basic process for obtaining an ITIN is fairly straightforward, IRS forms are notoriously confusing for citizens and foreign nationals alike. Moreover, the steps for obtaining an ITIN become slightly more complex when reporting U.S. taxes while living abroad.
That’s where we can help. At Expat CPA, we specialize in helping non-residents, US citizens and expats remain compliant with the latest IRS tax codes. In addition to dedicated support for W-7 form instruction, we can also help you determine your expat eligibility for Social Security and other federal benefits.
To learn about our professional expat tax preparation services, schedule a free consultation with us today.