What is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number?

Taxes are an integral part of any society, and the United States is no exception.

By Emanuela Palmares

However, not everyone who lives and works in the United States has a Social Security number, which can make it difficult to pay taxes. Enter the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), a tax-processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to ensure that everyone, including undocumented immigrants, can pay taxes regardless of their immigration status. 

In this article, we'll explore what ITINs are, who needs them, and how to get one. 

ITINs are not SSNs and are formatted like an SSN: 9XX-XX-XXXX. Many immigrants have ITINs, including foreign nationals residing in the United States, students, professors, researchers, dependents and spouses of U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and foreign nationals on a temporary visa. However, ITINs do not provide legal status or work authorization.

ITIN holders pay taxes and contribute to the economy. According to the IRS, in 2015, “4.4 million ITIN filers paid over $5.5 billion in payroll and Medicare taxes and $23.6 billion in total taxes.” Although ITIN holders are not eligible for all of the tax benefits and public benefits that U.S. citizens and other taxpayers can receive, some ITIN holders are eligible for the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which may be worth up to $3,600 for each child under 6 and up to $3,000 for each child age 6 to 17, depending upon the applicant’s income.

ITINs can also serve other purposes, such as opening an interest-bearing bank account, securing a driver’s license, and providing proof of residency. However, the ITIN is not an immigration-enforcement tool, and the fact that the IRS does not generally share applicants’ private information with immigration enforcement agencies is key to tax compliance.

How does one apply for an ITIN?

  • Applicants must fill out a W-7 application form and submit it to the IRS along with a completed tax return.
  • Applicants are required to submit documents to the IRS verifying identity and “foreign status.” The IRS has issued a list of 13 documents that will be accepted for this purpose.
  • Applicants may apply by mail or private delivery service and do not need to appear in person. However, if they apply in this manner, they are required to send original documents (or certified copies of original documents) to the IRS and wait for the agency to return those documents.
  • Applicants may apply through an Acceptance Agent (AA) who is authorized by the IRS to help the applicant complete and file the W-7. However, the AA also is required to send the applicant’s original documents (or certified copies of original documents) to the agency.
  • Applicants may apply through a Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA) who is authorized by the IRS to authenticate the applicant’s documents. Applicants who enlist the services of a CAA will be able to retain their original documents.
  • Applicants may apply in person at a Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) which is staffed by individuals who also are authorized by the IRS to authenticate the applicant’s documents. Applicants who apply at a TAC also will be able to retain their original documents.
  • When the IRS approves an application, the ITIN is sent to the applicant through the mail.

If a person obtains an ITIN but does not include it on a federal tax return for three consecutive years, it will expire and will need to be revalidated. ITINs with a middle digit between “70” and “87” have expired.

If you are looking to apply for an ITIN number in CT, you can find a list of authorized locations to do so by visiting https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/acceptance-agents-connecticut.

Alternatively, you can visit the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center Office Danbury Branch in person at 131 West St., Danbury, CT 06810 during their office hours, which are Mon - Fri: 8:30am - 4:30pm (closed for lunch 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.). Please note that they do not accept cash payments and you will need to call (844) 545-5640 to schedule an appointment. For any questions about the available services or office hours, you can call the local office at (203) 840-4195.


SOURCES: American Immigration Council & Internal Revenue Service