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How Do I Apply for an ITIN?

Here's a deep dive in to everything you need to know about an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number): What is it? Who needs one? How do you get one? And more!

January 9, 2021
7 min read

What is an ITIN?

Per the IRS:

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, a Social Security number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

What is an ITIN used for?

Per the IRS:

IRS issues ITINs to help individuals comply with the U.S. tax laws, and to provide a means to efficiently process and account for tax returns and payments for those not eligible for Social Security numbers. They are issued regardless of immigration status, because both resident and nonresident aliens may have a U.S. filing or reporting requirement under the Internal Revenue Code. ITINs do not serve any purpose other than federal tax reporting.

An ITIN does not:

  • Authorize work in the U.S.
  • Provide eligibility for Social Security benefits
  • Qualify a dependent for Earned Income Tax Credit Purposes

Who needs to get an ITIN?

As a foreigner, you only need to apply for an ITIN if you

  • have a federal tax filing requirement (or informational reporting requirement)
  • and do not qualify for an SSN

What is the difference between an ITIN, EIN and SSN?

Great question! We wrote an entire blog post on this question here 😃

How do I get an ITIN?

There are a few exceptions which allow you to apply for an ITIN. You can see the full list here: https://www.irs.gov/instructions/iw7#idm139766236836272

Unless you meet the above exceptions you need to have the following in order to apply for and receive an ITIN:

  • a tax filing requirement in the US and
  • you need to file a federal income tax return

An application for an ITIN includes:

  • Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (Form W-7)
  • US federal income tax return (Work with an accountant who specializes in US taxes for foreigners)
  • Proof of foreign status (See list of accepted documents from the IRS here)
  • Proof of identity (See list of accepted documents from the IRS here)

Regarding proof of foreign status and proof of identity: your passport is the only document that can be used to prove both at the same time.

You can find out the documents that can be used to satisfy either requirement in the "Supporting Documentation Requirements" section here.

Because the passport can be used to prove both foreign status and identity at the same time it is the most popular, easy and common option.

Is there an exception for getting an ITIN for LLC owners?

Again, to re-iterate, generally, the ITIN application must accompany your tax return.

However, per the exception 1(a) listed here (image below as well):

Persons who are eligible to claim Exception 1(a) include:

  • Individuals who are partners of a U.S. or foreign partnership that invests in the United States and that owns assets that generate income subject to IRS information-reporting and federal tax withholding requirements; or

Documentation you must submit if you’re eligible to claim Exception 1(a):

  • A copy of the portion of the partnership or LLC agreement displaying the partnership’s employer identification number and showing that you’re a partner in the partnership that’s conducting business in the United States.
Exception 1(a) from Form W-7 (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iw7.pdf)

How do I complete the Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (Form W-7)?

We strongly recommend working with a professional because if your Form W-7 has any mistakes, your ITIN Application will be rejected by the IRS.

However, if you would like to see what the application looks like and see the instructions to fill out the form on your own:

How do I submit my application to the IRS?

Per the Instructions for Form W-7 (please see the link for the most updated version, the below is directly added from the Instructions):

By mail:

Mail Form W-7, your tax return (if applicable) or other documents required by an exception, and the documentation described under Supporting Documentation Requirements,earlier, to:

Internal Revenue ServiceITIN OperationP.O. Box 149342Austin, TX 78714-9342

If you mail your application, don’t use the mailing address in the instructions for your tax return.

By private delivery services:

If you use a private delivery service, submit your Form W-7, your tax return (if applicable) or other documents required by an exception, and the documentation described under Supporting Documentation Requirements, earlier, to:

Internal Revenue ServiceITIN OperationMail Stop 6090-AUSC3651 S. Interregional, Hwy 35Austin, TX 78741-0000

The private delivery service can tell you how to get writtenproof of the mailing date.

In person:

You can apply for your ITIN by visiting designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs). They can verify original documentation and certified copies of the documentation from the issuing agency for primary and secondary applicants and their dependents. For dependents, TACs can verify passports, national identification cards, and birth certificates. These documents will be returned to you immediately. Service at TACs is by appointment only. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 844-545-5640. See IRS.gov/W7DocumentVerification for a list of designated TACs that offer ITIN document authentication service. TACs that don’t offer ITIN document authentication service will mail the original documents, Form W-7, and the tax return to the IRS Austin Service Center for processing.

Through an acceptance agent:

You can also apply through one of the two types of acceptance agents authorized by the IRS.

  1. Acceptance Agent (AA).
  2. Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA).

Acceptance Agent (AA). An Acceptance Agent (AA) can help you complete and file Form W-7. To get a list of agents, visit IRS.gov and enter “acceptance agent program” in the search box. An AA will need to submit original documentation or certified copies of the documentation from the issuing agency to the IRS for all applicants.

Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA). A Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA) can verify original documentation and certified copies of the documentation from the issuing agency for primary and secondary applicants and their dependents, except for foreign military identification cards. For dependents, CAAs can only verify passports and birth certificates. The CAA will return the documentation immediately after reviewing its authenticity. Taxpayers residing outside of the United States can apply for an ITIN through a CAA.

We strongly recommend working with a professional (instead of applying on your own)

Again, we strongly recommend working with a professional because a professional accountant can not only help you with your US federal income tax return but also they can help you with your ITIN Application.

And as we mentioned before: if your Form W-7 has any mistakes, your ITIN Application will be rejected by the IRS.

Therefore, we recommend working with a a professional accountant who is also an IRS Acceptance Agent.

How long does it take to process and approve an ITIN?

As the IRS explains here:

If you apply between January 1st and April 30th it will take 9 to 11 weeks.

If you apply between May 1st and December 31st it will take 7 weeks.

If I don't get my ITIN by then what do I do?

You can call the IRS to check the status of your applicaion:

  • For people in the US: call 1-800-829-1040.
  • For people outside the US: call 1-267-941-1000.

Do I ever need to renew my ITIN?

For a visual chart from the IRS about ITIN renewals, check out this page:

https://www.irs.gov/media/167246

Can StartPack help me get my ITIN?

That was a lot to take in.

If you're anything like most people, they'll be one line that stands out: if your Form W-7 has any mistakes, your ITIN Application will be rejected by the IRS.

Why bother applying for an ITIN on your own and risk making a mistake?

Instead, contact StartPack. We'll help you get your ITIN through a professional and take any ITIN application stress off your mind.

That way, you can focus on what you do best: building your business and making money.

About the author

Arjun Mahadevan

Co-Founder and CEO at StartPack

Arjun is into helping founders turn their dream idea into a profitable business. Arjun is into health & fitness 💪 and tech 💻

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