Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) - Questions and Answers

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) - Frequently Asked Questions

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number is a United States tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service. The ITIN is only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a Social Security Number.  

To obtain an ITIN, you must complete IRS Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. 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 is available for use by Spanish speakers. 

The following Frequently Asked Questions were created from feedback we receive by attendees taking our classes. We hope this information is useful and relevant to you. 

Can an ITIN holder claim the Earned Income Tax Credit? 

An ITIN filer can't claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, which requires a Social Security number. Also, any children using an ITIN instead of a Social Security number will not be included in the calculation of the credit. 

Undocumented workers in my town are looking to apply for an ITIN. Is there a way I can get the W-7 form in Spanish and convert the form back to English so I can read it?   

Form W-7 is also available in Spanish. We recommend having both the English and Spanish form side by side so you can understand what each line means. You can view the Form W-7 in Spanish here: 

Can an undocumented worker be deported if they apply for an ITIN? 

The IRS does not share taxpayer information with any other federal agency. A person applying for an ITIN does not make them a target for deportation.   

If a company works people as day laborers and the worker does not have a social security number or an ITIN, can the company assist the worker in getting an ITIN?  

The worker needs to apply for an ITIN when they file their tax return. The company cannot apply for an ITIN on behalf of the worker.  

If a person is married to someone in the UK, the spouse is a legal citizen of UK and has never been to the US, should the taxpayer apply for an ITIN for the spouse?   

If you are married and one spouse is a U.S. citizen or a resident alien and the other is a nonresident alien, you can choose to treat the nonresident spouse as a U.S. resident. You will apply for an ITIN for the spouse who is in the UK. You will then complete form 1040 as married filing jointly.  

What information goes with the ITIN application when that person does not live here? 

Whether the person lives in the U.S. or not, they need to provide original documentation to prove their identity and foreign status. There are 13 acceptable documents the ITIN applicant needs to provide. Each document must be current, contain an expiration date, show their name and photograph, and support their claim of foreign status. Here is the list of acceptable documents: 

  • U.S. driver's license 
  • Civil birth certificate  
  • Passport 
  • National identification card 
  • Foreign driver's license 
  • U.S. state identification card 
  • Foreign voter's registration card 
  • U.S. military identification card 
  • Foreign military identification card 
  • Visa 
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) photo identification 
  • Medical records (dependents only - under 6) 
  • School records (dependents only - under 14, under 18 if a student) 

A passport is the only document that proves both identity and foreign status.  For dependents, the passport must have a date of entry to be a stand-alone document.  

Will a notarized document work instead of an original document?  

The IRS does not accept notarized documents. The taxpayer must submit original documents with their ITIN application.   

Can a business issue a 1099-MISC without an ITIN for an undocumented worker so that undocumented worker can file a tax return and file a W-7?  Or does the business need the ITIN number first? 

The business can still issue a 1099-MISC without the ITIN. However, to maintain compliance with IRS guidelines, they must make a formal request to the undocumented worker for his identification number before the end of the year. 

If the business does not have the ITIN by the time it files Forms 1099-MISC, they should leave the identification number box empty, but still submit the report to the IRS. 

The IRS will send a notice stating that the number is missing.  This notice must be sent along with a backup withholding notice and W-9 form to the worker. This notifies the worker that he will be subject to withholding until he submits his identification number.  He is also subject to a penalty of $50 for failure to furnish the ITIN to the business.  

If a taxpayer is applying for an ITIN and enters the year 2017 into the Date of Entry, but has not filed a tax return in the past, will the IRS investigate? 

Taxpayers must file a tax return for each year they earn income. If the taxpayer did not earn income in 2017 or 2018, they do not have to file a tax return for those years.   

If an ITIN business owner does not have any records of income and expenses, can I still file their Schedule C? 

Ultimately, it’s the taxpayer’s responsibility to prove their income and substantiate their expenses. As a tax professional, you should ask for proof of income and expenses, especially if the taxpayer qualifies for the Earned Income Tax Credit. 

If a taxpayer is a nonresident and lives in a foreign country, how can they apply for an ITIN? 

A taxpayer can obtain an ITIN from abroad by mailing in their W-7 application with their original documents to the IRS. They can also visit a certifying acceptance agent. The IRS has a list of acceptance agents outside of the U.S.  

Are you eligible for the child tax credit if your dependent has an ITIN? 

No, you may not claim the child tax credit for a child with an ITIN. The child must have an SSN to be a qualifying child eligible for the child tax credit (CTC) or the additional child tax credit (ACTC). 

Can you apply for an ITIN with a 1040-NR? 

Yes, non-resident aliens can apply for an ITIN with the Form 1040-NR.