The Internal Revenue Service issues some taxpayers an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). While both an ITIN and a Social Security Number are used to identify a taxpayer when filing taxes, there are significant differences between the two.
When an ITIN Is Issued
You will receive an ITIN if you are not qualified to receive a Social Security Number from the Social Security Administration. Most individuals who receive ITINs are not U.S. citizens and, because of that, cannot receive a Social Security number. According to the IRS, individuals who need an ITIN are nonresident aliens, US resident aliens or dependents or spouses of nonresident-alien visa holders.
When to Apply for an ITIN
You must first have applied and been declined for a Social Security number from the Social Security Administration before you will know if you need an ITIN. If you have a pending application for a Social Security number, the IRS advises you not to apply for an ITIN. An alien cannot have a Social Security number and an ITIN at the same time. Form SS-5 is the application for a Social Security card, which you can get at your local Social Security Administration office.
The sole purpose of an ITIN is to file federal taxes. Unlike a Social Security number, you cannot use it for any other purpose. If you are a nonresident or resident alien, working and paying taxes, then by law you are required to file taxes with the IRS.
The ITIN is a nine-digit number similar to a Social Security number, and you apply for it at the same time as you file your federal income taxes. (The ITIN always begins with the number 9.) You must attach your federal income tax return to the actual application for your ITIN. The application is also known as form W-7, and it may take up to six weeks for the IRS to mail your number. Contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 if you need information or assistance.
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