The Internal Revenue Service tries to plan for all contingencies when writing regulations. When the agency began requiring Social Security numbers for all dependents, it recognized that there were a limited number of people for whom this simply wouldn’t work. The IRS quickly wrote regulations to cover situations involving dependents who couldn’t meet the requirements to obtain a Social Security number. However, with only one exception, your dependents must have one of the three types of acceptable identification numbers.
The Sole Exception
If your child is born and dies in the same tax year, you don’t have to obtain any type of identification number to claim him as a dependent. You can substitute his death certificate, hospital records or birth certificate instead; just include the document with your income tax return. The submitted record must indicate that he was born alive; stillborn babies can’t be claimed as dependents.
Eligible for SSN
If your dependent is eligible for a Social Security number, you must provide it on your return. Without a valid SSN, the IRS will probably disallow the exemption and recalculate your taxes. You can apply for a number online at the Social Security Administration’s website or at one of the agency’s local offices. It typically takes the SSA around two weeks to get the card to you once you have provided all the information requested.
Non-resident aliens and some resident aliens cannot obtain a Social Security number. For example, you might be able to claim a parent who lives in Mexico as a dependent. Although the IRS might approve the exemption, it’s going to want a number. In this case, you must provide the individual taxpayer identification number. The easiest way to apply for an ITIN is by completing a Form W-7 at the IRS website.
If an authorized agency placed a child with you for adoption, you normally cannot get an SSN for the child until the adoption is finalized. In some instances, the child qualifies for an ITIN. If the child doesn’t qualify for either number, you can request an adoption taxpayer identification number from the IRS by submitting a Form W-7A. You can use this number while the adoption process is pending.
April 15 is almost upon you, and you still haven’t applied for the SSN, ITIN or ATIN you need. In that case, you might consider filing a Form 4868 with the IRS no later than the date your return is due. This will give you an extra six months to file your return, and IRS approval is automatic. You can file your return at any time during that six-month period without incurring a late filing penalty. However, the extension applies only to filing, not to paying the taxes you owe. If you don’t include payment for your taxes with your extension request, the IRS will charge you interest on the unpaid amount, and you might even be assessed a penalty.
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