You have to file income taxes if you earn money in the U.S. as a resident, citizen or visitor. Typically, you need a Social Security number to file your income tax return and claim important tax credits. The Individual Tax Identification Number, or ITIN, is assigned by the IRS to people who don't have a SSN to facilitate payment of taxes. You may be eligible to claim certain tax benefits with an ITIN, including dependents.
Who Needs an ITIN?
You will be provided with an ITIN if you want to pay tax regardless of your immigration status or country of origin. If you have a family, your spouse or any of your dependents who can’t have a SSN will each need an ITIN in order to be included on your tax return. You can get an ITIN for all your dependents living in Canada or Mexico, if you support them with more than 50 percent of the money for their living expenses.
Claiming Exemptions for Dependents
You will use your ITIN when preparing your tax return and reporting the wages that you earned as listed on your W-2 or 1099 forms. You can file a joint return if your spouse has a SSN or ITIN. To claim exemptions for dependents, you must list their ITINs as well. For an adoptee without an ITIN, apply for an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number from the IRS. You can still claim a deduction for a child who was born and died in the same tax year by attaching a copy of the child's birth certificate in lieu of the ITIN and indicating he or she died, on the appropriate exemption line.
Although you can be issued an ITIN for tax purposes regardless of immigration status, there are limitations to what you can claim and, sometimes, how you can file. The ITIN will not make you eligible to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or receive Social Security benefits. If you do not have an ITIN yet, you cannot file your taxes online, or efile. You will need to attach the application to a valid federal income tax return.
Applying for ITIN
You can apply for an ITIN by filling out Form W-7 and attaching documents that prove your identity and foreign status. Form W-7SP is available in Spanish. If you are the parent or court-appointed guardian of a dependent who is 13 or younger, you will need to sign his or her form. An original passport is accepted for both identity and foreign status. Without one, you should provide the IRS with two documents, one of which should bear your picture, unless you are a minor. Examples include a national ID, U.S. visa, U.S. or foreign driver's license, civil birth certificate or, for dependents only, school records.
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