Photo: Applying for ITIN
With tax season now here, we wanted to share a little-known (but important) requirement from the IRS that will directly affect millions of immigrants when filing their taxes this year.
As you may know, for immigrants who do not have a Social Security number, the IRS requires that an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) be entered on tax returns instead. For immigrants who do not already have their ITIN, the IRS now requires those applying for one to submit either original documents or certified copies of original documents prepared by the issuing agency (i.e. passports and other forms of primary identification) with their Form W-7.
Though the ITIN is for Federal tax purposes only (it does not entitle someone to Social Security benefits or to change their immigration status/right to work in the U.S.), this new requirement has created unease among immigrants who are rightly concerned about crucial original documents getting lost or being out of their hands for an indeterminate period of time.
From the IRS
What are the interim changes to the ITIN application requirements?
The IRS is revising its procedures for issuing new Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) as part of a comprehensive review of the ITIN processing procedures. Forms W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, submitted during the interim period beginning June 22, 2012 through the end of the year must include original documentation such as passports and birth certificates, or copies of these documents certified by the issuing agency. During this interim period, notarized copies of documentation will not be accepted.
Are there any applicants who are exempt from these new requirements?
Some categories of applicants are not impacted by these interim changes, including spouses and dependents of U.S. military personnel who need ITINs. People who should follow the current procedures outlined in the Form W-7 instructions include:
Military spouses and dependents without an SSN who need an ITIN (Military spouses use box “e” on Form W-7 and military dependents use box “d”). Exceptions to the new interim document standards will be made for military family members satisfying the documentation requirements by providing a copy of the spouse or parent’s U.S. military identification, or applying from an overseas APO/FPO address.
Nonresident aliens applying for ITINs for the purpose of claiming tax treaty benefits (use boxes “a” and “h” on Form W-7). Non-resident alien applicants generally need ITINs for reasons besides filing a U.S. tax return. This is necessary for nonresident aliens who may be subject to third-party withholding for various income, such as certain gambling winnings or pension income, or need an ITIN for information reporting purposes. While existing documentation standards will be maintained only for these applicants, scrutiny of the documents will be heightened. ITIN applications of this category that are accompanied by a U.S. tax return will be subject to the new interim document standards.
What is the difference between a “certified” and a “notarized” document?
A certified document is one that the original issuing agency provides and certifies as an exact copy of the original document and contains an official stamped seal from the Agency. These documents will be accepted. A notarized document is one that the taxpayer provides to a public notary who bears witness to the signing of the official document and affixes a seal assuring that the document is legitimate. These documents will not be accepted for ITIN applications. Note there are some applicants who are exempt from this change. This exemption is described in a previous question.
Why is IRS changing the ITIN program procedures?
The IRS is instituting these interim changes while conducting a review of the program designed to strengthen and protect the integrity of the ITIN process.