A W-7 Form is used to apply for an individual taxpayer identification number, or ITIN, for non-citizens who aren't eligible to receive a Social Security number but need to file a federal tax return with the IRS for income from US sources.
U.S. citizen taxpayers typically use Social Security numbers to identify themselves and their family members to the Internal Revenue Service. But some non-citizens who have U.S. tax obligations aren't eligible to receive a Social Security number. Instead, they can apply for an individual taxpayer identification number, or ITIN, by submitting Form W-7 to the IRS. The ITIN is for federal tax purposes only.
Why ITINs are necessary
In general, only people who are authorized to work in the United States are eligible to have a Social Security number. This can include both U.S. citizens and non-citizens such as U.S. nationals and permanent residents. These people use their Social Security numbers to identify themselves when filing their taxes.
But non-citizens without work authorization sometimes have to file U.S. tax returns, too—if they have income from U.S. sources, for example, or if they are entitled to a refund of withheld money under a tax treaty.
In addition, taxpayers who list non-citizen spouses or dependents on their tax return need to provide ID numbers for them. It is in situations like these where individual taxpayer identification numbers come into play. The ITIN provides the unique identifying number for the IRS to track someone in their system.
About form W-7
Form W-7 asks for the following information:
- The reason the applicant needs an ITIN
- The applicant's name, mailing address and, if different, foreign address
- The applicant's birth date and location of birth
- The country where the applicant is a citizen
- The applicant's foreign tax ID number, if they have one
- The applicant's U.S. visa number, if applicable
- Details about documents being submitted to verify the applicant's identity
How to apply
The IRS stresses that an ITIN is only for use with federal tax filings. Having one does not change a person’s residency or immigration status and does not mean someone is eligible to work in the United States. Further, you usually shouldn't apply for an ITIN until you actually need it for a tax return. To apply, submit:
- A completed copy of Form W-7
- The tax return that needs the number
- Valid identification for the person needing the number
Valid forms of ID
To receive an ITIN, a person’s ID must prove both identity and “foreign status”—that is, it must prove that the person is not a U.S. citizen. A valid passport or a certified copy of a passport typically proves both. If the person does not have a passport, then that person must supply at least two of the following documents. Some of them provide proof only of identity; others prove both foreign status and identity:
- Photo ID card from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (foreign status and identity)
- Visa issued by the State Department (foreign status and identity)
- U.S. or foreign driver’s license (identity only)
- U.S. military ID card (identity only)
- Foreign military ID card (foreign status and identity)
- National ID card from a foreign country (foreign status and identity)
- Non-driver ID card issued by a U.S. state (foreign status and identity)
- Foreign voter registration card (foreign status and identity)
- Foreign birth certificate (identity; if the certificate is from a foreign country, then foreign status and identity)
- Medical records for children under 6 (identity; if from a foreign country, then foreign status and identity)
- School records for children under 18 if still a student (identity; if from a foreign country, then foreign status and identity)
The IRS reviews the W-7 and, if it approves the application, assigns an ITIN and processes the tax return.
Submitting the form
A tax return accompanied by one or more W-7 forms cannot be submitted electronically. You can submit it in person at any IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center that performs in-person document reviews; most major cities have such assistance centers, and there is at least one center in every state.
You can also submit tax returns with W-7 forms by mail to:
Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342
According to the IRS, it takes 6 to 10 weeks to obtain an ITIN. An ITIN will expire at the end of the current year if it is not used on a federal tax return in the last 3 years.
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