What is a US ITIN number and how to get it from abroad

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In a previous article about opening an account in the USA for non-resident individuals and LLCs managed by non-residents, we mentioned that U.S. banks sometimes ask for an ITIN number.

Today we are going to understand what an ITIN number is, what it is for, break down common misconceptions and answer common questions about the U.S. Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

We will start by saying that the full procedure for obtaining an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is described in detail on the website of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. In our article, we will focus on the main points of the procedure for obtaining a remote ITIN number, as well as offer an alternative to going through the procedure yourself.

What is an ITIN?

ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) is a U.S. individual taxpayer identification number. It is a nine-digit number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

ITINs are issued to people who do not have a Social Security Number (SSN) or are not eligible for one. That is, ITINs and SSNs are mutually exclusive; you can only have either an ITIN or an SSN. 

ITINs are issued to both residents and nonresident aliens (“nonresident aliens” is the legal term the U.S. IRS uses for aliens).

Now a very important point: from an IRS perspective, the ITIN is used to file a U.S. tax return (or provide information to the IRS) and cannot be used for anything else.

It is important to keep this in mind when you apply for an ITIN number.

Why do I need an ITIN number?

If you are not a U.S. resident, you may need an ITIN for the following reasons:

  • You are expecting to receive a taxable scholarship or grant income and you are not eligible for a Social Security Number
  • You are going to claim the tax benefits of a Double Tax Agreement (DTA)
  • You are required to file a U.S. tax return
  • You are going to claim a tax refund
  • You are going to open an account in the U.S. (optional and not always required, depends on the bank).

What the ITIN does not give the right (contrary to some misconceptions that exist in the network):

  • work in the USA
  • gain legal status in the USA
  • get Social Security benefits
  • get a tax credit for income earned

When we say “work in the USA”, we are referring to wage labor. Sole proprietorship of an American LLC does not apply here, because although you work for your company, you act as its owner.

Who may need an ITIN number:

  • As we stated above, a nonresident alien who must file a U.S. tax return
  • Dependents or spouse of a U.S. citizen/resident alien
  • Dependents or spouse of a nonresident alien visa holder

Example of ITIN number registration notice

How do I get an ITIN from abroad? 

Is it possible to get an ITIN remotely? Yes, it is possible. How to do it, we will now tell in detail, but first let us talk about the documents that are submitted to obtain a US TIN.

Your ITIN application may include the following documents: 

  • Form W-7 Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Your U.S. federal income tax return
  • Document proving your identity
  • Proof of foreign status

We will look at the details of Form W-7 below, but now let us talk about the other documents.

U.S. federal tax returns

Most people applying for an ITIN can only do so in conjunction with filing their U.S. federal tax return. However, if you meet one of the IRS exemptions, you can apply for an ITIN at any time, and you do not need to include your U.S. tax return with your ITIN application.

What are these exceptions? They are all described in the instructions to Form W-7 on this page: set forth at the end of the section Reason You’re Submitting Form W-7. Almost all of these exceptions are for dealing with financial institutions and reporting to them (actually: a third party) with an ITIN number.

The exemptions are not explicitly stated, so you should consult with a U.S. tax attorney or accounting firm to see if you qualify for one of these exemptions.

Here is a list of these exemptions (look for detailed explanations and disclaimers here, but you’d better consult a tax lawyer): 

  1. Receipt of passive income (partnership income, interest income, annuity income, rental income, etc.) subject to third party withholding or covered by benefits under a tax treaty;
  2. Receipt of other income (wages, compensation, honoraria, scholarships and grants, gambling income, etc.);
  3. The need for third party reporting of mortgage interest;
  4. You are involved in a foreclosure in the United States by a foreign person;
  5. Treasury Decision (TD) 9363. You are a non-U.S. citizen and are a representative of a foreign corporation and have an IRS reporting requirement. In this case, you are sending the ITIN form with your Form 13350.

A document proving your identity

The same document will also be a confirmation of foreign status.

The Instructions for Completing Form W-7 list 13 documents that may be used to prove foreign status and identity. For a complete list of documents and specifics of how to submit them, see this link.

The foreign passport is the only document that can be submitted independently. That is, if the passport is submitted, no other documents need to be submitted.

So, for identification and proof of foreign status when applying for an ITIN, you can apply: 

  • Passport (the only document submitted by yourself)*
  • National ID card (must include photo, name, current address, date of birth and expiration date)
  • U.S. driver’s license
  • Birth certificate (required for dependents under 18)
  • International driver’s license
  • U.S. state identification card
  • Foreign voter registration card
  • U.S. military ID card
  • Foreign military ID card
  • U.S. Visa
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Photo ID
  • Medical cards (dependents only – up to 6 years old)
  • School records (dependents only – under 14 years old or under 18 years old in case of students)

If you do not submit a foreign passport with your ITIN application, you must submit a combination of at least two other documents, at least one of which contains a photo.

If the documents do not have expiration dates, the IRS will only accept documents issued within 12 months prior to the date of application.

The key to successfully obtaining an ITIN number is filling out the forms correctly and documents that meet the U.S. Internal Revenue Service requirements.

Apostille as a way to certify documents

Never send original documents. You can use an apostille to certify copies of documents. 

The United States formally signed a multilateral agreement, signed in 1961, known as the Hague Convention, which eliminates the requirement for legalization of foreign documents in the USA.

Under the provisions of the Hague Convention, an individual from one signatory country may provide certified copies of certain documents to government officials of another signatory country.

We devoted an entire blog article to the topic of apostille.

In general, the “competent authorities” of a signatory country to the Hague Convention will complete a one-page form known as an “apostille”, which they will then either sign or seal. Then this apostille is affixed to copies of documents and it serves as legal authentication of signatures on documents, or as authentication of the seal or stamp affixed to documents.

In the apostille material, you will find an indication of who can perform this procedure in Ukraine, depending on the type of documents.

Form W-7 

And here we get to the main form when applying for an ITIN number. It is critical that you fill out this form correctly, as the IRS will reject your ITIN application if it does not meet the requirements (and it happens very often).

The IRS Form W-7 can be found here

U.S. Internal Revenue Service instructions for completing Form W-7 Form can be found here.

The USA has a number of foreign centers that can help you fill out and submit your W-7 Form (there is a special field on the form for them to check). There is a list of these centers on this page, but there is no such center in Ukraine; the nearest ones are in the Czech Republic, Germany, and the Russian Federation.

Carefully read the instructions on Form W-7 if you are submitting it yourself. It is extremely important that you answer the first question correctly: Reason you’re submitting Form W-7. This answer will determine 90% of whether your application is approved or not.

When filling out Form W-7, special attention should be paid to the reasons for submitting the form and (accordingly) for wanting an ITIN number

There are no special recommendations for filling in the forms, the main thing – do not forget that Americans indicate the month first, then the day and the year. I.e. 01.03.1980 is not our usual March 1, 1980, but January 3, 1980. Before the digits up to 10 in the date you must put zero before the number: i.e. not 1.3.1980, but 01.03.1980. 

If you will use the mail to send the form, you can send the form itself, your tax return (if necessary), and a copy of your identification document to this address:

Internal Revenue Service

ITIN Operation

P.O. Box 149342

Austin, TX 78714-9342

If you use a courier delivery service, then this one:

Internal Revenue Service

ITIN Operation

Mail Stop 6090-AUSC

3651 S. Interregional, Hwy 35

Austin, TX 78741-0000

Application review timelines and standard IRS responses

The processing time of your ITIN application depends directly on the period in which it was sent:

  • Application sent from January 15 to April 30 takes up to 12 weeks to process (due to COVID, processing time may be extended)
  • Application sent from May 1 to December 31 takes up to 8 weeks to process.

You will know the status of your application no earlier than 7 weeks after the estimated time of receipt of your IRS documents. You can do this by calling 1-267-941-1000.

What notices from the IRS can be:

  • If everything is submitted correctly, you will receive a CP-565A Notice (Notice of ITIN Assignment), which will include your ITIN number.
  • If you have not heeded our advice and sent original documents, they will be returned to you with letter 5872.
  • CP-567 notice comes when the IRS has rejected an application for an ITIN number (most often when the IRS has found the reasons for assigning the number unconvincing). The notification will include the reason and a phone number where you can call for details.
  • You will receive a CP-566 notice in case the IRS needs any additional documents.

Since we have talked about the various notices from the IRS, it makes sense to mention the CP-48 notice that is sent to people whose ITINs are about to expire. We will talk about the expiration date of your ITIN in the Frequently Asked Questions section.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Instead of concluding, here are the answers to the most common questions about obtaining an ITIN number.

1. Expiration date of ITIN

The U.S. ITIN number does not have an expiration date. However, it may expire if you have not filed an IRS tax return in the past 3 years. In this case, the ITIN must be renewed.

2. How to prolong the validity of ITIN?

The procedure for renewal is the same as for receiving, with the only exception that you submit only Form W-7 (without the tax return and other documents), in which you indicate Renew an Existing ITIN in the upper right side of the form.

The same W-7 Form and a simplified set of documents is used to extend the validity of the ITIN.

3. What is the difference between ITIN, SSN and EIN?

  • ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) – used by people who do not qualify for an SSN, but have tax or information reporting requirements in the United States. 
  • SSN (Social Security Number) – issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to identify a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or temporary nonimmigrant worker. Not everyone is eligible for an SSN.
  • EIN (Employer Identification Number). Although the name has the word “Employer” in it, you do not necessarily have employees to obtain and use this number. The EIN is issued to businesses by the IRS to meet tax reporting requirements. This is also used to open a commercial bank account after the establishment of LLC in the United States.

4. What if I get an SSN later?

Under U.S. law, an alien cannot have both an ITIN and an SSN at the same time. If you later qualify for an SSN due to a change in your status in the United States and receive a Social Security number, you will need to ask the IRS to combine your tax records.

Then IRS will use your SSN number in all future and past records, and the ITIN will be cancelled. 

We really hope this material was helpful to you. If you are going to get an ITIN in the near future, we highly recommend that you keep track of all the changes on the IRS website, for example, on this page.

4B company assistance in obtaining an ITIN

If you think that receiving an ITIN by yourself is too complicated or you do not have time to get into all the details – 4B company can help you and get you an ITIN through our accountant in the USA.

To obtain an ITIN, you will need to prepare the following information:

  • Foreign passport
  • Foreign non U.S. address
  • Your city of birth and country
  • Applicants mailing address – USA (you can specify your company address in the USA, if there is no company – we can indicate accountant address)
  • U.S. visa (if you have one)
  • Dates of stay in the U.S. (day of entry and exit)

After all the information is collected, proceed as follows:

1. You give the information you have collected to your manager at 4B company.

2. Appointment of a skype-call date with an accountant in the USA, which is needed to identify and check the readiness of all documents (you must have your foreign passport)

3. The next step is a preparing the forms (W7 and 1040NR)

4. The completed forms are signed by the applicant (you) and sent to the U.S. IRS in physical form. Along with the forms, a scan of your foreign passport, visa (if you have one), plus your accountant’s information forms are submitted.

5. Waiting process, usually 1.5 – 3 months.

6. Receiving of the ITIN document at the address in the U.S. indicated on the forms.

As you can see, the process is not complicated. To get started, fill out the form below and our experts will advise you. And keep an eye on the blog, we have many more interesting materials in the plans.

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