What is an ITIN - and who needs one?

By Alex Oware on 06/24/2015 10:00 PM

To file a U.S. tax return you do need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for every person listed on that tax return. Filing a return is not a choice, but an obligation for all who earn income in the United States regardless of their legal status.

Taxpayers come from all walks of life and from all corners of the globe. You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to owe U.S. taxes or to claim a refund.

 

However, to file a U.S. tax return you do need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for every person listed on that tax return. Filing a return is not a choice, but an obligation for all who earn income in the United States regardless of their legal status. The U.S. government does monitor compliance with tax obligations and can impose penalties on those who do not fulfill them.
The Internal Revenue Service’s job is to make sure that everyone who earns income in the United States pays the proper amount of taxes, even if they may not be working here legally. The IRS will not report you to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or any other immigration-related agencies, however I do recommend you seek legal advice if you have issues related to your status in the United States.
Obtaining an ITIN does not change your immigration or work status. If you are in a transitional immigration status, it is important that you build a history of compliance with tax obligations that could later be useful if you try to change your immigration status. You may also be entitled to a refund based on any amounts withheld from your paychecks.

 

U.S. citizens use their Social Security Number (SSN) to file their taxes. Aliens with U.S. tax responsibilities as well as undocumented U.S. income earners who have a U.S. return filing requirement must use ITINs. There are three circumstances requiring the filing of a U.S. tax return even if you are not a citizen.
1. Salary, wages or tips earned by persons living and working in the United States.
2. Income from investments, gifts, prizes and other income from U.S. sources.
3. Income earned by foreign nationals through sales and investment transactions in the United States.
An ITIN serves as a unique taxpayer identification number for those who can’t get a SSN to file their tax return either to pay taxes or to claim a refund if they qualify. An ITIN does not entitle you to the Earned Income Tax Credit or Social Security benefits.
 Do not apply for an ITIN if you qualify for a SSN or you have a visa valid for work. Apply for a SSN first. If denied  SSN, then attach the denial to your ITIN application (Form W-7).

***Disclaimer: I am a tax accountant and a CPA , but I am not your accountant or advocate (Unless you have signed up to my services). This communication is not intended as tax advice, and no tax accountant -client relationship results**