How to Apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

Disclaimer: The article that follows tells the story of how my wife and son applied for their Individual Tax Identification Number (TIN)s. It is not meant to be taken as financial or tax advice. This is only for educational and informational purposes. The reader is encouraged to do their due diligence.

After my first year of working in the United States, I had to file my income tax return. I had my Social Security Number, our HR Department withheld my tax every payday. All I had to do was to file my income tax. I decided to do it online through TurboTax. It was easy–all I had to do was upload my form W-2, which our HR provided.

There was a catch, though. I was taxed as a single person because I could not claim my wife and my son as my dependents. They did not have Social Security numbers and they couldn’t get it either. They are considered as dependents of a non-immigration alien. What that meant is that my wife cannot work at all.

I, on the other hand, was being treated as a resident-for-tax purposes.

Good thing, I got in touch with a few Filipinos who had been in the same situation as we were. They told us to explore the possibility of getting an ITIN for my wife and son. That’s exactly what we did in November 2016.

If you have family members who are dependents, but you want to claim them as dependents in your tax returns, then this information may help you.

Do your due diligence.

Look for information you need primarily on the Internal Revenue Service. They provide helpful information on their website. To make it easier on you, here’s the page on how to Apply for an ITIN: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/how-do-i-apply-for-an-itin.

THIS GUIDE IS ONLY FOR THOSE WHO ARE WILLING TO READ LOTS AND LOTS OF PAGES OF INSTRUCTIONS AND FORMS.

THERE IS AN EASIER ROUTE–GO LOOK FOR AN ACCOUNTANT AND PAY THEM TO HELP YOU GO THROUGH THIS PROCESS. If you’re not comfortable or willing to slog through this process, please stop and consult an accountant or tax professional.

Read blogs, forums, and other online sources of information.

I did a Google search and read through probably hundreds of blogs, websites, and forums. I hope that this particular blog post will help you with your application.

Who is the ITIN for?

Usually, non-immigrant aliens or anyone who can legally work in the USA can apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). The SSN is like an identity number that allows you to work and file taxes in the USA. It is similar to one’s Tax ID number in the Philippines.

Some individuals, though they are not citizens or allowed to work, may be allowed to file taxes because they are dependents of someone who is legally allowed to work. According to the Instructions for Form W-7, “Any individual who isn’t eligible to get an SSN but who must furnish a taxpayer identification number.”

Specifically, they are the following:

  • A nonresident alien individual claiming reduced withholding under an applicable income tax treaty for which an ITIN is required;
  • A nonresident alien individual not eligible for an SSN who is required to file a U.S. federal tax return or who is filing a U.S. federal tax return only to claim a refund;
  • A nonresident alien individual not eligible for an SSN who elects to file a joint U.S. federal tax return with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or resident alien;
  • A U.S. resident alien (based on the substantial presence test) who files a U.S. federal tax return but who isn’t eligible for an SSN. For information about the substantial presence test, see Pub. 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.
  • An alien spouse claimed as an exemption on a U.S. federal tax return who isn’t eligible to get an SSN;
  • An alien individual eligible to be claimed as a dependent on a U.S. federal tax return but who isn’t eligible to get an SSN;
  • A nonresident alien student, professor, or researcher who is required to file a U.S. federal tax return but who isn’t eligible for an SSN, or who is claiming an exception to the tax return filing requirement;
  • A dependent/spouse of a nonresident alien U.S. visa holder, who isn’t eligible for an SSN.

In our case, the 4th and the last situation applied to my wife and son. So that is what we chose in the W-7 form.

How to apply for an ITIN

You cannot apply for an ITIN separately. It should be attached to a tax return that you are filing (using IRS form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040NR, or 1040NR-EZ), or to an amended return (Form 1040X).

In our case, I filed for my income tax return without any dependents on our first year (2016). Later that year (2016), my wife and son applied for their ITINs alongside our request for adjustment of the tax return I filed in 2016.

It was confusing and required a lot of paperwork, but it was all worth it.

Forms You’ll Need

The main form you need to apply for the ITIN is IRS Form W-7. which you can download from this link: https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-form-w7.

Download Form W-7, together with the Instructions for Form W-7. Both are in PDF
Form W-7: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw7.pdf
Instructions for Form W-7: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iw7.pdf

It’s a pretty short and straightforward form. You will need the SSN of the US resident spouse or parent who is filing the tax return. You will also need to make a copy of your passport and US visa. All these requirements and information are available on the Instructions document.

How to Send Your Form W-7 and Other IRS Forms

Because you are applying for an ITIN, you cannot file your tax returns online. You need to fill out the forms and file by paper. In succeeding years, though, you can file your tax returns electronically.

You have the option of mailing your ITIN application to the address listed on the information page about Form W-7:

Internal Revenue Service
Austin Service Center
ITIN Operation
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342

The downside, though, is that you also need to mail your original identity documents such as your passport.

Alternatively, you can make an appointment at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. Remember, you cannot just walk-in to any Taxpayer Assistance Center, you need to call and set an appointment. Look for the closest Taxpayer Assistance Center here: https://www.irs.gov/help/contact-your-local-irs-office.

We set an appointment at the Nashville Taxpayer Assistance Center. We had to go there twice because we lacked one document on the first go. But it was helpful to have an IRS officer look at our documents and explain to us the different options and missing documents we needed.

That is also where we submitted our forms W-7 and the income tax return, too.

Our Experience

We submitted all the documents we prepared on November 1, 2016. This is what we submitted to help you get a glimpse of the paperwork we did:

  • Form W-7 for my wife
  • Copy of her passport
  • Form W-7 for my son
  • Copy of his passport
  • Form 1040X: Amended US Individual Income Tax Return

The process of preparing the Form 1040X was complicated and deserves a post all its own. But to help out anyone who is doing this. The major changes we amended were:

  • Filing status: from Single to Married Filing Jointly;
  • We also attached the original IRS Form 1040;
  • We also attached Form 2555: Foreign Earned Income

Throughout this process, I used TurboTax as a guide to help me out.

End Result: More Exemptions!

After about 6 weeks, the ITINs for my wife and son came in the mail, alongside a notice that there was an extra refund for us!

It was awesome and totally worth it!

I hope that this will help you out in applying for an ITIN. If you have questions, let me know and I will try my best to answer.

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