The Internal Revenue Service issues individual tax identification numbers, also called "ITINs." These are tax processing numbers for individuals who are legally required to have a tax identification number in this country but are not eligible to get a Social Security number.
While the IRS used to issue ITIN numbers on cards, called ITIN cards, this is no longer the case. Instead, individual tax identification numbers are now issued in an authorization letter. Anyone currently holding an ITIN card can continue to use the number for tax purposes but expired or lost cards will not be replaced.
What Is an ITIN Number?
The U.S. taxing authorities keeps track of everything by numbers. This makes sense to anyone who has ever looked for an acquaintance on Facebook and discovers how many people share the same first and last names.
To file a tax return in this country, an individual filer needs some kind of a taxpayer identification number. Most people use their Social Security Number as a taxpayer number, but these numbers are only available to U.S. citizens. Non-citizens who must file reports or tax returns with the IRS also need a tax identification number, but they can't get SSNs. That is where ITIN numbers come into play.
While an ITIN is a tax identification number the IRS issues to an individual who cannot get an SSN, these numbers have nothing to do with immigration status. Both resident and nonresident aliens might be required to report income or file taxes in the United States, depending on their circumstances.
How Does a Person Get an ITIN Number?
To obtain an ITIN number, an individual must complete IRS form W-7 and send it to the IRS for processing. Along with it, he must file a certificate of accuracy and copies of required documents and tax returns to the IRS for processing.
He can submit a W-7 application with his original documents in person at designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers. The TAC certifies only original documents and copies certified by the original issuing agency.
Do ITIN Numbers Expire?
It's important to keep in mind that ITIN numbers do not last forever. If an individual does not use her ITIN on a tax return for three consecutive years, it expires. In addition, certain numbers expire every year. Expired ITIN numbers must be renewed by filing a renewal application.
For example, all ITINs with middle digits 83, 84, 85, 86 or 87 expire at the end of 2019. Those ITINs with the middle digits of 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 81 or 82 expired in 2018, and those with middle digits 70, 71, 72 and 80 expired in 2017.
What Is an ITIN Card?
The IRS used to issue an ITIN card to someone applying for an individual tax identification number. The card had the ITIN number and the person's name printed on it.
These cards were never intended for anything other than to facilitate tax filing. They were not supposed to serve as personal identification. Nor were they intended to provide proof that someone is authorized to work in the U.S., is eligible for Social Security benefits, or qualifies as a dependent for Earned Income Tax Credit Purposes.
However, sometimes people got confused about the purposes of the cards. In 2019, the Internal Revenue Service decided to change this procedure. It no longer uses ITIN cards in an attempt to avoid confusing ITIN cards with Social Security Number cards. Now a person applying for an ITIN number is issued in an authorization letter.
What About Old ITIN Cards?
Anyone who was issued an ITIN card can continue to use the number on that card as an identification number for tax purposes, but the IRS will not replace the card for any purposes. If a person loses the card or the ITIN expires, she should apply for a new number that will be issued in an authorization letter.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.