Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs) are a broad category of identification numbers used by the Internal Revenue Service for tax reporting purposes. This broad category of identification numbers includes the Social Security Number (SSN), the Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), and the Employer Identification Number (EIN). The first two numbers are assigned to individuals and the latter is assigned to business entities only.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
A TIN is a number assigned to either an individual or a business entity for tax purposes. A Social Security number is a type of TIN, and only individuals are assigned Social Security numbers, and the Social Security Administration assigns the numbers. All other types of TINs are assigned by the IRS.
Social Security Number
Think of a Social Security Number as one of the spokes in a TIN umbrella that covers tax reporting activities. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the SSN is assigned to individuals qualified to work in the United States and who are qualified to receive Social Security retirement benefits. This includes U.S. citizens, permanent residents and nonresidents who have approval from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to work in the U.S. An individual cannot have both an SSN and an ITIN number. The SSN is issued only by the SSA and not by the IRS.
Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
Another spoke in the TIN umbrella is the ITIN. According to the IRS, the ITIN is required for tax reporting or tax filing requirements for residents or nonresidents who do not qualify for a SSN. The ITIN is also required for those who are dependent spouses of such individuals. The ITIN is another one of the TINs, but it is issued by the IRS rather than the SSA.
Employer Identification Number
Another spoke in the TIN umbrella applies to businesses only: the EIN. The EIN identifies a business for tax filing and tax reporting purposes, just as the SSN and ITIN identify individuals for tax purposes. If a business has employees, is a corporation or partnership, files tax returns of any kind, withholds taxes on income paid to a nonresident alien or has a Keogh plan, then it will need an EIN. In addition, organizations like trusts, estates, nonprofit organizations and farmers’ cooperatives are among other enterprises that may require an EIN. The IRS issues EINs.
Apply for Taxpayer Identification Numbers
Apply for TINs according to the type of TIN needed. Apply for an SSN online or at an SSA office. SSNs are issued only by this agency. Apply for an ITIN through the IRS or through an IRS-authorized agent, which may include colleges, accounting firms or other financial institutions. Apply for the EIN with the IRS online or by telephone, fax or mail.
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images