What is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number?

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Question: What Is an ITIN?

Answer: The ITIN number or “Individual Taxpayer Identification Number” is similar to that of the Social Security number. The ITIN is for individuals that cannot acquire the SSN but have tax filing requirements with the IRS. The ITIN is 9 digits in length just like a SSN, but it will always start with a 9. The number was created 13 years ago to assist individuals without a SSN to comply with Federal tax law. The thought process is if income is earned here, then filings need to be made with the IRS, whether you are here legally or not. Not just anyone will receive an ITIN number, the IRS stipulates that the individual requires a filing of a federal return in order for it to be issued. Possession of an ITIN does not indicate permission to work in the US or obtain benefits from the Social Security Administration, it is simply a number to identify an individual to the US tax system.

I was surprised to learn that the IRS is not allowed, by Federal Law, to share any of this information with any of the other US Agencies. This was enacted to encourage filings with the IRS without the fear of retribution, such as deportation. The goal of the legislation was to allow illegal immigrants to pay their fair share of taxes. More than 1.5 million applications for the ITIN were processed in 2008. A recent study by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration took a sampling of 510 ITIN applications and found that 78% of these contained errors, but they were processed anyway. In addition, the government also admitted that more than 55,000 ITIN’s were used multiple times on different returns within a year, with refunds totaling over $202 Million!

If you need an ITIN don’t let the lengthy application deter you from proceeding, as the statistics above show, even if you mess up the application they will still issue the number…..

If you would like information on how to obtain the ITIN number visit http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96287,00.html

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