Is it Possible to Pay Taxes Without a Social Security Number?

By John Atkins

An individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) allows someone to pay taxes without a Social Security number.

The Internal Revenue Service issues these numbers to nonresidents who must themselves pay taxes, and also nonresidents who factor into a resident’s tax return.

A nine-digit number, the ITIN exists purely for tax purposes and confers no benefits to the bearer.

Who Needs an ITIN?

There are a few reasons why an individual might need an ITIN.

If you work in the United States and are not a U.S. citizen, you will need an ITIN to file income taxes and abide by tax laws. Nonresident aliens — those who have neither a green card nor have passed the substantial presence test — who need to file a U.S. tax return will always need an ITIN.

Resident aliens with the legal right to work in the United States will also need an ITIN for their tax returns. Nonresident alien spouses and dependents who factor into a resident alien’s or U.S. citizen’s tax return will also need ITINs.

Common examples of people who need ITINs include foreign-born students, individuals on temporary visas, or nonresident aliens who own or invest in U.S.-based businesses.

What is the Purpose of an ITIN?

An ITIN’s sole purpose is to identify the bearer for purposes of tax payments. ITIN bearers support the U.S. tax base and provide hundred of millions of tax dollars to the U.S. government every year.

An ITIN in no way confers citizenship or eligibility for public or tax benefits. The possession of an ITIN also does not confer work authorization. If the holder of an ITIN eventually gains U.S. citizenship, the income previously reported under the ITIN can possibly count toward future Social Security benefits.

How to Get an ITIN?

Individuals who need an ITIN must apply for it through the Internal Revenue Service. To apply, fill out Form W-7 and attach a copy of your most recent federal income tax return.

You will also need to provide proof of your identity. Your tax return will count as an attachment to your ITIN request, and does not get submitted to the address listed on Form 1040. Instead, you will send the completed W-7 and the return to the Internal Revenue Service’s ITIN Operation office.

For a current address and more information on the ITIN, check the IRS’s website.

About the Author

John Atkins was the community manager for Self.

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Written on July 17, 2015
Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings. Comments? Questions? Send us a note at hello@self.inc.

Disclaimer: Self is not providing financial advice. The content presented does not reflect the view of the Issuing Banks and is presented for general education and informational purposes only. Please consult with a qualified professional for financial advice.

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