A taxpayer identification number must be furnished on returns, statements, and other tax-related documents. For an individual, this is a social security number (SSN). If you do not have and are not eligible to get an SSN, you must apply for an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). An employer identification number (EIN) is required if you are engaged in a trade or business as a sole proprietor and have employees or a qualified retirement plan.
You must furnish a taxpayer identification number if you are:
- An alien who has income effectively connected with the conduct of a U.S. trade or business at any time during the year,
- An alien who has a U.S. office or place of business at any time during the year,
- A nonresident alien spouse treated as a resident, as discussed in chapter 1, or
- Any other alien who files a tax return, an amended return, or a refund claim (but not information returns).
Generally, you can get an SSN if you have been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence or under other immigration categories that authorize U.S. employment.
To apply for this number, get Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, from your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office or call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213. You can also download Form SS-5 from the SSA's website at www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ss-5.html.
You must visit an SSA office in person and submit your Form SS-5 along with original documentation showing your age, identity, immigration status, and authority to work in the United States. Generally, you will receive your card about 2 weeks after the SSA has all of the necessary information.
If you are an F-1 or M-1 student, you must also show your Form I-20. For more information, see SSA Publication 05-10181, International Students and Social Security Numbers, available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10181.html
If you are a J-1 exchange visitor, you will also need to show your Form DS-2019. For more information, see SSA Publication 05-10181, Foreign Workers and Social Security Numbers, available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10107.html
If you do not have and are not eligible to get an SSN, you must apply for an ITIN. For details on how to do so, see Form W-7 and its instructions. Allow 6 weeks for the IRS to notify you of your ITIN (8–10 weeks if submitted during peak processing periods (January 15 through April 30) or if you are filing from overseas). If you already have an ITIN, enter it wherever an SSN is required on your tax return.
An ITIN is for tax use only. It does not entitle you to social security benefits or change your employment or immigration status under U.S. law.
In addition to those aliens who are required to furnish a taxpayer identification number and are not eligible for an SSN, a Form W-7 must be filed for:
- Alien individuals who are claimed as dependents and are not eligible for an SSN, and
- Alien spouses who are claimed as exemptions and are not eligible for an SSN.
An individual may use an SSN (or ITIN) for individual taxes and an EIN for business taxes. To apply for an EIN, file Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number, with the IRS.