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What's an ITIN?

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

If you're wondering how to file taxes without a Social Security Number, keep reading to find out about ITINS and their role in our tax system.

Purpose of an ITIN

An ITIN is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The 9-digit number is formatted just like an SSN (XXX-XX-XXXX), except the sequence begins with a 9. Many resident aliens acquire ITINS because they can help with the following:

· Filing taxes

· Establishing proof of residency

· Obtaining a driver’s license

· Getting a business loan

· Opening a bank account

How to Get an ITIN

  1. Fill out the W-7 form. This is an ITIN application.

  2. Complete a tax return (the SSN spot can be left blank)

  3. Obtain acceptable identification papers. These documents must prove identification and foreign status. The most common documents are passports, but birth certificates and medical records, along with immigration documents are also acceptable. The standards are less strict for young dependents.

  4. Schedule an appointment with a IRS location or a Certified Acceptance Agent. Certified Acceptance Agents are IRS-approved locations that can provide ITINS. Although these locations are more convenient, they tend to cost $60-100, whereas IRS locations provide ITINS for free. Another option is to mail these documents, but unless you have a certified copy of these documents, we advise against this practice due to thee chance that the IRS will lose these papers.

  5. Go to the appointment and receive an ITIN in 2-6 weeks!

When to Start

Anyone can obtain an ITIN during the tax season using their tax return for that year. However, you can also obtain an ITIN outside of the tax season by filing late for the previous tax season. For example, if I wanted to obtain an ITIN in summer of 2021, I can file my 2020 tax returns late. There is, however, onee caveat: if your return dictates that you owe money to the IRS, you will need to pay a penalty fee for filing late (if the IRS owes you money, this penalty does not exist). Of course, the differences in each tax year (available government compensation) may affect your decision. So, when you should obtain your ITIN depends on your individual status, income, and family members.

How We Can Help

Unfortunately, the process to obtain an ITIN can be complex. That is why The Dreamers' Tax Project is here to help. Our tax experts and volunteers can support you every step of the way. Everyone's situation is different, so here are some of the benefits of seeking our assistance:

  • Maximized credits/benefits

  • Help identifying acceptable identification papers

  • Help identifying the cheapest/most convenient location for ITIN appointments

  • Language assistance

  • Help understanding when to file for ITINS

Additionally, The Dreamers' Tax Project highly values self-sufficiency. We explain each and every step of the tax system to our clients in hopes that many will be able to file their own taxes in the future. But for now, our services are 100% free, so contact us today at to schedule a phone call today.


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