A Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) is an identification number used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the administration of tax laws. It is issued either by the Social Security Administration (SSA) or by the IRS. A Social Security number (SSN) is issued by the SSA whereas all other TINs are issued by the IRS.
Taxpayer Identification Numbers
- Social Security Number "SSN"
Taxation of Nonresident Aliens
An alien is any individual who is not a U.S. citizen or U.S. national. A nonresident alien is an alien who has not passed the green card test or the substantial presence test.
Who Must File
If you are any of the following, you must file a return:
- A nonresident alien individual engaged or considered to be engaged in a trade or business in the United States during the year. You must file even if:
However, if your only U.S. source income is wages in an amount less than the personal exemption amount (see Publication 501), you are not required to file.
- Your income did not come from a trade or business conducted in the United States,
- You have no income from U.S. sources, or
- Your income is exempt from income tax.
- A nonresident alien individual not engaged in a trade or business in the United States with U.S. income on which the tax liability was not satisfied by the withholding of tax at the source.
- A representative or agent responsible for filing the return of an individual described in (1) or (2),
- A fiduciary for a nonresident alien estate or trust, or
- A resident or domestic fiduciary, or other person, charged with the care of the person or property of a nonresident individual may be required to file an income tax return for that individual and pay the tax (Refer to Treas. Reg. 1.6012-3(b)).
NOTE: If you were a nonresident alien student, teacher, or trainee who was temporarily present in the United States on an "F,""J,""M," or "Q" visa, you are considered engaged in a trade or business in the United States. You must file Form 1040NR (or Form 1040NR-EZ) only if you have income that is subject to tax, such as wages, tips, scholarship and fellowship grants, dividends, etc. Refer to Foreign Students and Scholars for more information.
Claiming a Refund or Benefit
You must also file an income tax return if you want to:
- Claim a refund of overwithheld or overpaid tax, or
- Claim the benefit of any deductions or credits. For example, if you have no U.S. business activities but have income from real property that you choose to treat as effectively connected income, you must timely file a true and accurate return to take any allowable deductions against that income.
Which Income to Report
A nonresident alien's income that is subject to U.S. income tax must generally be divided into two categories:
Effectively Connected Income, after allowable deductions, is taxed at graduated rates. These are the same rates that apply to U.S. citizens and residents. FDAP income generally consists of passive investment income; however, in theory, it could consist of almost any sort of income. FDAP income is taxed at a flat 30 percent (or lower treaty rate) and no deductions are allowed against such income. Effectively Connected Income should be reported on page one of Form 1040NR. FDAP income should be reported on page four of Form 1040NR.
Which Form to File
Nonresident aliens who are required to file an income tax return must use:
Find more information at Which Form to File.
When and Where To File
If you are an employee or self-employed person and you receive wages or non-employee compensation subject to U.S. income tax withholding, or you have an office or place of business in the United States, you must generally file by the 15th day of the 4th month after your tax year ends. For a person filing using a calendar year this is generally April 15.
If you are not an employee or self-employed person who receives wages or non-employee compensation subject to U.S. income tax withholding, or if you do not have an office or place of business in the United States, you must file by the 15th day of the 6th month after your tax year ends. For a person filing using a calendar year this is generally June 15.
File Form 1040NR-EZ and Form 1040NR at the address shown in the instructions for Form 1040NR-EZ and 1040NR.
Extension of time to file
If you cannot file your return by the due date, you should file Form 4868 (PDF) to request an automatic extension of time to file. You must file Form 4868 by the regular due date of the return.
You Could Lose Your Deductions and Credits
To get the benefit of any allowable deductions or credits, you must timely file a true and accurate income tax return. For this purpose, a return is timely if it is filed within 16 months of the due date just discussed. The Internal Revenue Service has the right to deny deductions and credits on tax returns filed more than 16 months after the due dates of the returns. Refer to When To File in Chapter 7 of Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens (PDF) for additional details.
Before leaving the United States, all aliens (with certain exceptions) must obtain a certificate of compliance. This document, also popularly known as the sailing permit or departure permit, must be secured from the IRS before leaving the U.S. You will receive a sailing or departure permit after filing a Form 1040-C (PDF) or Form 2063 (PDF).
Even if you have left the United States and filed a Form 1040-C, U.S. Departing Alien Income Tax Return (PDF), on departure, you still must file an annual U.S. income tax return. If you are married and both you and your spouse are required to file, you must each file a separate return, unless one of the spouses is a U.S. citizen or a resident alien, in which case the departing alien could file a joint return with his or her spouse (Refer to Nonresident Spouse Treated as a Resident).
- Employer Identification Number "EIN"
- Individual Taxpayer Identification Number "ITIN"
- Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions "ATIN"
- Preparer Taxpayer Identification Number "PTIN"
Note: The temporary IRS Numbers previously assigned are no longer valid.
Do I Need One?
A TIN must be furnished on returns, statements, and other tax related documents. For example a number must be furnished:
When filing your tax returns - A change in IRC section 6109 regulations in 1996 mandates the use of a TIN on tax returns.
When claiming treaty benefits - There was a change in the IRC section 1441 regulations in 2001 which mandates the use of a TIN in order to claim tax treaty benefits. A TIN must be on a withholding certificate if the beneficial owner is claiming any of the following:
- Tax treaty benefits (other than for income from marketable securities)
- Exemption for effectively connected income
- Exemption for certain annuities
When Claiming Exemptions for Dependent or Spouse:
You generally must list on your individual income tax return the social security number (SSN) of any person for whom you claim an exemption. If your dependent or spouse does not have and is not eligible to get an SSN, you must list the ITIN instead of an SSN. You do not need an SSN or ITIN for a child who was born and died in the same tax year. Instead of an SSN or ITIN, attach a copy of the child's birth certificate and write Died on the appropriate exemption line of your tax return.
How Do I Get A TIN?
You will need to complete Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card (PDF). You also must submit evidence of your identity, age, and U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status. For more information please see the Social Security web site.
Form SS-5 is also available by calling 1-800-772-1213 or visiting your local Social Security office. These services are free.
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is also known as a federal tax identification number, and is used to identify a business entity. It is also used by estates and trusts which have income which is required to be reported on Form 1041, U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts (PDF). Refer to Employer ID Numbers for more information.
The following form is available only to employers located in Puerto Rico, Solicitud de Número de Identificación Patronal (EIN) SS-4PR (PDF).
An ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, is a tax processing number only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a Social Security Number (SSN). It is a 9-digit number, beginning with the number "9", formatted like an SSN (NNN-NN-NNNN).
To obtain an ITIN, you must complete IRS Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (PDF) . The Form W-7 requires documentation substantiating foreign/alien status and true identity for each individual. You may either mail the documentation, along with the Form W-7, to the address shown in the Form W-7 Instructions, present it at IRS walk-in offices, or process your application through an Acceptance Agent authorized by the IRS. Form W-7(SP), Solicitud de Número de Identificación Personal del Contribuyente del Servicio de Impuestos Internos (PDF) is available for use by Spanish speakers.
Acceptance Agents are entities (colleges, financial institutions, accounting firms, etc.) who are authorized by the IRS to assist applicants in obtaining ITINs. They review the applicant's documentation and forward the completed Form W-7 to IRS for processing.
NOTE: You cannot claim the earned income credit using an ITIN.
Foreign persons who are individuals should apply for a social security number (SSN, if permitted) on Form SS-5 with the Social Security Administration, or should apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) on Form W-7. Effective immediately, each ITIN applicant must now:
- Apply using the revised Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number; and
- Attach a federal income tax return to the Form W-7.
Applicants who meet an exception to the requirement to file a tax return (see the instructions for Form W-7) must provide documentation to support the exception.
New W-7/ITIN rules were issued on December 17, 2003. For a summary of those rules, please see the new Form W-7 and its instructions.
For more detailed information on ITINs, refer to: