Tax forms require unique identification numbers so that the IRS can keep track of your information. The ITIN is a taxpayer identification number for those without a Social Security Number or who are ineligible to receive one. If you do not have a SSN, an ITIN or an Employee Identification Number (EIN) is an alternative that allows you to file your taxes. These will be covered in the next module.
In order to file your taxes, the government needs a way to identify and keep track of the income you earn. This is done through a tax identification number. This is the same number used by credit bureaus to determine your credit score (see the Finance & Capital topic area).
For those eligible, this number is your Social Security Number (SSN). If you do not have or are not eligible for a SSN, you may instead file for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), regardless of immigration status. ITINs are issued by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS is the nation’s tax collection agency and is responsible for administering the federal tax code.
ITINs allow individuals ineligible for a SSN to:
- Report their earnings to the IRS
- Open interest-bearing bank accounts with certain banks
- Open checking accounts with certain banks and build credit
- Conduct business in the U.S.
- Access personal and business loans
The IRS issues ITINs regardless of immigration status, because both citizens and noncitizens may have a U.S. tax filing or reporting requirement under the Internal Revenue Code. That means that regardless of immigration status, if you earn more than $400 in the U.S., or meet any other filing requirement, you are required to pay taxes on your income.