What’s The Difference Between An ITIN And A SSN?

December 18, 2017

The tax system in the US can be confusing, particularly if you’re not born and raised there and have come to the country from elsewhere in the world to work, and there are often many documents involved when applying for such things as an SSN or an ITIN. 

Let’s begin by clarifying exactly what an ITIN and a SSN are: 

What is an ITIN? 

An ITIN is an ‘individual taxpayer identification number’, and is issued by the IRS, who then go on to use it for processing taxes. It’s given to individuals who are required to file certain federal taxes or returns, but who are not eligible for an SSN from the Social Security Administration, like foreign nationals or non-resident aliens. 

How do you acquire an ITIN? 

ITIN’s are made up of nine digits, just as SSN’s are, and getting one can be done at the same time as you file your federal tax return. You will need to complete a W-7 form, and these can be downloaded from the IRS website or collected from your local IRS office. It simply requires you to complete one page of basic personal information, and when submitted along with your tax return, you will also need to provide a proof of your identity and citizenship, such as your passport or driver’s license. The IRS have a helpline for those who are struggling to compete their form or who have any further questions, and there are many reputable tax and consulting firms who can give you all the help and information that you may need. 

Successful applications for ITIN’s are usually processed within 7 weeks, and a letter will be sent to you with your new number. 

What is an SSN? 

A ‘social security number’ is comprised of 9 digits, and any U.S. citizen, permanent resident or temporary alien resident with the required permission to work in the U.S, and who is employed and receives wages, must own one. This is as stated by the CFR, or ‘Code of Federal Regulations’, and employers who have a payroll system and pay wages to individual employees, must get their SSN from them and report their employee’s wages with that number. Parents are also required to obtain SSN’s for their children, if they are claiming them on an income tax return. 

How do you acquire an SSN? 

First time applicants for an SSN card, must complete an application form and be able to provide proof of identity and citizenship. If you are a noncitizen, you will be required to give documents that prove your eligibility to work in the U.S. One example of such proof is an I-94 that the Department of Homeland Security issue. 

It may be best to check the SSA website for further details about what documents you’ll need to supply, as each different state may come with different requirements. If you are deemed eligible for a Social Security Card after your application has been processed, then you will usually receive it within 10 days.

It’s always advisable to seek help from those qualified in this field – such as a tax and consulting firm - if you find that you’re uncertain about anything related to obtaining an ITIN or an SSN. That way you prevent any potential issues with the IRS, and will be safe in the knowledge that you are conforming with both state and federal law.

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