Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN)

You'll most likely need to produce a tax identification number, also known as a TIN or tax ID number, when you file your tax return or need to talk the IRS. What a TIN number is and how to get one are explained here.

What is a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) ?

In the United States, a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) is a special nine-digit number used to identify a person, business, or other entity in tax returns and other documents submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) as a means of identification for enforcing tax laws. It is distributed either by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the Social Security Administration (SSA). While the IRS issues all other TINs, the SSA issues Social Security numbers (SSN).

Tax identification numbers come in several different types. TINs are given to people in the form of Social Security numbers (SSNs), whereas employer identification numbers (EIN) are given to businesses (such as corporations and partnerships). The Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN), and Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) are further varieties of TINs.

Key Facts of Tax Identification Number

  • Tax identification numbers are 9 digit tracking numbers used by the Internal Revenue Service following tax laws.
  • All tax returns submitted to the IRS must include a Tax Identification Number.
  • The Internal Revenue Service issues all TIN numbers except for SSN (social security numbers), which are issued by the Social Security Administration.
  • When filing taxes, as well as when claiming benefits, taxpayers are required to include their tax identification number.
  • When requesting credit or employment, TINs are also required.
  • Tax identification numbers come in a variety of forms, including ITIN, EIN, ATIN, and PTIN.

How Does the Tax Identification Number Work ?

A tax identification number is a special set of numbers that distinguishes people, businesses, and other entities like nonprofit organizations (NPOs). For a TIN, each individual or entity must apply. The assigning agency gives the candidate a unique number after approving them.

Anyone who files annual tax returns with the IRS is required to provide the taxpayer identification number, which the agency uses to track taxpayers. On tax-related documents and when requesting government benefits or services, filers must include the TIN number.

Uses of Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN)

A TIN must be included in every paperwork sent to the IRS to claim tax exemptions or benefits or to pay taxes. A TIN must be included on annual tax returns filed by taxpayers, and employers who record wages received to employees must also include the TINs of the employees.

TINs are used for identification by financial institutions, healthcare providers, and other organizations. Since TINs are used to identify specific individuals and can be combined with other personally identifiable information to access accounts, make insurance claims, apply for loans, and open credit card accounts, they are regarded as sensitive personally identifying information (PII).

TINs are also required for the following purposes :

For credit : 
On credit applications, banks and other lenders demand Social Security numbers. In order to confirm that the correct applicant is submitting the application, this information is then forwarded to the credit bureaus. In order to report and track a person's credit history, the credit reporting bureaus also employ TINs, particularly SSNs.

For employment : 
Every applicant for a job must provide their SSN. This is to confirm that the person is qualified to work in the US. Employers check the data with the issuing agency.

For state agencies : 
In order to file tax returns with their state tax authorities, businesses also need state identity numbers. The I.D. number is provided to the filer immediately by the state taxing authorities.

Claiming a treaty advantage or filing a tax return :
On returns, statements, and other tax-related documents, a TIN must be provided. The taxing authority supplies the filer with a Unique ID, which they use to submit their tax returns to the IRS.

Types of Tax Identification Numbers (TIN)

A TIN is any government provided number that can be used in the US to identify a person uniquely when communicating with the IRS, even when none of them are only known by that name. Following are the types of TINs :

1) Social Security Number (SSN) :

The most popular tax identification number is the social security number (SSN). The Social Security Administration issues SSNs to anyone, including U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and some temporary residents. The format of these numerals is XXX-XX-XXXX.

To obtain legal employment in the United States, to be eligible for social security payments, and to use other government services, you must have an SSN. To qualify as a dependent for income tax reasons, a kid must have an SSN; hence, parents voluntarily apply for the number on their children's behalf. A dependency can be claimed for a child who has an ITIN. There are fee-based services that offer to finish applications for new parents in addition to the SSA's free application processing.

2) Employer Identification Number (EIN) :

The Employee Identification Number (EIN) is used by the IRS to identify businesses, trusts, and estates that are subject to taxation. The applicant for the EIN must already have a Social Security number, ITIN, or other EIN, and the principal place of business must be in the United States or a U.S. territory.

Employer tax ID numbers are nine digits long, just like SSNs, except they are interpreted as XX-XXXXXXX. If someone meets the requirements for an EIN, they must apply for it and use it to report their income to the IRS. Businesses can instantly apply for and receive an EIN for free.

3) Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) :

For nonresident and resident aliens, as well as their spouses and dependents who are unable to get a Social Security number, an individual taxpayer identification number, or ITIN, is a nine-digit tax ID number. ITINs are issued by the IRS.

The ITIN starts with a 9 and is formatted similarly to an SSN (XXX-XX-XXXX). The applicant must complete Form W-7 and provide proof of residency in order to obtain an individual tax id number. Many agencies, including universities, banks, and accounting firms, assist candidates in getting their ITIN.

4) Adoption Tax Identification Number (ATIN) :

The IRS issues temporary, nine-digit tax ID numbers called adoption taxpayer identification numbers, or ATINs, to people who are adopting children. If the adoptive parents are unable to obtain a Social Security number for the child in time to file their tax return, the IRS will provide them one. The number is required in order for the parent to claim the child as a dependent; it does not identify the parent. The child must be a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States, and the adoption must still be pending.

Requesting an ATIN takes four to eight weeks after the IRS receives your Form W-7A, so do so well ahead of the deadline for filing your tax return. After two years, the IRS will automatically cancel an ATIN unless you inform them that the adoption is still in progress.

5) Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) :

Preparer tax identification number, or PTIN. Anyone who prepares or aids in preparing federal tax returns for remuneration is required by the IRS to possess a PTIN. On their clients' tax forms, tax preparers must include their PTIN numbers.

The IRS mandated the inclusion of a PTIN on every filed return as of January 1, 2011. The PTIN was not required prior to this date. Any preparer who charges a fee to finish all or a portion of another person's tax return must possess and use the PTIN. PTINs are not required of volunteer preparers.

How to Get a Tax ID Number ?

1) Social Security Number (SSN) :

To get an SSN, Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, must be filled out. You must also provide proof of your identification, age, and citizenship (U.S. citizen or lawful alien status). The SS-5 form can also be obtained by calling 800-772-1213 or going in person to your local Social Security office. These offerings are gratuitous. Please see for additional details on SSN.

2) Employer Identification Number (EIN) :

A corporate entity is identified by its Employer Identification Number (EIN). Additionally, estates and trusts that must record their income on Form 1041, U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts, use it.

The IRS accepts online applications for Employer Identification Numbers (EIN). Additionally, you can complete IRS Form SS-4 and send or fax it to the IRS. To obtain an EIN, international applicants can dial 1-267-941-1099.

3) Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) :

You must complete IRS Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, in order to get an ITIN. Documentation proving each person's real identification and foreign/alien status must be included with the Form W-7. You have three options for processing your application: visiting an IRS walk-in office with your documents in hand, mailing it to the address listed in the Form W-7 Instructions, or working with an Acceptance Agent approved by the IRS.

Institutions (colleges, financial institutions, accounting firms, etc.) that have been given permission by the IRS to help applicants obtain ITINs are known as Acceptance Agents. They look over the applicant's supporting documents before sending the finished Form W-7 to the IRS for processing.

To assist you decide if you should submit an application to get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, you can utilize the IRS's Interactive Tax Assistant tool.

4) Adoption Tax Identification Number (ATIN) :

File IRS Form W-7A to obtain an Adoption Tax Identification Number (ATIN). A copy of the placement documentation must be attached. A legal adoption placement in your home is required. There are additional requirements for obtaining an ATIN if you are adopting a kid from another nation.

Do not use Form W-7A if the child is not a United States citizen or resident.

5) Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) :

If you don't already have a PTIN, you must register for one through the new IRS sign-up system. Even if you already have a PTIN but it was issued before September 28, 2010, you must use the new procedure to apply for a new or renewed PTIN. You can receive the same number if all of your authentication data matches. If you prepare all or nearly all of any federal tax return or refund claim for pay, you must have a PTIN.

Utilize Form W-12, IRS Paid Preparer Tax Identification Number Application, if you don't wish to apply for a PTIN online. Processing time for the paper application is 4-6 weeks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why taxpayer identification numbers are important?
Documents pertaining to taxes, such as withholding forms, returns, and statements, must have a TIN. Additionally, a number is required for claiming tax treaty benefits. (Under such treaties, foreign nationals may be subject to lower rates of taxation or be excluded from paying U.S. taxes.)

How can I find my TIN?
Since the term "Taxpayer ID Number" is broad, neither individuals nor companies nor organizations can directly apply for one. They must submit an application for the proper identification number covered by the TIN, such as an SSN, EIN, or ITIN. A company's Tax ID Number can be found on financial documents or by getting in touch with the business or its representatives.

How can I get a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN)?
Directly submitting an application to the appropriate agency will provide you a tax identification number. For instance, the Social Security Administration can provide you with a Social Security number. You might be able to get an ITIN straight from the Internal Revenue Service if you require one for yourself or your business.

How can I know, if I require a TIN?
If you intend to file taxes with the IRS or have permission to work in the United States, you need a TIN. If you wish to utilize any government perks or services, you'll also require a TIN. You'll require a TIN to manage your daily operations and file your taxes if you own a business or other organization.

How Can I Find My Taxpayer Identification Number Online?
The organization that issues your TIN gives you a legal document with your personal identification number on it. You cannot retrieve it online since it is a sensitive piece of data. You should get in touch with the issuing organization, such as the SSA, to receive your TIN again if you forget or lose your documentation.

How much does it cost to apply for an ITIN number?
Free ITINs are available. You must finish IRS Form W-7 and submit it along with supporting documents demonstrating your identification and foreign status in order to obtain an ITIN number.

Is Taxpayer Identification number same as SSN?
A tax payer's identity is determined by their SSN or TIN. The IRS issues all other Tax Identification Numbers (TINs), whereas the Social Security Administration issues Social Security numbers (SSNs). A TIN is a type of number, like a Social Security number. You can use your SSN to apply for jobs in the US, get credit from banks and other lenders, and file your yearly tax returns with the IRS.

Can I use ITIN instead of Social Security numbers?
No, you cannot replace your SSN with your ITIN. Only some non-resident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who are unable to obtain an SSN are eligible for an ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, which is used for tax processing. 
Therefore, if you meet the requirements for an SSN, you must apply for one, and your tax records must use that number. You must utilize an Individual ITIN while filing your tax records while you're waiting for your SSN. Once you have your SSN, you won't need an ITIN any longer. Your SSN will thereafter serve as the principal Identification number for all subsequent filings, and it must be used. You'll lose access to your ITIN.

How do I get a tax ID number without SSN?
An individual could have a taxpayer identification number from the IRS (ITIN). The person must use Form W-7 to apply for an ITIN if they do not already have one and are not qualified for one.

Do I Need TIN?
On returns, statements, and other tax-related documents, a TIN must be provided. A number, for instance, must be provided :
  • When submitting tax returns.
  • When requesting treaty advantages.

If the beneficial owner is claiming any of the following, a TIN must appear on the withholding certificate :
  • Tax treaty advantages (other than for income from marketable securities)
  • Exemption for income that is effectively connected
  • Exception for some annuities
  • Depending on the existence of a private foundation or an exempt entity.

A TIN must also appear on a withholding certificate issued by a person identifying themselves as one of the following :
  • US citizen
  • Qualified intermediary
  • Withholding foreign trust
  • Withholding foreign partnership
  • Exempt organization
  • Unless the grantor trust is a client of an authorized intermediary, foreign grantor trust with a maximum of five grantors.
  • A foreign person's U.S. branch is treated like a U.S. person.

Exceptions to TIN Requirement :

If the conditions for the following exceptions are satisfied, a foreign person does not need to produce a U.S. TIN in order to claim a lower rate of withholding under a tax treaty.
  • Unexpected payment to an person
  • Income from marketable securities