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Using Form W-7 to obtain ITINs.

A resident alien working in the U.S. generally is not allowed to obtain Social Security numbers for a spouse and dependents due to Social Security Administration guidelines. To file a joint return and/or claim personal exemptions for his family, he must obtain Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) from the Service. The taxpayer must submit Forms W-7 to obtain these numbers, along with original or certified copies of substantiating documents (such as an original passport, driver's license, birth certificate, identity card or U.S. immigration documents for each family member).

A foreign national may be understandably concerned about sending original documents to the IRS's Pennsylvania Service Center, which processes these forms and assigns ITINs. He may be worried that the documents will be lost or may be needed for foreign travel during the processing period. In addition, when the Service asks for certified copies, it requires certification from the agency that issued the original document, not a notary public's stamp.

Therefore, it would be helpful if the taxpayer could visit the local IRS office and have a Service employee make copies of the original documents that could be forwarded for processing. Presently, local IRS offices are not consistent in their handling of these requests. Some allow copies to be made at their office, while others require the original or certified copy to be submitted.

Banks and universities are intended to be acceptance agents for placing documents into the processing stream. However, it may be difficult for a foreign national to locate an organization that has entered into an acceptance agent agreement with the Service. Also, banks and universities that are acceptance agents may likewise require an original or certified copy.

Until the Service standardizes the ITIN process, the best procedure probably is to inquire whether the local IRS office or an acceptance agent will process Form W-7 with copies of original documents. If not, the request should be submitted when the individuals who need ITINs are not expected to be traveling.
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Title Annotation:Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers
Author:Fletcher, Eric S.
Publication:The Tax Adviser
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:May 1, 1997
Previous Article:Deductibility of fees paid to postpone property settlement.
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