United States

Bill would require taxpayers to submit ITIN applications in person


On May 20, 2015, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Texas) reintroduced the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) Reform Bill. The ITIN Reform Bill would require first-time applicants to submit ITIN applications in person at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center or diplomatic consulate and provide original documents establishing their identity and foreign status. Applicants would not be able to submit their applications and supporting documents by mail or through a third party. New ITINs would be valid for five years with an option to renew.

An ITIN is an identification number issued by the IRS to an individual who is not eligible for a Social Security number and who has U.S. tax filing requirements or is claimed as a dependent on a U.S. income tax return. An ITIN is issued regardless of immigration status because both resident and nonresident aliens may have U.S. federal tax reporting and filing responsibilities. An ITIN does not authorize a person to work in the United States or provide eligibility for Social Security benefits.

The ITIN program was created by the IRS in 1996 to allow individuals without Social Security numbers to comply with their U.S. tax filing requirements. In 2011, the IRS processed more than 2.9 million ITIN tax returns, resulting in tax refunds of $6.8 billion. Effective June 22, 2012, and to address allegations of fraud within the ITIN program, the IRS put more restrictions on applications and the types of documents required for ITIN application. Under the new procedure, ITIN applicants must submit to the IRS (in person or by mail) original documents (such as passports or birth certificates) or copies of these documents certified by their issuing agency or U.S. embassy or consulate overseas. If the applicant submits an original, valid passport (or a certified copy), the individual does not need to submit any other documents to prove his or her foreign status or identity.

The ITIN Reform Bill was reintroduced in May 2015 in response to a 2012 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) on the IRS' process for identifying questionable ITIN applications. The 2012 report from TIGTA found that the IRS ignored potential fraud in the ITIN application program and enabled illegal immigrants to claim refundable credits, such as the $1,000 refundable child tax credit. Republican lawmakers hope that the proposed changes will provide stronger protection against fraud in the ITIN application process. As mentioned above, the ITIN Reform Bill would require ITIN applicants to submit their ITIN application and original supporting documents in person and show a proof of their foreign status. It would also require TIGTA to conduct regular audits on the IRS ITIN application process.

The proposed changes to the ITIN process may impose new burdens for foreign nationals with U.S. tax return filing obligations. Affected foreign nationals should continue to monitor developments in this area.


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