Taxpayers who aren't eligible to receive a Social Security number must file income taxes using an individual taxpayer identification number, or ITIN. Claiming a dependent isn't limited to married couples -- single taxpayers with an ITIN can also claim a dependent. If you support a dependent and work in the United States, having an ITIN might qualify you to claim certain tax benefits in addition to an exemption for your dependents.
The Internal Revenue Service uses ITINs to identify individual taxpayers for tax-reporting purposes. The number doesn't replace a Social Security number, nor is it used for any other purpose. ITINs don't authorize the owner to work in the U.S., but does help the taxpayer comply with the U.S. tax laws. ITINs are available to any resident or nonresident alien who earns money in the U.S.
Applying for an ITIN
To apply for an ITIN, you must complete Form W-7 and attach the form to your income tax return. The IRS typically processes ITIN applications within six weeks, but processing might be longer if you submit the application between January 15 and April 30. You should receive your ITIN and any supporting documents within 60 days of the day the IRS finishes processing Form W-7.
ITIN and Dependents
When you file Form W-7 and your income tax return, taxpayers with an ITIN can claim dependents. The requirements to claim a dependent are the same as those who have a Social Security number. To qualify, the dependent must be your child and live with you. You can also claim a relative for whom you provide more than half the support, but the dependent must be a citizen of and living in either the U.S., Mexico or Canada. To claim anyone other than a relative, you must provide more than half the person's support, live with you the entire year and be a citizen of the U.S., Mexico or Canada.
Taxpayers who have an ITIN can claim an exemption for each dependent claimed on their income tax return, but certain credits are limited. Unless you are a resident alien, you cannot claim the earned income credit or education credits. Nonresident aliens can claim the foreign tax credit, child and dependent care credit, retirement savings credit, child tax credit and adoption credit as long they meet all other requirements for the credit.
- Internal Revenue Service: General ITIN Information
- Internal Revenue Service: Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
- Internal Revenue Service: ITIN Review Frequently Asked Questions
- Internal Revenue Service: Publication 501 -- Exemptions for Dependents
- Internal Revenue Service: Publication 519 -- Nonresident Aliens
Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.