Saturday, February 1, 2014

Demystifying the ITIN

If you are new to the US and having to file your US tax return for the very first time, you are probably grappling with a string of questions around how to file the taxes, what software to use, how much to pay for tax filing, how much tax refund to expect, etc. And now in addition to all these questions, your friend just dropped  another mysterious term at the super bowl party - ITIN. As if the current confusion was not enough, now you are scrambling on your smart phone trying to look up ITIN!

If your search has landed you to this blog, you are in luck. We have been helping folks on H4 and other dependent visas file for their ITIN for the past several years. Each year begins with a flurry of phone calls and emails from H1 visa workers trying to figure out the mystery around filing taxes, refunds and ITIN. If you are in a rush and cannot wait another second to understand ITIN, follow this link to a guided step-by-step ITIN application process.

So who is eligible for an ITIN? Only legal residents in US that are not eligible for a Social Security Number are considered ITIN eligible in general. There are some additional conditions that you must satisfy in order to be able to apply for ITIN. But as long as you have a valid foreign passport, valid US visas and a good reason to be here in the US, you should be able to apply for ITIN.

Can you Do-it-Yourself? Yes, for some folks it is possible that you can file for ITIN on your own. It is similar to asking the question, can I file for Green Card on my own? Or, as some of your clients may be wondering, can I write that SQL query on my own? Sure, there is no law that says you need a lawyer to file the green card or need a programmer to write SQL queries. After all the Green Card is only a few page application written in english. And there is a SQL for Dummies book that you could borrow from the local library. So if you are comfortable, you can apply on your own. However, you may have to solve a few additional mysteries along the way. Where to file the ITIN, do I send original passport or can I send attested copies? Will it affect the time for my Tax Refund, etc.

Now if you want easy answers, it is not so easy. That is why we have lawyers and accountants. You want to search for an ITIN Acceptance Agent. Find one, look up their reviews. If the reviews are good, work with them to get the ITIN. It will be well worth the time and hassle you save.