Cities and Towns in the United States > Identification > Tax Payer Identification Numbers (TIN): What They Are and What You Need Them For


Paying taxes is mandatory for every person living and working in the US, regardless of their residence status. If you live in the US and do not have permanent resident status, you might be interested in finding out more about this number and what it gives you access to. We find out more about that below.

Tax Payer Identification Numbers (Tin)

What is Tax Payer Identification Number?

To understand this digit and its functions, let’s begin by elaborating on what is a TIN number. Simply put, a tax identification number is a nine-digit code that identifies individuals in the US for various purposes. IRS identification, employment identification, adoption, and helping others prepare tax returns are some reasons that warrant TINs in the US.

The Difference Between the Available Tax Payers Identification Numbers

There are five different taxpayer identification numbers in the US. Each number is used for a particular reason depending on varying factors surrounding residency status. These TINs include:

  • Prepare a Tax Identification Number (PTIN) – This is used by anyone helping the IRS to prepare tax returns for compensation.
  • Adoption Tax Payer Identification Number (ATIN) – This is useful in identifying a child still in the adoption process. If the adoptive parents cannot obtain a Social Security number for the child in time to file their tax return, the IRS will provide them with one. The number is required for the parent to claim the child as a dependent.
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN) - The number used to identify a company is called an Employer Identification Number. It is also referred to as a federal tax identification number. This digit is also used by estates and trusts that must declare income.
  • Individual Tax Payer Identification Number (ITIN) - Dependents and spouses of non-residents and resident aliens use this nine-digit code in place of a social security number for tax identification purposes.
  • Social Security Number (SSN) - a unique number given to citizens and legal permanent residents of the United States for taxation and determining other government-funded benefits.

Who Can Apply?

Anyone can obtain a taxpayer identification number. However, you must not be a temporary visitor. These ID numbers are reserved for persons who temporarily or permanently reside in the US and its citizens.

Applications for these tax identification numbers differ depending on your residency status. Lawful alien residents and citizens of America can apply for a social security number by filling out form SS-5, and obtaining an ITIN number requires applicants to complete form W-7, the IRS application for individual taxpayer numbers.

Parents still in the process of adopting their kids and can’t get SSNs for them should fill out form W-7A to get an ATIN identification code for their young ones. On the other hand, professional tax preparers can apply for the PTIN here. And finally, if your company has employees, this online application option will help you get started.

Requirements and Documentation Needed

The procedure is the same regardless of the tax identification number you apply for. So, before you log onto the website to begin the application process, here’s a recap of what you need to provide for a successful application.

How to Apply and Where

The IRS provides a straightforward procedure if you’re wondering how to get a tax ID number or its equivalent. Once you identify the kind of tax id number you need, head to the Internal Revenue Service, create an account if you don’t have one, and select your preferred option.

Fill out the application form and attach certified copies of the required documents. After confirming you’ve provided the right intel, please submit your request and await their response.

What Happens if You Lose the Card?

If you misplace or lose your TIN document, the first response should be informing the relevant authorities regarding the incident. You will go through a different process for replacing the card. If there’s a serious case of identity theft, the IRS may need to give you a new one and disable the previous one.

Cost, Validity, and Processing Time

Applicants for these identification numbers can obtain the codes without paying. And the validity depends on the type of document you signed up for. You may have to wait up to six weeks for the IRS to complete your request.

Final Thoghts

Tax identification numbers serve multiple purposes in the US. However, these are reserved for residents, lawful aliens, and citizens of America, plus their dependents and spouses.