Thursday, June 28, 2012

IRS Announces New Interim Requirements for Nonresidents Who Wish to Obtain ITINs!!

By Robyn Guilliams

The IRS announced on Friday that it is changing (or in the IRS’s words, “strengthening”) its procedures for obtaining an Individual Tax Identification Number (“ITIN”).  Unfortunately, these new procedures may make it more difficult for foreign artists filing tax returns from abroad to obtain ITINs and stay in compliance with U.S. tax law.

Individuals who have earned compensation for work performed in the U.S. are required to file U.S. tax returns to report that income, even if no U.S. tax is due.  And to file a tax return, an individual must have a U.S. tax identification number.  There generally are two types of tax identification numbers for individuals filing U.S. returns – Social Security Numbers (SSNs), and ITINs.

As many of you know, SSNs may be obtained by nonresident individuals ONLY by applying in person, at a Social Security Administration office in the United States.  And, many also are painfully aware that there are onerous time restrictions for individuals applying for SSNs – in effect, an individual must wait 10 days after arriving in the U.S. to apply for a number, AND the individual must have 14 days of work authorization remaining on his I-94 card at the time of applying for an SSN to be eligible for the SSN.  So, if an artist is here in the U.S. for less than 24 days, obtaining an SSN is practically impossible.

The alternative for these individuals is to request an ITIN at the time of filing a U.S. tax return.  Along with the one-page W-7 ITIN request form, the IRS requires a nonresident individual to submit proof of his or her identity and “foreign status” to obtain an ITIN.  This proof can take the form of a certified copy of the individual’s passport alone, or copies of two of the following: 1) a current national ID card (that includes the individual’s name, address, photograph, date of birth and expiration date); 2) a foreign voter registration card; and 3) a civil birth certificate.  In the past, the IRS has allowed copies of these documents to be certified by a U.S. notary, by a foreign “apostille” (a foreign notary seal recognized by the Hague Convention), or by the government agency that issued the document.

Effective immediately, however, only copies of documents certified by the agency that issued that document will be accepted with ITIN requests.  The IRS will no longer accept passport or other copies that have been certified by U.S. or foreign notaries.  So, for instance, if an individual wishes to submit a copy of his passport as proof of his identity and foreign status, the individual must obtain a copy of the passport certified by whatever government agency issued that passport.

Note that this new “strengthened” procedure is in place only until the end of this year, when the IRS will issue "NEW" guidelines for obtaining ITINs.

The IRS has posted additional information on its website to address additional questions regarding the new procedure.  This information may be found at:,,id=258474,00.html

What does this mean for foreign artists who will be required to file U.S. tax returns, but do not yet have a U.S. tax identification number?  If at all possible, the artist should try to apply for a SSN while in the U.S.  This can difficult due to tight touring schedules, but doing so may be simpler than obtaining documents certified by the appropriate government agency, depending on the artist’s country of citizenship.  The alternative will be to obtain documents (e.g., passport copies) that are certified by the government agency that issued the documents, at least through the remainder of 2012.  When the new ITIN guidelines are issued for 2013 (most likely late this year), we will certainly let you know what the new, permanent guidelines will be, and how those new guidelines will affect foreign performers!

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