Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
TAXPAYER ID NUMBER: If you are an F1 or J1 student who is receiving fellowship, grants or other non-wage payments from Cornell or another US payer, and you do not yet have a social security number (SSN), you will be need to get an SSN or an Individual Taxpayer ID Number (ITIN). The ITIN is an alternative to the SSN and is issued by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). However, the ITIN is difficult to get. What should you do?
Get an on-campus appointment so that you are eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN). This is much easier than applying for the ITIN.
WAIT to FILE your TAX RETURNS:
- If you do NOT owe money on your federal or state tax returns, we would recommend that you wait until you will be eligible for an SSN to even file your tax returns. There is no penalty for filing late when you do NOT owe any money. In our experience, when you have to apply for the ITIN, it often takes 6 to 9 months to get a response, which is often a denial of the ITIN, and then they never answer the tax return filing—so you end up refiling your tax returns once you have an SSN anyway.
- If you DO owe money on your federal or state tax returns, consider filing an extension form with your payment—then you could still file the actual return later once you get the SSN and would avoid a penalty. You can discuss this further with an ISSO advisor.
Apply for an ITIN at a “certified acceptance agent” for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). There are acceptance agents in Ithaca as well as other cities listed here: https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Acceptance-Agents---New-York. The disadvantages of applying this way are that you often have to pay to file your taxes with them (for instance if it is a tax agency like H&R Block), and lately their ITIN applications are not successful either.
Apply for the ITIN through the mail following the directions here (we will help you apply this way, but please know that students experience many denials through this method):
- Download and fill out the W-7 form from the US Internal Revenue website (see tips on filling out the W-7 below).
- Bring your passport, your I-94 record (printed out from here) and your I-20 or DS-2019 to the ISSO and sign in to speak to the advisor on duty.
- Get a letter from the ISSO signed by an advisor on duty certifying your documents and certifying that you are not eligible for a social security number.
- Take your passport, I-94 record and your I-20 with the copies of these documents to the registrar’s office (B07 Day hall) and ask them to notarize the copies of your documents.
- Make a copy of the letter describing your fellowship or non-wage payment for which you are needing the ITIN.
- Keep a copy of everything you send for your own records.
- Mail all of these documents to: Internal Revenue Service, ITIN Operation, Austin Service Center, PO Box 149342, Austin, TX 78714-9342.
Some tips on filling out the W-7
- In the first section, F1 and J1 students will check box "f" AND box "h"
- Check box "h" and then write in either "exception 2(b): scholarship, fellowship or grant exempt from tax by treaty" and then include your country and the treaty article number** or "exception 2(c): scholarship, fellowship or grant NOT exempt from tax by treaty" (**for information to figure out whether your scholarship, fellowship or grants are covered by a tax treaty and to find the treaty article number, please read "Publication 901" available on the IRS website.
- Complete 6c and on line 6d, check the box by passport and USCIS documentation (the ISSO letter will include a list of your documents).
- Be sure to complete line 6g
Recent Changes to the ITIN procedure
You may have come across some instructions that say you should send your passport with your ITIN application. YOU ABSOLUTELY SHOULD NOT mail your passport. In response to these new requirements, the IRS is allowing international offices to certify the copies of your documents instead of you sending the originals. Even though they allow ISSO to certify documents, we see many denials which is why we recommend choices 1 and 2 above over applying by mail. For further information on these recent changes, read here.
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