There are few things harder in life than dealing with a Governmental organization. And I was fortunate enough to have to deal with the IRS recently regarding my Tax Returns for the year 2013. Since I got married last year and have my wife here in the US on an H4 Dependent Visa status, I get to file my returns as Married Filing Jointly. I was aware that I will need to apply for an ITIN for her to be able to file my returns successfully. I also knew that it can’t be done preemptively since I need to do my returns and only then send that along with a filled in W-7 form which is the application for an ITIN. That wasn’t any problem to figure out. But my woes only began when I realized that TurboTax Online cannot do it for me. In fact, TurboTax gave up after filling in my 1040. My faithful friend who makes life so easy for millions in the country had given up on my after serving me so well the last two years. Okay so here’s the process for applying for an ITIN and the various options available for anyone wanting to do the same:
- Use TurboTax to help you fill your Federal and State Tax Return and generate the forms.
- You will not be able to file online so don’t bother paying for any additional services of TurboTax for e-Filing (i.e., if you can avoid it)
- Whenever TurboTax asks you for your spouse’s SSN, leave it empty. You will be warned about Errors but that’s OK since you are not going to e-File any way.
- Once your forms are completed, TurboTax will tell you that you will have to file by mail because of the errors above. Save all the forms to your computer or print them out if you have a printer available.
Now that you have your Federal Returns (Form 1040, Form 1040EZ) filled in an printed, you will have to mail that to the IRS ITIN Operations Division ( along with other documents. Note that this is not the address TurboTax and the return form tells you to mail the forms to. Amongst the documents you need to send to the IRS, the ORIGINAL Passport (of the H4 dependent) is the one standalone document that is sufficient for most H4 applicants. Other documents are listed here: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Revised-Application-Standards-for-ITINs Since I don’t feel comfortable mailing an original passport away, I wanted to find out if there was another way. And in my case, since we were planning to travel around soon, not having a passport in hand was a risk I could not take. So I found I had three options:
- File the return and apply for an ITIN at a Local IRS Office. Find one close to you here: http://apps.irs.gov/app/officeLocator/index.jsp
- File returns and apply for an ITIN through an acceptance agent. Find them by state here: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Acceptance-Agent-Program
- Mail a Copy of the Passport (H4 Applicant), endorsed by the issuing authority – The Embassy of the country that issued it – to the IRS ITIN Operations division, along with your returns.
Knowing me, I had to research all three options. Option 1 seemed the safest bet since there was a local IRS office only 20 minutes from my home. IRS offices work 8-30 to 4-30 on weekdays only so I went there one morning before work. I was there at 8-45 and the lady at the reception told me that a limited number of tokens are issued daily for the ITIN processing at that center and that they were out already. She told us that the line forms outside the office as early as 8AM. So we wanted to give it another shot, try come early and get in line. So we arrived another day at 7-30AM and found that we were about the 10th in line. So I figured we would get it done that day. To all my dismay, I later found out that the number of tokens they issue per day is a paltry 8! So the couple in front of me frowned and left and we followed suit, angry that they only process 8 ITIN applications a day. So I gave up Option 1 knowing that I am wasting time and effort on this with no guarantees of getting it done on any day. So I looked up Option 2: File through an acceptance agent. There are a bunch of acceptance agents near where I lived, including some H&R Block offices as well. So I called up a few – some said that their Acceptance Agent was no longer certified to process ITINs, some claimed an exorbitant fee upwards of $200 and few didn’t know the process. Before I settled to shell out a fourth of my returns on fees, I wanted to find out about the feasibility of Option 3: Send an endorsed copy of the passport to IRS by mail. Endorsing has to be done by the issuing authority of the document, which in the case of a passport is the embassy of the country that issued it. Luckily for me, the Embassy of India is in Washington DC and is quite approachable. So I looked up their website for the procedure for endorsing a passport and found that it was about a $13 affair plus the metro fare to and from DC. I asked my wife to visit the embassy and get her passport copy endorsed and she got that done in a day. So that was easy and I sent across my Federal Returns, Form W-7, Endorsed copy of Passport of ITIN Applicant (with Visa and I-94 pages) to the ITIN Operations Center of IRS. More Links:
- About ITIN: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Individual-Taxpayer-Identification-Number-(ITIN)
- General ITIN Information: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/General-ITIN-Information
- Revised Application Standards 2013: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Revised-Application-Standards-for-ITINs
- Additional ITIN Information: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Additional-ITIN-Information
- IRS Local Office Locator: http://apps.irs.gov/app/officeLocator/index.jsp
- IRS Acceptance Agents: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Acceptance-Agent-Program
Questions? Comment below.
Disclaimer: I’ve gone through this process in 2014 and some of these steps and requirements may have changed. Please look for more updated information if available on the internet. I just don’t want someone to be mis-led by following the instructions I have provided and face any inconvenience.