Interim 2012 Tax Rules May Make It Harder For Illegal Immigrants To Get Tax ID Numbers

Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced changes to the processing of Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) applications. The interim changes are effective now through the end of 2012 and pertain to the furnishing of items such as passports and birth certificates to prove foreign status and identity. Under the new policy, only original documentation or certified copies (certified by the issuing agency) will be accepted. During the interim period (which extends through the end of the year), notarized copies will not be accepted. A notarized document is one in which a taxpayer provides to a notary for notarization, as opposed to a certified one, which is issued by the original issuing agency verifying that the copy is an official copy of what is on file.

Within the context of immigration issues, many undocumented aliens without social security numbers file income tax returns with ITINs, which are issued for federal tax purposes only, but sometimes incorrectly proffered (innocently or not) by undocumented aliens as proof of authorization to work. There are many categories of people who must file for ITINs on Form W-7, including nonresident aliens not eligible for Social Security Numbers who are required to file US tax returns (due to their income), as well as aliens eligible to be claimed as dependents on a US tax return but not eligible to get a social security number, such as spouses. While filing tax returns may reveal one's presence within the United States, proof of filing is generally considered strong, probative evidence of physical presence within the United States and is used to demonstrate eligibility for certain forms of relief such as cancellation of removal, which in the case of undocumented individuals without lawful resident status, requires a showing of ten years physical presence. The new security requirements aimed at curbing fraud and strengthening the integrity of the application process, may make it increasingly difficult for aliens to secure ITINs if original birth certificates are missing, or passports are lost or expired.