If you’re planning to come to the United States for a job, there are some things you need to know. As a non-permanent resident alien living and working in the United States, you’ll have many of the same responsibilities faced by permanent residents and citizens. Obviously, you have to follow all applicable laws, pay your bills, and generally be a productive member of your community. You also have a responsibility to pay taxes on the income you earn for your employment.
That sometimes comes as a bit of a surprise to many foreigners working in the United States, since most are aware that they are not eligible for Social Security numbers – the identifying numbers most commonly associated with the American system of taxation. Neither are those aliens eligible for the types of benefits that generally attach to those numbers. Well, the American system has a second identifying number system to accommodate those who don’t qualify for the SSN.
That number is the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, and it exists for people in situations exactly like yours. That number is issued to every non-resident alien as well as some resident aliens. By having this number, you not only comply with legal reporting requirements, but also ensure that you’ll be able to file tax returns just like every other employed person in the country.
That’s important because chances are that you – like many citizens and residents – will be paying more into the tax system throughout the year than you are required to do by law. By filing your taxes, you’ll ensure that the government returns any overpayment to you. With your ITIN, you can also claim exemptions for your spouse, children, or other dependents. Of course, they’ll need to have their own ITIN or SSN as well.
Every worker in the United States is expected to file a tax return. The ITIN is your tax identity that enables you to fulfill that responsibility. Each year, you have to report all of your income, tips, interest earned, and any dividends. That includes income earned from sources outside the United States as well.
Keep in mind that there may be exceptions to the need for an ITIN. If you’re in the country on a valid work visa or have a green card, you should always begin by applying for a Social Security Number rather than an ITIN. If that is denied for any reason, you just submit that denial letter along with your ITIN application. And don’t worry, if you end up with an ITIN and then later become eligible for the SSN, the government will still count all your present earnings toward any future benefits due.
The one thing you absolutely cannot do is simply ignore your responsibility to follow all tax laws. When you work in the United States, the Internal Revenue Service fully expects all due taxes to be paid in a timely manner. By getting the right identifying number – whether it’s an SSN or an ITIN – you provide yourself with the unique taxpayer identity you need to file your tax returns and receive any refunds that you may be owed.