Posted by Jim McClaflin, EA, NTPI Fellow

Know The Types of Tax Identification Numbers

Know The Types of Tax Identification Numbers

What is a tax identification number?

The Tax Identification Number (TIN) is a 9-digit number used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax purposes. This number can be a person's SSN (Social Security Number) assigned by the SSA (Social Security Administration) or another identification number assigned by the IRS, such as an EIN (Employer Identification Number).


How a tax identification number works

A TIN is assigned by the SSA or IRS and is used by the IRS as a unique identifier for the administration of tax laws, including the processing of tax returns. For most people, your Social Security number will work as your tax identification number. For some businesses, the EIN will be used as the tax identification number.


Types of tax identification numbers

The IRS accepts many types of tax identification numbers. Each has a different purpose and allows the IRS to identify how to administer tax laws for each.


Social security number - SSN

US citizens are given a Social Security number when they receive citizenship. This usually happens at birth and when citizenship is approved for a person who was not born in the United States.

A social security number (SSN) is a unique nine-digit number that always follows the same number format: xxx-xx-xxxx. Social security numbers (SSN) are used by individuals and possibly by sole proprietors when filing income tax returns and other tax documents.


Employer Identification Number - EIN

Also known as a FTINFederal Tax Identification Number, the IRS assigns businesses an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax reporting purposes. This is a nine-digit number in the format xx-xxxxxxx.

A business can obtain an EIN by applying directly to the IRS online.


Individual Taxpayer Identification Number - ITIN

Some non-resident and resident aliens, spouses, and dependents who cannot obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) may apply for an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).

This number is similar to an SSN in that it is a nine-digit number in the same format: xxx-xx-xxxx. The IRS uses this number to process tax, and eligible individuals can request it by completing Form W-7, IRS Application for an Individual Tax Identification Number.


Adoption Tax Identification Number- ATIN

An adoption tax identification number (ATIN) is a nine-digit number issued by the IRS for adoption tax purposes. This temporary number is for people who legally adopt a U.S. citizen or resident child but cannot obtain an SSN for that child in time to file their tax return.

ATIN number requests use the same W-7 form used for ITINs.


Preparer Tax Identification Number - PTIN

The PTIN (preparer tax identification number) is issued to tax preparers who prepare and file tax returns on behalf of clients. Use of a PTIN is required for all Paid Preparers and can be requested online through the IRS website.


Do I need a tax I.D.?

In most cases, yes. A U.S. resident must have a tax identification number. Tax I.D.s are required to file income tax returns, report income, and comply with U.S. tax laws. Many jobs in the United States also require a valid TIN, as they must report their income to the IRS.


How to get a TIN

There are several ways to purchase a TIN, depending on the number required.

  • EIN: The IRS assigns EINs to businesses and can be requested online through the IRS website.

  • ITIN and ATIN: These identification numbers can be requested online and require the submission of Form W-7 to the IRS by regular mail.

  • PTIN: The preparer's tax I.D. number is for paid preparers only and can be requested online from the IRS.

  • SSN: The social security administration assigns a social security number and can be requested through SSA.gov.


Where can I find my tax identification number?

There are several places to obtain your Tax identification number. Social security numbers (SSN) are usually printed on official social security cards and distributed to taxpayers and can also be found on official tax documents, such as tax returns.

The ITIN and ATIN numbers will appear on your tax return, but if you need to find them to file a tax return, you can call the IRS ITIN. PTIN numbers are issued to tax preparers and can be accessed by logging into your online PTIN account.


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Jim McClaflin, EA, NTPI Fellow
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