IRS issues guidance on ITIN renewals

Under new PATH Act provisions, the numbers expire after 3 years of nonuse.
By Paul Bonner

Individuals whose individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs) will expire this year under new Code provisions were able to begin renewing them starting in October, under instructions issued by the IRS in August.

The changes to Sec. 6109 were enacted by the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, Division Q of the Consolidated Budget Act, 2016, P.L. 114-113. Under those provisions, ITINs issued after 2012 expire on Dec. 31 on the third consecutive tax year of nonuse, and those issued before 2013 expire on a rolling schedule based on the year they were issued.

ITINs are generally used as a required identifying number for individuals who file or may be included on a tax return but are not eligible to obtain a Social Security number (SSN). They follow the same numerical format as SSNs but have fourth and fifth digits in particular ranges of numbers. An ITIN is obtained by submitting Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, with supporting documentation of identity, generally with the tax return for which it is required.

The notice instructed that individuals whose ITINs have not been used on a federal income tax return in the last three years or whose ITINs are expiring at the end of 2016 and who will need one to file or be included on a return could apply for renewal beginning Oct. 1.

ITINs not used on a federal income tax return in 2013, 2014, or 2015 will no longer be valid to use on a tax return as of Jan. 1, 2017. ITIN holders in this group will need to renew their ITINs to file or be included on a return.

Because many ITIN holders may not know when their ITIN was issued and previously had no reason to keep a record of when it was issued, the IRS will administer the PATH Act's rolling expiration schedule for pre-2013 ITINs by a different method than that in Sec. 6109(i)(3)(C). Rather than by the year of issuance, holders of these older ITINs can tell by the number itself when it needs to be renewed. For now, ITINs with middle digits of 78 or 79 need to be renewed. The IRS said it would notify these holders by mail. Other older ITINs also will be identified by their middle digits and renewed according to future guidance.

Affected individuals could file Form W-7 beginning Oct. 1 without filing a tax return, by mailing the Form W-7 and supporting identification documentation (W-7 application package) to the IRS at the address listed on Form W-7, by submitting the Form W-7 package at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center, or by submitting the Form W-7 application package to a community-based certified acceptance agent. The IRS advises using the most recent version of the form and checking the box that indicates it is a renewal. Filers who receive a notification letter should also include a copy of it with their Form W-7.

The IRS began accepting Forms W-7 from each member of a family in a single family submission starting Oct. 1, 2016, if at least one of the family members was required to renew an ITIN. For this purpose, family members include the filer, the filer's spouse, and any dependents claimed on the filer's return.

  • Notice 2016-48; News Release IR-2016-100

—By Paul Bonner, a JofA senior editor.


Get your clients ready for tax season

These year-end tax planning strategies address recent tax law changes enacted to help taxpayers deal with the pandemic, such as tax credits for sick leave and family leave and new rules for retirement plan distributions, as well as techniques for putting your clients in the best possible tax position.


Keeping you informed and prepared amid the coronavirus crisis

We’re gathering the latest news stories along with relevant columns, tips, podcasts, and videos on this page, along with curated items from our archives to help with uncertainty and disruption.