How to File Federal Income Tax If One Spouse Doesn't Have a SSN

by Benjamin Young ; Updated July 27, 2017
If your spouse cannot obtain a Social Security number, you can still file a joint tax return.

Items you will need

  • IRS Form W-7
  • Federal tax return
  • Spouse's ID documents

In uncommon situations, your spouse might not have a Social Security number (SSN) and isn’t eligible to apply for one. This poses a problem if you plan on filing a joint tax return as a married couple. If you are certain that your spouse cannot obtain an SSN, the alternative is to apply for an Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-issued “individual tax identification number” or ITIN by filing IRS Form W-7. The ITIN is a tax processing number assigned to those who cannot obtain a Social Security number. When filing your federal tax return, attach Form W-7 and supporting documentation. If approved, an ITIN will be issued to your spouse and applied to your tax return.

Step 1

Determine if your spouse is eligible to apply for an ITIN. The IRS reports that ITINs are issued to persons of foreign status who have federal tax reporting requirements but do not qualify for a Social Security number. Eligible ITIN candidates include non-resident foreign spouses and dependents of United States citizens, and non-resident aliens filing U.S. tax returns but who are ineligible for an SSN.

Step 2

Obtain IRS Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Tax Identification Number. You may download and print this form from the IRS website (see Resources).

Step 3

Gather the required documentation. The instructions for Form W-7 state that you must provide supporting documentation that demonstrates both the identification and foreign status of your spouse. An original, certified copy or notarized copy of a valid foreign passport can satisfy both criteria. If a valid passport is unavailable, the IRS will accept two or more original, certified or notarized copies of other identification such as a national ID card, a U.S. or foreign driver’s license, civil birth certificate or foreign military identification. Check the IRS website for a list of acceptable documentation.

Step 4

Complete the W-7 form making sure that the information provided on the form is consistent with the supporting documents. The spouse requesting the ITIN must sign the form.

Step 5

Submit the signed W-7 form and supporting documentation with your federal tax return. Once your tax return is complete, attach the W-7 form and the supporting documents to the front of the form and mail to the IRS. If your request is accepted, the ITIN will be issued and applied to your tax return. The IRS will inform you on the ITIN in four to six weeks.

Tips

  • An ITIN is a nine-digit number which always starts with the number 9.

Warnings

  • An ITIN does not grant the right to work in the United States and does not alter a person’s immigration status.

About the Author

Benjamin Young has been writing professionally since 2000. His work has been published in the "International Herald Tribune," "Syracuse Post Standard" and in a Brooklyn-based weekly newspaper. In 2009 he received a Master of Arts in political science from Brooklyn College, where he graduated with honors.

Photo Credits

  • couple-playing image by JulianMay.co.uk from Fotolia.com
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