Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN): Overview

What is a TIN?

A Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) is required by the federal government for reporting purposes. A TIN can be a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). A SSN is issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and an ITIN is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

A valid TIN can have only 9 numbers. It cannot have more or less than nine numbers nor can it have a combination of numbers and an alpha character within the sequence.

A valid ITIN will always begin with a "9." A valid SSN cannot begin with "8," "9," or "000."

Use of a TIN

A TIN must be furnished when a person files an individual income tax return, when the Research Foundation (RF) produces a tax statement required by the SSA or IRS, or when a person claims income tax treaty exemption benefits.

Any organization required to file a return, statement, or other document with the SSA and IRS for a person must request the person’s valid TIN. Any IRS penalties associated with reporting invalid or missing TINs will be the responsibility of the operating location.

Reportable Payments

Reportable payments to individuals must be recorded on a tax statement and reported to government agencies at year end by the Research Foundation (RF). Generally, RF reportable payments include


The Social Security Administration assigns Social Security Numbers to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and aliens who enter the country under an immigration category that authorizes U.S. employment (e.g., students on J-1 and F-1 visas are authorized to work in the U.S. and are eligible for SSNs). Refer to "Taxpayer Identification Number Rules for Employees and Fellows" for more information.

Nonemployees (including fellows) who are not eligible to obtain a SSN must obtain an ITIN from the IRS for tax processing and reporting purposes. Refer to "Taxpayer Identification Number Rules for Miscellaneous Income Payments" for more information.

Who May Not Obtain an ITIN

Persons who are eligible for and will begin employment in the U.S. or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence must apply for a Social Security Number and may not obtain an ITIN. Generally, persons granted F-1, J-1, H-1B or TN status have work authorization inherent in their immigration classification; however, the Social Security Administration Office will not automatically issue an SSN unless the person is both eligible to work and intends to work.

Requesting a Person's TIN

To ensure proper reporting to the SSA and IRS, operating locations must obtain a person's Taxpayer Identification Number, name, and address. The following documents may be used to obtain TIN information from a person:

Record Retention

In general, operating locations should maintain the verification of Taxpayer Identification Numbers in their records. The above mentioned IRS forms will document efforts for obtaining a valid TIN. Without such documentation, you may be subject to IRS penalty assessments.

Obtaining a TIN

Refer to the following documents for procedures on how a person may obtain a TIN:



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