IRS News Release  
December 05, 1996

Valid Taxpayer Identification Numbers
Needed for Returns

WASHINGTON - Taxpayers need valid identification numbers for themselves, their spouses and every dependent born before Dec. 1, 1996. According to the Internal Revenue Service, using correct taxpayer identification numbers is more important than ever before. Recent tax law changes make valid identification numbers a requirement for claiming personal exemptions, the child care credit or the earned income credit.

If a tax return has a missing or incorrect identification number, the IRS may disallow the related item(s) and correct the tax. For example, if a taxpayer claims one dependent and the child care credit, but lists an invalid social security number (SSN) for the dependent, the IRS will increase the taxable income by the personal exemption amount claimed for the dependent and will not allow the child care credit to be claimed.

If you donşt have an identification number, you should apply now so you'll have it in time for the tax filing season. Contact the Social Security Administration to obtain SSNs, which are issued to U.S. citizens and to aliens who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence or employment. Nonresident and resident aliens who are not eligible for SSNs may use Form W-7 to request Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) from the IRS.

Individuals must use either SSNs or ITINs on their returns -- the IRS will no longer accept temporary numbers, "applied for" or other designations in lieu of the required numbers. Only SSNs, not ITINs, may be used by the taxpayer, spouse or child when claiming the earned income credit.

A taxpayer whose return has a missing or incorrect number will receive a notice with a special toll-free number to call. If the taxpayer in fact has a valid identification number, a phone call to the IRS will usually settle the matter.

"While we are making extra efforts to help taxpayers resolve their problems, the best thing is to avoid complications by using the correct numbers in the first place," said IRS Commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson.

Form W-7, "Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number," is available:

  • through the IRS home page at;
  • by modem to Internal Revenue Information Services (IRIS) at 703-321-8020; or
  • by calling the IRS forms number, 1-800-TAX-FORM.

In January, Form W-7 will also be available by calling 703-487- 4160 from a fax machine and requesting item #10229.

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