New ITIN Acceptance Agent Program Changes
Effective January 1, 2013, the IRS has updated procedures that affect the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) application process. Some of the information below, including the documentation requirements for individuals seeking an ITIN, has been superseded by these changes. Taxpayers and their representatives should review these changes, which are further explained in these Frequently Asked Questions, before requesting an ITIN.
ITIN Acceptance Agent Program adopts policy changes
The Internal Revenue Service is taking steps to improve the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) Acceptance Agent Program. These improvement steps are focused on ensuring that only individuals with a clear tax administration purpose receive an ITIN and that all Forms W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, are processed efficiently and effectively.
An ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the IRS to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA). ITINs are for federal tax reporting only, and are not intended to serve any other purpose. IRS issues ITINs to help individuals comply with the U.S. tax laws, and to provide a means to efficiently process and account for tax returns and payments for those not eligible for Social Security Numbers.
An Acceptance Agent is an individual, business or organization such as a college, financial institution or accounting firm authorized by IRS to assist individuals in obtaining ITINs. They play a critical role in the ITIN Program due to their close proximity in the community to taxpayers. Acceptance Agents determine whether their clients are eligible for Social Security Numbers, and if not, they proceed with the ITIN application process by completing and filing Forms W-7. During this process, they review supporting and supplemental documentation and forward applicable documents, certificates of accuracy and completed Forms W-7 to the IRS for processing.
The improvement steps for the ITIN Acceptance Agent Program for 2010 include major program changes as follows:
- New ITIN Acceptance Agent Open Season, May 1 through August 31
Forms 13551, Application to Participate in the IRS Acceptance Agent Program, will only be accepted during open season. The open season will allow the IRS adequate time to process all Forms 13551 prior to the beginning of each tax filing season. The new open season dates will remain in effect for all future calendar years, however, amendments to existing approved agreements will be accepted year around.
To ensure that Acceptance Agents have the tools they need to perform their jobs, all new and renewing applicants are required to complete mandatory training. The training session is available online at ITIN AA-CAA Online Pre-Application Training Power Point.
- Compliance Reviews
The IRS will conduct compliance reviews including both physical and correspondence reviews. Acceptance Agents are required to cooperate with IRS compliance checks as well as requests for information from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or the Government Accountability Office. Failure to do so can result in termination from the program.
- New Coverage Through Circular 230
CAAs will now need to meet new requirements and will face stronger due diligence standards to verify the accuracy of supporting documentation. For the first time, only those covered under Circular 230 are eligible to serve as a CAA. To be covered under Circular 230, CAAs are required to register with the Return Preparer's Office for a PTIN comply with Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) criteria. See www.irs.gov/ptin for additional information on PTIN and requirements. Exceptions are made for CAA applicants from financial institutions, gaming facilities, Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Centers. CAAs will be required to take formal forensic training to help them identify legitimate identification documents. The IRS also plans greater oversight and compliance activities with CAAs to safeguard the ITIN process.
- Changes to the Certification Process
For primary and secondary applicants, CAAs will again be allowed to certify using Form 14194 that they have reviewed the original documentation or a certified copy from the issuing agency of those documents, either through face-to-face or video electronic interviews, They will have to attach, and send to the IRS, copies of all documentation reviewed. For dependents, CAAs will be required to submit the original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency.
- Quality Standards
All Acceptance Agents will be required to adhere to new quality standards established and monitored by the IRS. The focus of the new standards will be on the quality of each agent’s W-7 submissions as well as their adherence to the terms and conditions of their Acceptance Agent Agreement.
These improvements and changes are designed to strengthen the ITIN program and improve service to both Acceptance Agents and their clients. Questions about the ITIN Acceptance Agent Program can be directed to the ITIN Policy Section by e-mail at ITINProgramOffice@irs.gov.