IRS ATIN Program FAQ

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F.A.Q.'s of ATIN

The following are Questions and Answers (Q&A) regarding the new ATIN program to be implemented by the Internal Revenue Service in January 1998. Please consult the IRS to be sure no information has changed before relying upon any of this information. The Q&A provides information to taxpayers who need a taxpayer identification number for a child who has been placed in their home pending final adoption.

Questions and Answers:

  • What is an ATIN?
  • Who needs an ATIN?
  • Why do I need an ATIN?
  • How do I know if I should apply for an ATIN?
  • How can I find out if I qualify to claim the dependency exemption
      or child and dependent care credit for the child I am adopting?
  • Can I get an ATIN if I am adopting a child from another country?
  • I applied for an SSN using the documentation given to me by the
      Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) but my application
      was rejected. Now what do I do?
  • Is the ATIN something new; I have never heard of it before.
  • What did people do last year if they didn't have an ATIN?
  • What form do I use to apply for an ATIN?
  • What do I need to complete the Form W-7A?
  • What is placement documentation?
  • Should I send in my original documentation?
  • How long is the ATIN valid?
  • Why does the ATIN deactivate after two years?
  • What can I do if the ATIN expires before the adoption is finalized?
  • When should I apply for an ATIN?
  • How long does it take to get an ATIN?
  • Can I use an ATIN to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit?


    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.1. What is an ATIN?
    A.1. An ATIN is an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number issued by the Internal Revenue Service as a temporary taxpayer identification number for the child in a domestic adoption where the adopting taxpayers do not have and/or are unable to obtain the child's Social Security Number (SSN). The ATIN is to be used by the adopting taxpayers on their Federal Income Tax return to identify the child while final domestic adoption is pending.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.2. Who needs an ATIN?
    A.2. If you are in the process of adopting a child and are able to claim the child as your dependent or are able to claim a child care credit, you may need an ATIN for your adoptive child.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.3. Why do I need an ATIN?
    A.3. Recent tax law changes require that when you list a person's name on your federal income tax return, you must provide a valid identifying number for that person. During the adoption process, you may not have been able to obtain an existing or a new Social Security Number (SSN) for the child who may already have been placed in your home. If you are eligible to claim the child as your dependent, and you don't have the child's SSN, then you will need to request an ATIN in order to claim the child as a dependent and ( if eligible) to claim the child care credit.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.4. How do I know if I should apply for an ATIN?
    A.4. You should apply for an ATIN only if you are in the process of adopting a child and you meet all of the following qualifications:
    a. The adoption is a domestic adoption.
    b. The child is legally placed in your home for adoption by a authorized adoption agency/agent.
    c. The adoption is not yet final, and you are unable to obtain the child's existing SSN or you are unable to apply for a new SSN for the child pending the finalization of the adoption.
    d. You qualify to claim the child as a dependent.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.5. I am not sure if I qualify to claim the dependency exemption or child and dependent care credit for the child I am adopting, how can I find out?
    A.5. To know whether you qualify to claim the child's exemption or child care credit for the child, see "Exemptions" and "Credit for Child and Dependent Care Expenses" in the Form 1040 instructions. For further information you may order Publication 501 (Exemptions, Standard Deductions and Filing Information) and Publication 503 (Child and Dependent Care Expenses), by calling 1-800-829-3676 (or 1-800-TAX-FORM). You may also download information on the INTERNET (at http://www.irs.ustreas.gov). If you are still not sure, you may call 1-800-829-1040 or come to any IRS walk-in office for assistance.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.6. Can I get an ATIN if I am adopting a child from another country?
    A.6. No! You should apply through the Social Security Administration (SSA) for a valid SSN. When you are adopting a foreign child, upon the child's entry into the United States you should receive enough documentation from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to satisfy the Social Security Administration's requirements for a SSN.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.7. I applied for an SSN using the documentation given to me by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) but my application was rejected. Now what do I do?
    A.7. If the SSA rejects your application because the documentation you received from the INS did not satisfy their requirements for an SSN, you may then apply to the IRS for an ITIN, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, using Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Order Publication 1915, Understanding Your ITIN, and review the requirements.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.8. Is the ATIN something new; I have never heard of it before.
    A.8. Yes, this is new. In fact, this is the first year it is required. So, if you meet the requirements in Question 4, when you file your 1997 tax return you will need an ATIN if you intend to claim the exemption or (when eligible) take the child care credit for the child you are adopting.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.9. What did people do last year if they didn't have an ATIN?
    A.9. Before the 1997 tax year, taxpayers who were adopting children and met the requirements to claim the child could use the phrase "U.S. Adoption Pending" in place of the SSN. If taxpayers amended their 1996 or 1995 tax returns claiming the child they were in the process of adopting, they could still use the phrase "U.S. Adoption Pending" in place of the SSN. It is only beginning with your 1997 tax return that the ATIN a required.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.10. I now know that I meet the requirements to apply for an ATIN. What form do I use to apply for an ATIN?
    A.10. The Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending Adoptions, is used by qualifying taxpayers to obtain an ATIN. To get Form W-7A, you may go to any IRS walk-in site or call 1-800-829-3676. You may also download the form here in Adobe PDF format.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.11. What do I need to complete the Form W-7A?
    A.11. In general you need to know the child's name, the birth information, and the placement agency. This information is typically found in the placement documentation. In addition, this placement documentation must be attached to and submitted with the W-7A. The Form W-7A has more specific and detailed instructions. You may send the Form W-7A and the necessary documentation to the address listed below or it can be dropped off at an IRS Walk-in site. The Walk-in site will mail the information for you.
    Internal Revenue Service
    Philadelphia Service Center
    ATIN Unit
    P.O. Box 447
    Bensalem, PA 19020

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.12. What is placement documentation?
    A.12. Placement documentation is the signed documentation placing the child in your care for legal adoption. In general, one of the following documents will satisfy this requirement:
    a. A placement agreement entered into between you and a public or private adoption agency.
    b. A document signed by a hospital official authorizing the release of a newborn child to you for legal adoption.
    c. A court order or other court document ordering or approving the placement of a child with you for legal adoption.
    d. An affidavit signed by an attorney, a government official, etc., placing the child with you pursuant to the states' legal adoption laws.
    The placement documentation is sometimes referred to as "Placement Agreement"; "Surrender Papers"; "Temporary Placement Paperwork"; "Placement Order" etc. This documentation termed differently from state to state must clearly establish that the child was placed in your home for purposes of adoption by an authorized adoption agency (or agent), and must include the following information:
    Adoptive Parent(s) full name
    Child's full name
    Name of the Placement Agency or Agent
    The date the child was placed in the adoptive parents home.
    The signature of the parent or parents (the adopting taxpayers) and that of an official representative of the authorized placing agency or agent.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.13. Should I send in my original documentation?
    A.13. No, do not send the original documentation. A copy of the original documentation is all that is required to be sent with the W-7A. IRS will not return any submitted documentation.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.14. How long is the ATIN valid?
    A.14. As soon as the adoption becomes final, the adopting parents should obtain an SSN for the child and notify the IRS of the new SSN. When the IRS is notified of a new SSN for the adopted child, it will deactivate the ATIN. If the adopting parents do not notify the IRS within two years, the ATIN will be automatically deactivated.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.15. Why does the ATIN deactivate after two years?
    A.15. The automatic deactivation of the ATIN after a two year period is necessary because the ATIN is an identification number issued for temporary use until a valid SSN can be obtained for the adopted child. It is not a permanent valid identification number. A reminder notice will be sent eighteen months after the taxpayers receives the ATIN, informing the adopting parents, that the ATIN will expire in 6 months.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.16. What can I do if the ATIN expires before the adoption is finalized?
    A.16. If the adoption is not finalized before the ATIN expires, you may apply for an extension. The eighteen month reminder notice will explain what you must do to apply for an extension.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.17. When should I apply for an ATIN?
    A.17. You should apply as soon as the qualifying conditions listed in question 4 are met, but at least 8 weeks before the due date of your individual federal income tax return, which is normally April 15. For tax year 1997, taxpayers meeting the conditions listed in question 4 should wait until December 15 to file Forms W-7A.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.18. How long does it take to get an ATIN?
    A.18. It will generally take 4 to 8 weeks to get an ATIN once the IRS receives a completed Form W-7A. After 8 weeks if you have not heard from the IRS about your application, you may call the Philadelphia Service Center at (215) 516-4846. This is not a toll-free call.

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    ATIN Questions and Answers

    Q.19. Can I use an ATIN to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit?
    A.19. No. You can only use an SSN to claim the EITC. However, if you are entitled to the EITC without using the adoptive child as the qualifying child, you can still claim the EITC.
    When the adoption is final and the child has an SSN, you may file an amended return for an earlier year if you find that you could have claimed EITC in the earlier year except for the fact that the child did not have an SSN. Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and Schedule EIC. The Statute of Limitation for filing an amended tax return is normally three years from the due date of the individual income tax return. More detailed information on filing the amended individual tax return is available in the instruction for the 1040X. Those instructions can be obtained by calling the IRS at 1-800-829-3676.

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